Some interesting news for book lovers recently – as of 2014 an author of any nationality will be able to enter the Man Booker prize. Personally, I think it’s about time. As a firm believer in judging fiction for its literary merit rather than from what country the writer comes from, I’m glad to hear the news that such a huge prize is going equal-opportunities. I feel exactly the same way about other prizes too. I don’t believe that any literary competitions should exclude people based on reasons of sex, age, nationality or any other silly reason. Words on a page are words on a page. Some of those pages have been written with skill and some are a bunch of rubbish, depending on one’s subjective opinion, just as a writer has skill with a pen, or doesn’t.
I can understand the concerns some of the judges have, who worry that if British authors have to compete with a few American giants in the literary world, they’ll not even make it onto the longlist. Why not? That would either bring to mind one of the following: 1) Cronyism is rife and people are hoping to keep things confined within a small controlled niche, or 2) There is a fear to compete with something outside of the box. These are thoughts that cater to writers, not readers. As most editors might agree, many writers can be ‘precious’ about their work. But clearly, the people behind the Man Booker prize are concerned more with what the readers think, not the writers. At last there seems to be a bit of sense. After all, who buys the books? Not normally other writers.
Readers buy the books and readers read them. I have to admit that the ‘reader’ side of me is inclined to stay clear of anything with ‘Booker winner’ or ‘shortlist’ or any of those advertisements on it. Maybe that’s because as an indie author, I like something a little bit ‘outside the box’. Or maybe I’m a hypocrite, guilty of the very thing I condemned in the paragraph above – discrimination! Whatever the analysis, as a ‘reader’ I prefer to read a book for its craft and its content, not for shiny ‘prizes’. And as ‘writer’ I avoid entering competitions that are for ‘UK residents only’ or for ‘women only’. I might be both of those things, but it doesn’t mean I have a label on my head!