Before I get on to the new Indie Bestseller Chart, I am delighted that Johnny Diamond, in a fabulous piece on LitHub, phrases a revelation in the wake of this year’s Booker Prize in exactly the way I would: as a “quiet part out loud” moment. Robert Webb, the token celeb judge on this year’s Booker Panel, admitted it was impossible for the judges to read all the books in the “pre-longlist.” There were 163 of them for this year’s prize, awarded last week to Paul Lynch for Prophet Song.
I’m not sure it should be surprising that not all judges read all those titles. I am a champion speed reader (just shy of 1 hour for a 300 page novel at the height of my pomp in 2017), and even at that rate I would struggle in the time allowed. But it’s good for it to be more widely realised.
What happens with other prizes?
Of course, many prizes have been perfectly open about this. Sometimes that only happens if you look closely, though. That can be a genuine problem for authors and their publishers (who in our case are the same) deciding where to submit. The Kindle Storyteller Prize is an example of this, and it’s an issue I’ve raised. If you advertise who the judges are, then authors will naturally gravitate to submitting to prizes where they feel their work might resonate with those judges. But if the judges only read those entries that have been pre-screened, that muddies the waters decidedly.
Other prizes, like Costa/Waterstones used to do, turn this into a feature rather than a bug. Shortlists for this series of prizes were for many years decided upon by panels of locally-based readers who would meet in store to discuss the entries.
Take a look at the new indie bestseller chart
In much more positive and pleasing news, Jane Friedman’s Hot Sheet has, in partnership with Bookstat, launched three bestseller lists. And the first listed of those is for the Top 50 self-published titles. The first list covers October 2023, and two things stood out for me, neither of which was a surprise. First, most of the titles are in one or another sub genre of romance. And second, several of the names on the list appear more than once, emphasising the connection between sales success and productivity.