If Richard Flanagan could have picked a year in which to be shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, this would have been a pretty good one.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North, his novel about prisoners and their guards on the Burma Railway during World War II, has been selling well since publication in Australia last September – according to Nielsen BookScan, it has sold more than 60,000 copies, but that figure doesn’t include ebooks. However, it would still get a big boost from winning the £50,000 ($91,000) prize, which is announced in London on Tuesday night [Wednesday morning AEST].
And that fillip would be more significant to his sales and presence in the northern hemisphere if he picks up a literary prize that is given massive coverage – the ceremony is televised live by the BBC.
The Narrow Road was published only in July in Britain and given a healthy start by enthusiastic reviews and then its listing for the Booker. And as this year the prize has, for the first time, been opened to United States writers there will be significantly greater interest in the North American market than previously.
Random House has a new, small-format edition of The Narrow Road scheduled for publication in Australia next month, but marketing director Brett Osmond says the more-than 10,000 copies in the warehouse would be released within 24 hours were Flanagan to win. “And there will be another print-run ordered on the same day.”
Publishing director Nikki Christer, who has published the Tasmanian writer since his second novel, The Sound of One Hand Clapping, says a win would be confirmation of the strength and importance of his writing. “He is already a bestselling author in Australia but winning will jump-start his reputation in markets where he’s not so known. And it would mean increased sales of his backlist too.”