I got the phone call as I was putting my grocery shopping into the back of the car. ‘Kate, The Gift of Rain… it’s on the Booker longlist! Can you get to the publicity meeting, Thursday….’
I didn’t drop my shopping but I did drop everything else for about 48 hours. The UK press, quite naturally, had been well informed so they were calling me. However, the author is Malaysian and lives in South Africa so I needed to get in touch with them, fast.
The Gift of Rain, Tan Twan Eng’s debut novel was longlisted for this year’s Booker prize. And I was excited, not just at the publicity opportunities but because, having organised the author’s UK promotional tour in April, I’d got to know the author quite well and was personally delighted for him.
The shortlist announcement was made on 6th Sept. I cleared my diary, just in case. But it didn’t happen. The novel didn’t make the shortlist. Disappointment for the author, and also for the publisher, Myrmidon Books. Recognition by a world-leading literary prize like the Man Booker is a significant boon to a small publisher not just in terms of book sales, but in terms of reputation.
However, the Man Booker longlisting is something that can never be taken away from that book, that author, that publisher. It’s legacy is far longer than the month between the two announcements. I was reminded about this yesterday while looking at an application form designed for authors to fill in for a literary event, and there was a box titled ‘significant achievements, e.g. prizes’.
It’s an obvious point, but I’ll make it: prizes, even nominations for prizes, have a real reputation value. If you have them, use them. If you don’t, perhaps have a talk with your publicist about possibilities and keep your eye open for those prizes which authors can self-enter, such as the Romantic Novel of the Year Award.