In England: The Booker Prize Names Its 2023 Longlist

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

It’s a great day for the Irish, as Ireland’s writers claim four of the 13 spots on the Booker Prize for Fiction’s newly announced longlist.

Image: Booker Prize Foundation

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

A Shortlist is Expected on September 21
Ten of the 13 authors longlisted today (August 1) by the Booker Prize for Fiction in London are receiving Booker attention for the first time.

Nevertheless, just three returning writers on the list hold seven previous nominations between them.

On this well-internationalized list, the authors whose books have been selected to compete in the 2023 program come from seven countries on four continents. Four of them are from Ireland, the first time, organizers say, a third of the list has featured Irish writers. Including this year’s longlistees, 37 Irish writers have been recognized by the Booker Prize over the years, making Ireland the country that has produced the most nominees, relative to population size, in the prize’s history.

Seven of the longlisted books come from independently-owned publishers. Juliet Maybe’s Oneworld, publisher of Prophet Song, won the prize in 2015 and 2016 for Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings and Paul Beatty’s The Sellout.

For our worldwide readership, the Booker Prize for Fiction is not to be confused, of course, with the International Booker Prize, which is focused on translation. The winner of this, the primary award in the Booker Foundation’s work, receives £50,000 (US$63,809). Each of the six authors eventually shortlisted is to receive £2,500 (US$3,190) and a specially bound edition of her or his book.

A shortlist announcement is anticipated on September 21 in an event at the re-opened National Portrait Gallery. The winner is to be named on November 26, the Sunday of the US Thanksgiving Day holiday, at Old Billingsgate.

The Booker’s jury this year has made its longlist selection from a total 163 books published between October 1 of last year and September 30. The Booker Prize is open to works of long-form fiction by writers of any nationality. Those works must be written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember from our reportage, this year’s jury comprises:

  • Novelist Esi Edugyan (chair), twice-shortlisted for the Booker Prize
  • Adjoa Andoh, actor, writer and director
  • Mary Jean Chan, poet, lecturer and critic
  • James Shapiro, author and professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, a specialist in Shakespeare
  • Robert Webb, actor and writer
The Booker Prize for Fiction 2023 Longlist

The longlist includes four authors whose longlisted titles are their publication debuts: Jonathan Escoffery, Siân Hughes, Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow and Chetna Maroo.

Sebastian Barry this time has joined 10 other writers who have been nominated for the Booker Prize at least five times each, including Beryl Bainbridge, William Trevor and David Mitchell.

Author Nationality Title Publisher, Imprint
Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ Nigerian A Spell of Good Things Canongate
Sebastian Barry Irish Old God’s Time  Faber & Faber
Sarah Bernstein Canadian Study for Obedience Granta Books
Jonathan Escoffery American If I Survive You HarperCollins UK / 4th Estate
Elaine Feeney Irish How to Build a Boat  Penguin Random House / Harvill Secker
Paul Harding American This Other Eden Penguin Random House / Hutchinson Heinemann
Siân Hughes British Pearl Indigo Press
Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow British All the Little Bird-Hearts Hachette / Tinder Press
Paul Lynch Irish Prophet Song Oneworld
Martin MacInnes British In Ascension Atlantic Books
Chetna Maroo British Western Lane Pan Macmillan / Picador
Paul Murray Irish The Bee Sting Penguin Random House / Hamish Hamilton
Tan Twan Eng Malaysian The House of Doors
A Booker Win’s Impact

The Booker Prize Foundation, as you may recall, is the only book award program we cover in our international purview that reports unit-sales effects after its winners are announced. It’s an ongoing disappointment for many in the world book publishing industry that more competitions don’t follow the Booker’s lead. Without the kind of data that the Booker program provides, it’s mere conjecture that “the golden sticker” on a book cover in a bookstore is causing that title to sell more briskly than it might have done without the win–especially in an era when “award-winning” is a phrase found in the marketing copy of so many books.

If anything, the other awards programs, however highly regarded they are, appear to be nervous about either finding out or revealing the impact their accolades have (or don’t have) in the marketplace and that, of course, tends to create the bad optics of prize programs unwilling to concede that they may not be boosting unit sales as handsomely as they’d like everyone to believe.

Sponsors of book and publishing award programs may want to begin considering whether a program is willing to make public its market-sales impact as a criterion for support. An appearance of hiding such information doesn’t reflect well on an awards program or on its sponsors.

Here is the kind of information from the Booker that’s provided by none of the more-than 100 book and publishing competitions we cover:

The Booker’s team tells the news media today that the 2022 Booker Prize winner, Sri Lankan-born Shehan Karunatilaka, who won for his The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, had seen—according to its publisher, Sort of Books—”a sprinkling of pre-publication media interest, which increased threefold with its publication four days after its Booker Prize longlisting and tripled again on shortlisting.

“With the announcement that it was the Booker Prize winner, the foundation says, “sales soared to more than 100,000 across all formats. It now has been translated into 19 languages with another 10 [rights sales and/or translations] in process.

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida has massively outsold—by 2,000 percent—Karunatilaka’s previously acclaimed and prizewinning novel, Chinaman (Penguin Random House / Jonathan Cape, 2012).”

Wood: ‘Such Excellence and Subtlety’

Gaby Wood

In a prepared statement for today’s announcement, Gaby Wood, CEO of the Booker Prize Foundation, is quoted, saying, “The range of experience, expertise, and sensibility among this year’s judges led them to seek novels that both advanced the form and allowed the reader to understand something about the world; books that would have impact and longevity; books that moved them—and above all, books of such excellence and subtlety that the judges looked forward to re-reading them.

“It’s a pleasure to add to the Booker Library this selection of debut novels, new work from established Booker authors, and books by other writers at the peak of their practice who are new to the prize. We hope every reader finds something to love on this year’s list.’

And jury chair Esi Edugyan says, “The list is defined by its freshness–by the irreverence of new voices, by the iconoclasm of established ones.

“All 13 novels cast new light on what it means to exist in our time, and they do so in original and thrilling ways. Their range is vast, both in subject and form: they shocked us, made us laugh, filled us with anguish, but above all they stayed with us.

“This is a list to excite, challenge, delight, a list to bring wonder. The novels are small revolutions, each seeking to energize and awaken the language. Together—whether historical or contemporary—they offer startling portraits of the current.”

The Booker Prize for Fiction’s 2023 jurors are, from left standing, Mary Jean Chan; Robert Webb; James Shapiro, and Adjoa Andoh. Jury chair Esi Edugyan is seated. Image: Booker Prize Foundation, David Parry

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Booker Prize for Fiction is here. More on the International Booker Prize is here, more from Publishing Perspectives on both Booker Prize programs is here. And more from us on the international industry’s many book and publishing awards programs overall is here

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.