Derek Johns (Managing Director - AP Watt Literary Agency) gives expert video advice on: Can a first-time writer win a literary prize?; Why are prizes important?; How are books submitted for judging? and more...
How are books submitted for judging?
With almost every literary prize it's the publisher that submits books. With most prizes there are limitations. Publishers can't submit every book they have. With the Booker Prize for instance, each imprint of a publishing house may submit two books plus books by previously short-listed authors and authors who have won. For publishers such as Faber, and Cape, and Picador this is quite limiting and leads to a lot of agonized choices.
Can winning a prize for unpublished authors get you published?
There are prizes for unpublished authors. Generally the prize tends to be publication which is course is sufficient in itself, at least in the beginning.
How are the major literary prizes shortlisted?
The major prizes invite entries from the publishers. Let's take the Booker Prize for instance. The judges of the Booker Prize will read between a hundred and a hundred and twenty books. They will then whittle that down to, this year it's twelve, a longlist of twelve which is announced in August. That is then whittled down to a shortlist of six, which is announced in September, and then the winner itself is announced in October.
What kind of qualities are the judges looking for?
If we take the Booker Prize, the leading literary prize in the English language actually, then the judges are simply looking for literary quality. They are looking for what they consider to be the best book of the year.
What do the judges fight about?
Reading books is a very subjective business, and judges are no less subjective, in my experience, than any other readers. So what they tend to do is have their favorites, and argue the merits of their favorites, and simply try to get on the short list the books that they actually like.
Can an unheard-of writer win a literary prize?
My client, Yann Martell, who won the Booker Prize for his book "Life of Pi" in 2002. Yann Martell was an obscure Canadian writer no-one had ever heard of. "Life of Pi" sold two million copies in this country alone.
What is the secret to winning a literary prize?
There's no secret to winning a literary prize. You simply have to write a good book and hope that the judges are going to be favorably disposed towards it. It's really about as simple as that.