The final panel of the day at BristolCon was supposed to be about the differences between SF and fantasy, an old and rather stale topic. However, Juliet McKenna derailed this rather cleverly by suggesting that instead we talk about the differences between speculative fiction and non-speculative (mimetic) fiction. Given the recent debate about SF and the Booker Prize, this was very topical.
As I have mentioned before (and thanks to Farah for the fine detail) publishers are only allowed to submit a limited number of books to the Booker jury. The limit is 3 books, but the key question, as Al Reynolds immediately identified when I mentioned this during the panel, is whether that is 3 books per publisher, or three books per imprint.
Why does this matter? Well, the book industry has consolidated heavily over the last few decades. There are now effectively only 4 main publishers in the UK. A small outfit such as CannonGate or PS Publishing might well submit something non-mimetic, but a big publisher like HarperCollins has more than 3 imprints. The chances of them submitting something from Voyager or Angry Robot are very small indeed.
So, does anyone know how the rules work? It makes a huge difference to what the Booker judges see.
I’d also like to know how much it costs to submit a book to the Booker jury. Because if it is expensive that would tend to discourage small presses from participating.
Update: As per the comments below, it appears that the rules are somewhat more complex. Publishers are allowed to submit 2 books, plus another 5 that they jury is not necessarily obliged to look at if they don’t want to. Also publishers who submit books have to agree to a fairly hefty financial commitment should one of their books make the short list. While the huge publicity surrounding the Booker probably means that such an investment will be covered by increased sales, it may still be enough to deter a small press.