Man Booker Opens Up to Irish Publishers

Lisa Coen and Sarah Davis-Goff, founders of Tramp Press.

By Mary Gallagher, Assistant Editor
September / October 2018

The Man Booker Prize, a prestigious literary award with a cash prize of £50,000, which each year honors the best original novel written in English and published in the U.K., has expanded its parameters to include books by Irish publishers.

Until this year, Irish publishers were not allowed to enter books for this prestigious prize. The new rules were instituted following a hue and cry over Mike McCormack’s critically acclaimed novel Solar Bones, which originally did not qualify for the prize, having been released by Tramp Press, a small independent Dublin publisher, which does not have a division in the U.K.

Solar Bones was later added to the Booker Prize 2017 longlist when it was co-published by the Scottish company Canongate, but the near omission sparked successful motions by Publishing Ireland to amend the prerequisites.

“We’re delighted to support Irish publishers and the writers whose work they bring into the world,” said Booker Foundation literary director Gaby Wood in a statement. “We felt it was only right to acknowledge and honor that.”

Tramp Press’s co-founders Lisa Coen and Sarah Davis-Goff commented on the rule changes, saying, “Irish publishers can now compete for authors on a more level playing field with our colleagues in the U.K.” The two met when they were interns at Lilliput Press in Dublin, where Davis-Goff discovered and pushed for the acquisition of Tipperary writer Donal Ryan’s debut novel, The Spinning Heart, which went on to be nominated for a Booker, but only because it was co-published by Doubleday Ireland, part of the international publishing company.

Since the prize was first awarded in 1969, Irish authors have been shortlisted for the award 34 times, with four winners, Roddy Doyle (1993), John Banville (2005), Anne Enright (2007), and Iris Murdoch, who was shortlisted five times before her 1978 triumph. ♦

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