Lynn wrote a guest blog for The Bookseller, arguing that The Women’s Prize for Fiction should support authors and presses, not charge them for participating.
The Women’s Prize for Fiction is the glittering literary prize exclusively for women writers. Previously known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, then the Baileys Prize until 2016, it is now organised by the Society of Authors. They say it ‘celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world’.
The problem is that for small presses it is prohibitively expensive to enter with the cost at the final hurdle £10,000 plus VAT, plus 70 free copies of the paperback, plus travel and accommodation for short-listed authors who are expected to attend the award ceremony. Lynn says she’s angry on behalf of her authors at this elitism.
She asks, and many on social media later echoed,
Wasn’t there a time when publishers reaped the benefits from prizes rather than financing them?
In an editorial article accompanying the piece, Patricia Borlenghi of Patrician Press says she deleted the email inviting 2017 entries for the award because of the costs. ‘In solidarity with Lynn Michell, I must express my consternation at the extortionate costs…How can small presses like ours possibly afford such high amounts?’
Sara-Jayne Slack of Inspired Quill Press agrees. ‘I think it creates boundaries, which is ironic because the Women’s Prize wants to do the opposite, right? They want to break down boundaries and create opportunities. The prize’s criteria poses a prohibitive barrier to entry.’