Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

Image. Advertisement:

BAME prize chair labels publishers ‘pathetic’ after lack of submissions to inaugural award

In the UK, the chair of the inaugural £1000 (A$1695) Jhalak prize for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) writers has called publishers ‘pathetic’ after the award received fewer submissions than expected, reports the Guardian.

Author and chair of the prize Sunny Singh said that despite the deliberately broad entry requirements, with the prize open to BAME writers in the UK working in any genre self-published or traditionally published, only 51 submissions had been received with two weeks to go until submissions closed. ‘It is not that we won’t be able to award a book that is deserving, but that there are obviously not enough books being published by BAME authors,’ said Singh.

Singh said she expects they will receive one or two dozen more by the time submissions close, but said she was disappointed with the overall figure so far, and that the submissions suggested ‘a serious problem in the bigger publishers’, with 70% of submissions from small publishers such as Profile and Hope Road. ‘We’ve got loads of stuff from tiny publishers, really tiny ones,’ said Singh. ‘But where are the big ones? The fact is that they’re not publishing.’

Singh labelled the lack of debut and up-and-coming BAME authors as ‘pathetic, truly pathetic’, noting the fact that larger publishers were submitting big names for the prize was a sign that the industry was too focussed on a small number of high-profile BAME authors. ‘The publisher Hamish Hamilton submitted Zadie Smith’s latest book,’ said Singh. ‘You really need to send me Zadie Smith for a tiny prize in its first year? That’s pathetic.’

The Jhalak prize was set up in February to recognise ‘authors who feel that their work is often marginalised unless it fulfils a romantic fetishisation of their cultural heritage’ after the 2015 Writing the Future report found that the best chance of publication for writers of colour was to write literary fiction conforming to a stereotypical view of their communities.


Category: International news