The Booker Prize moves sales, especially for the winner. Not only does the British literary prize matter to U.K. readers, but Americans apparently care as well. After Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending was awarded the Booker last week, the author’s English publisher, Jonathan Cape, announced it would be going back to press for 125,000 copies (after two reprints already), while Knopf (which publishes Barnes in the U.S.) said it would be going back to press for 40,000 copies. The impact of the National Book Awards on domestic book sales has always been a bit of a puzzle to publishers and its effect on foreign right sales has also been questionable. This year, with the NBA longlist unveiled during the Frankfurt Book Fair, some thought there would be an immediate impact on foreign sales. They are still waiting.
Focusing on the adult nonfiction and fiction nominees, a number of publishers PW spoke to reported a spike in interest, but no closed deals. Katie Dublinski, at Graywolf Press, publisher of nonfiction nominee Deborah Baker’s The Convert, thinks the American prizes do matter to foreign buyers. “They pique interest, particularly in fiction,” she said. Following the theory that the award does less for nonfiction nominees, it may come as no surprise that Baker’s nomination did not lead to any closed deals in Frankfurt.
The McCormick & Williams agency is handling foreign sales for Baker’s book, and principal agent David McCormick said he thought the NBAs are “not that big a deal to foreign publishers.” The nomination did have an impact at home, though, with McCormick reporting that it led to an increase in interest from U.S. audiobook publishers who are “now offering on [the book].” (Graywolf has world English rights to The Convert and is holding on to U.S. paperback rights, intending to release that edition in the fall.)
The fiction nominee The Tiger’s Wife, from Random House, already had been sold in 32 languages with a 33rd in negotiations before the NBA announcement. Rebecca Gardner, rights director for the Gernert Agency, which reps author Téa Obreht, said the nomination may result in more languages coming on board, “but it’s too soon to say yet.”
Often the small presses take the most significant action in the wake of the nominations. Bellevue Literary Press and Lookout Books—the smallest presses with books in contention for the fiction prize—are both planning to go back to press at home. The publishers, however, are not sure about what the nomination could mean for their books abroad.
Erika Goldman, publisher and editorial director at Bellevue, which released Andrew Krivak’s The Sojourn, said the house had gone back to press before the nomination was announced (but after it was named an IndieNext pick and a B&N Discover Great New Writers pick) and now has 20,000 copies of the title in circulation. Although she believed the timing of the nominations with Frankfurt was “serendipitous,” it has, so far, led only to interest. “We haven’t closed any deals yet, but we’ve had a number of inquiries.”
Ben George, editorial director at Lookout Books, said the press saw the biggest impact on Edith Pearlman’s short story collection, Binocular Vision, after it appeared on the cover of the New York Times Book Review in January. That attention, George thinks, led to sales in Sweden and Italy. Lookout did go back to press on the title after the NBA announcement and, with the new run, will have 10,000 copies of the book in print. George was not in Frankfurt when the NBA news broke, and he’s not sure what it will bring. “It remains to be seen whether it has an impact,” he said. “We’re hopeful.”