A new literary award styled as a “Booker without the bow ties” will go ahead next year after securing sponsorship.
The Folio Prize, which launches at the British Library in London tonight, will bestow its first award, along with a cheque for £40,000, next March.
It has taken 18 months to launch the prize, which was born out of controversy surrounding the judges on the 2011 Man Booker Prize demanding “readability”.
The new award was the brainchild of Aitken Alexander Associates managing director Andrew Kidd, who said securing the sponsorship had been the critical factor in making the prize a reality.
“We see this prize as a 21st century prize,” he said. “If there were too many prizes that might dilute their impact but I don’t think anyone feels there are too many.” Mr Kidd admitted he was one of the critics of the 2011 Booker.
He added The Folio Prize should be seen as complementary to other awards rather than rivalling them, adding: “A number of authors were universally supportive. More than one said: ‘No black tie’.”
The Folio Prize Academy has been set up with over 100 members including authors Margaret Atwood, Pat Barker, Bret Easton Ellis and Sebastian Faulks as well as culture editors and critics from newspapers and magazines.
Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, said it would be a “great addition to the current range of literary prizes”.
Using a football metaphor, Anthony Quinn, academician and film critic of The Independent, said that if the Booker was seen as the FA Cup “why isn’t there room for The Premiership?”
Each year, academicians will nominate up to three books each, and they will be judged by five judges selected from their number by lots. Any novels written in English are eligible.
There had been much speculation over whether the sponsor would be a conglomerate or an online retailer. Toby Hartwell, managing director of the Folio Society, said: “Who’d have thought a publisher would be sponsoring it?”
There is one particular difference between this award and the others: Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies, which has dominated most award ceremonies this year, will not win the inaugural prize. It falls outside the publication date to be eligible.