Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The Booker prize boosts the paltry sales of literary fiction. But I wonder how most authors keep going
Two recent surveys have found that 60 percent of British authors earn less than 10,000 pounds a year.
Blake Morrison writing in The Guardian:
You know that feeling you get when you're eating in an empty restaurant or seem to be the only guest at a hotel, yet there are lots of waiters, chefs, maids, cleaners, barmen, receptionists, etc, and you think: how can they afford to keep going? Where's the income coming from? The figures don't add up. The business looks doomed. But when you return a year later the place is exactly as before.
I had that feeling this week, about literary fiction, after the award of the Man Booker prize. The Booker is always a special week for fiction. And though terrestrial television coverage of the event is shorter and frothier than it used to be - 60 seconds of high drama on the 10 o'clock news as the winner is announced, rather than a half-hour programme with author interviews and a panel of critics - media interest remains intense. That's true in general of literary fiction: the new Philip Roth, the award of the Nobel prize to Doris Lessing, the reports of this or that novelist (usually Martin Amis) being involved in some spat - all generate hundreds of column inches. Reading groups have given a boost to fiction, too. And when, amid the bow ties and posh frocks, the Booker goes to a writer as talented as Anne Enright, it seems all's right with the world.
Read the full story.