This is is the Writers Bloc Guide to winning the Man Booker, the greatest literary prize in the world.
The Man Booker Prize is the most prestigious English-language prize for literature in the world. The winner receives £50,000 as well as the £2,500 awarded to each of the shortlisted authors. Both the winner and those on the shortlist are guaranteed a worldwide readership plus the added bonus of a massive increase in book sales around the world.
In a landscape where winning prizes is one of the few ways to survive as an author, the Man Booker is the one to win.
Some tech wizards have used their dark arts and this interactive tool commissioned by FlipSnack to crunch the data of all previous Booker Winners. So according to their research, this is how you win:
Almost twice as many men as women have won the Man Booker Prize (33 men to 17 women). The first woman to win the prize was Bernice Rubens,in 1970 in the second year of the competition. 2013 was the first year since the long list started being publically released in 2001 that women outnumbered men.
Write about Males:
Of the winning novels, the protagonist has been male 84% of the time, and 66% of the winners have been written in the third person.
Over half the winners have been British, a fact that isn’t surprising, as up until 2014 only authors from the British Commonwealth countries could be included.
Compared to England, authors from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are very much under-represented. There has only been one winning author from Scotland and one from Wales, for example.
It doesn’t hurt to set the book in the UK, Ireland or the old British dominion either, with (22 out of 50 previous winners being set in the UK, and 8 in India). The past is also a popular setting, with historical fiction making up 48% of winners.
Be of middle age, and write books of middling length and middling popularity:
The average age of a booker winner is 49. The youngest ever winner was Eleanor Catton, who was 28 when The Luminaries took the prize, and the oldest was William Golding, who’s Rites of Passage won when he was 69.
The mean length of winning titles is a healthy but un-hefty 370 pages and, the average Goodreads rating is 3.7, meaning that the favourite isn’t always the one that takes it out.
When you crunch the numbers it looks like this:
So the typical Man Booker Prize Winner to date is:
Male. British and middle-aged, while the typical winning novel is about a man, written in the third person and just under 400 pages long.
This year might be different, however. The shortlist has just been announced and the finalists are a little more cosmopolitan this time around, split evenly between two British, two Canadian, and two US writers.
The subjects are diverse as well, running from satire to hyper-drama and from murders in 19th century Scotland to classical music in Revolutionary China to Deborah Levy’s tale of female rage, sexuality and motherhood.
• The Sellout by Paul Beatty
• Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
• His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
• Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
• All That Man Is by David Szalay
• Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
If the data set holds true, one of these books will be the clear winner, but who knows who will win in this epic and thrilling battle between literature and math? Do you? Do you have a favourite to win the Man Booker? Let us know in the comments section below!
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