The reaction to the Booker Prize longlist has been, shall we say, rather muted. “Too many unknowns,” some grumble, though others welcome the lack of bestsellers and notable names. But what does this mean for the high street? The Bookseller’s Alison Bone endeavors to find out in the wake of a recent survey of retailers by the Man Booker Prize people. In a presentation to longlisted publishers on Thursday, the Booker Prize’s organisers–including administrator Ion Trewin and marketing consultant Gordon Kerr–outlined the results of industry research into the status and impact of the prize.
Kerr said that every single retailer interviewed during the course of the research raised the issue of availability of shortlisted titles. Prize administrator Ion Trewin agreed. “We don’t want a repeat of a couple of years ago when for two weeks two of the books were not available. It seems such a waste given the massive amount of publicity,” he said. Kerr believes that having a shorter longlist will help publishers prepare themselves for reprints on shortlisted titles. Other retailers brought up the notion of receiving advance word provided they sign confidentiality letters, a notion that intrigued both Trewin and Kerr.
And what of the supermarkets, so critical for the UK’s book industry now? This year’s prize will see Tesco promote the shortlist in its stores for the first time, publishers were told. Tesco’s instore shortlist marketing is likely to run alongside a website promotion and targeted emails, backed by co-operative press advertising. Category manager David Cooke said: “We’ve never really supported the Booker, so whatever we do will be a step forward.” And at Asda, books buyer Steph Bateson is also considering whether to stock the entire shortlist. “It’s an opportunity for those customers who may be intimidated by going into a Waterstone’s, or maybe haven’t even heard of the Booker,” she said.