The Literature Prize has become the Folio Prize following the news that its sponsor, providing a winner's check of £40,000, is the Folio Society.
The Prize "will recognise and celebrate the best English-language fiction from around the world, published in the United Kingdom in any given year regardless of form, genre or the author's country of origin".
These genre- and boundary-breaking criteria indicated that this was a Prize "for the 21st century", founder Andrew Kidd told a press conference at the British Library.
Kidd first announced the Prize in 2011, when it was perceived to be a highbrow response to a move by the Man Booker Prize towards "readability" and novels that, in the words of judge Chris Mullin, "zip along". But Kidd played down talk of rivalry. The Folio Prize would be "complementary", he said. "I don't think anyone feels that there are too many prizes. The fact that you are all here [referring to the arts journalists at the press conference] shows that." The prize criteria were not code for "difficult" or "obscure", he said. At the same time, "we won't apologise if we're excited by books that might seem daunting".
Kidd and Toby Hartwell, MD of the Folio Society, met last summer at a "blind date" organised by publicist Fiona McMurrough. With its commitment to the production of beautiful, lasting books, the Society seems to be an ideal partner. Hartwell said that he was "intent on a long-term relationship".
The Prize has an unusual structure. Members of the Folio Prize Academy, which comprises more than 100 writers and critics, will each select three novels. Thanks to a system devised with the help of a statistician, these selections will be assembled into a list of 60 novels to be considered by the judges. A further 20 places on the submissions list will be up for grabs, and will be chosen from nominations made by publishers.
The five-strong judging panel will be drawn by lots from members of the Academy. It will consist of no more than three judges of the same sex.
Three judges will be from the UK, and two from overseas. They will announce a shortlist in February 2014, and a winner in March 2014.
The Prize has secured some prestigious endorsements, from authors including Margaret Atwood, Philip Pullman, and Mark Haddon. Pullman said: "I have always admired the Folio Society's dedication to the prize as a physical object, and I think their generous sponsorship of this new prize is a recognition that while literature can become manifest in many different forms, the book - the codex - is at the heart of what we understand literature to be."