Digital Programming: The UK’s Women’s Prize Would Like To Sell You a Ticket

In News by Porter Anderson

Taking digital awards ceremonies to the next level, the UK’s Women’s Prize for Fiction is charging for four nights of shortlist readings and the awards ceremony in September.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Are You Ready To Pay for Readings and Awards?
A lot of earnest guessing these days is going into questions around the international publishing industry’s shift from physical to digital events.

This has extended to everything from the coming Frankfurter Buchmesse trade show (October 14 to 18) and other conference events to festival programming, author readings, office parties, and the hourly publishing related webinar. If nothing else, the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has been very, very good to Zoom.

But today, we have word of something else, that many in publishing feel deserves more experimentation: a paid online awards ceremony.

The UK’s Women’s Prize for Fiction—which of course we’ve covered frequently in its in-person operations—today (August 19) has announced that it will charge for its 25th annual shortlist and winner celebrations.

And just like that, there’s an answer to the question you keep hearing in the programming halls of the industry: “How do we make any money off of this?”

Answer: You charge for it.

If an event has value to its usual fans, the thinking goes that they should be willing to help defray the costs of keeping that event going—safely—during the #MaskUp era of the pandemic. And one of the most highly regarded specialty awards programs of the year, the Women’s Prize for Fiction, is testing this out in a way that few awards programs have done to date.

On this page, you’ll find promotional information about the prize’s events to come.

Running September 6 to 9, they include readings by this year’s shortlisted authors. You can also have “an exclusive front row seat for the moment the 25th Women’s Prize winner is crowned and be among the first to pose your questions to them.”

Aside from the gentle hype there about this being exclusive—our guess is that they’d like hundreds if not thousands of “exclusive” users in that very big front row—the concept is an interesting one and many will watch to see how it goes. We’re hoping that the administration of the prize will be willing to share results of the paid-for approach so that others can assess whether it’s something they’d like to try.

Consider, for example, that the reach of awards interest routinely goes far beyond a prize’s physical home base. Our own readership at Publishing Perspectives is a testament to that, as is the interest of prize and awards programs producers in being part of our international coverage. Awards programs big and small, specialized and more general, all can consider the question of whether revenue in a digital component won’t even make sense in our vaccinated future.

If you can’t be in London for a major prize event, for example, are you willing to pay a small price to be on the :”exclusive” front row digitally?

Four Nights for £10

Image: Women’s Prize for Fiction

The four nights of programming from the Women’s Prize include:

And the ticket is £10 (US$13.17) for all four events.

Additionally, you can buy a ticket that includes a discounted copy of one of the shortlisted books.

All is being handled on Eventbrite, and you can reach the ticket-sale page of the option of your choice from links at the bottom of this page.

It’s an interesting experiment, well worth keeping an eye on, especially for others in the industry looking for ways to monetize their online activities.

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here.  More on the Women’s Prize for Fiction is here. And more on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site. 

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.