It was great to see so many of you at the first
BookMachine Unplugged event this month - what a
turnout! Thanks to everyone involved in making this exciting
event series happen.
If you are wondering which events to attend in March and April -
here is a reminder of what we have in store. Just click on each
event link to read more and book tickets. You can then scroll
down to read the latest news and jobs on each channel.
A recipe for successful book design Nada
Backovic, book designer, graphic designer, illustrator
Whilst the process, speed and experience of designing a book
varies vastly from one book design to the next ...
Do we need so many literary prizes? And how do they work? Well, on
Wednesday 16th March we're talking all things literary prizes with
The TLS. Everything you could ever wish to know. It's going to be
eye-opening and entertaining, featuring fantastic speakers like
Toby Lichtig, Michael Caines and Alex Clark.
Currently you can get your ticket for JUST FIVE
POUNDS. A steal. But that ends
at midnight on Friday so snap them up quick.
To whet your whistle ahead of the event, the brilliant Michael Caines from
The TLS has answered some burning questions on the
literary prize subject. Read on…
Caines works at
the Times Literary Supplement. He is the author of Shakespeare and
the Eighteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2013) and the
editor of a TLS bicentennial celebration of Jane Austen.
1) Every year there seems to be
more literary prizes appearing: why do you think this is? Do we
need so many?
MC: People have been saying we have too many literary prizes for
decades, but it doesn’t stop new prizes mushrooming all over the
place. I suspect they do that partly because it seems like a good
marketing wheeze – eg, if it works for the French (with their Prix
Goncourt), then it can work for the British (with their
Goncourt-inspired Booker). And it helps that prizes inevitably have
boundaries or unintended tendencies that mean somebody somewhere
understandably feels excluded and senses the opportunity to set up
a prize of their own.
2) What's it
like to be a judge?
MC: I’ve never judged a major competition myself, and hope never to
be put in that position. But I’ve interviewed several judges for –
blatant self-promotion alert – a short book about literary prizes
I’m writing at the moment; quite a few of them said they’d calmly
got on with it, agreed with their fellow judges, and enjoyed the
process. They also showed me how diligent they’d been with doing
the reading, making notes and so on. The media love the spats, but
I wonder if, for the most part, it’s actually a ridiculous amount
of critical work that intelligent readers recklessly undertake.
Personally, I’d rather have their individual recommendations than
the sometimes extremely dull, safe, pointless overall choices of
winners the system (usually) compels them to make.
3) How much
emphasis do you think the publishing industry puts on prizes? Do
you think it's the right amount?
MC: I fear it’s too much, but, as a mid-list novelist said to me
recently: what else is there? And a publisher likewise challenged
me to come up with a comparable alternative. The prize industry is
now securely welded onto the publishing industry, and it will
perhaps take some great climacteric shift to shake it off. I’m in
two minds about the whole business. It’s rather wonderful that a
well-placed prize can make a bestseller out of an Ali Smith or an
Alan Hollinghurst – yet I cannot shake off the fear that the whole
thing is a scam and a corruption of the critical impulse.
prizes have you seen emerging recently that you think will have a
bigger prominence in the literary publishing scene in the future?
MC: I’m rubbish at the prophesying game. My wish-list, though, if
we have to prizes is: that the Republic of Consciousness Prize
should endure, and continue to draw attention to small presses and
their authors; that the relatively young Goldsmiths Prize should
live up to its mission statement to reward “creative daring”; and
that the judges of the major poetry prizes should always reward
talent rather than one another, each in their turn, from year to
year. Again, though, I’d imagine that it’ll take some drastic shift
in the “economics of prestige”, as Professor James English called
his study of the prize phenomenon, to shake things up. So you
should probably take my pretentious and naïve wish-list and chuck
it bin-wards. The current crop of big prizes seems likely to remain
on top, as long as they bring to market either widely acceptable
(or gruesomely controversial) choices.
someone who has been a judge, what advice would you give to anyone
submitting a book to a prestigious award? Any faux-pas we should
MC: Perfect the knack of indifference. If you find yourself on a
shortlist, congratulate and celebrate with your fellow shortlisted
authors. Also: a novelist was once talking down to a young
photographer who’d been sent to take his picture. Then he realized
she was the girlfriend of the judge of a major literary prize. His
behaviour altered somewhat. So don’t be that man.