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Richard Flanagan’s Booker win to give local bookshops a much-needed boost

Eloise Keating /

The literary and bookselling communities in Australia are celebrating this morning with the news that Tasmanian-born author Richard Flanagan has won the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

Flanagan, author of bestseller The Sound of One Hand Clapping, took out the prestigious prize for his war-time novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, published by Random House last year.

He takes home a cash prize of £50,000 ($91,254) and a specially designed edition of his book, as well as another £2500 for being shortlisted.

Despite missing out on Australia’s Miles Franklin Award earlier this year for the same book, Flanagan beat five other authors for the gong, including the likes of UK author and previous Booker winner Howard Jacobson and US writer Karen Joy Fowler, in the first year the prize has been open to writers of all nationalities.

Flanagan is just the third local author to win the Man Booker – along with Thomas Keneally (Schindler’s Ark in 1982) and Peter Carey (Oscar & Lucinda in 1988 and The True History of the Kelly Gang in 2001) – and the prize is often touted as the only international book prize that has a measureable impact on book sales in Australia.

So what will Flanagan’s win this morning mean for local bookshops?

Shaun Symonds, general manager for Nielsen BookScan in Australia, told SmartCompany this morning previous winners of the Man Booker have averaged sales of around 50,000 copies of the first edition of their books over the past 11 years.

But Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North has already sold 60,000 copies in Australia since its release in September last year, not including e-book sales.

“The only real difference is this year’s winner has been out for a year in Australia and has already sold well, so it will be interesting to see if the sales performance through to Christmas matches previous winners,” Symonds says.

Brisbane bookseller Suzy Wilson, owner of Riverbend Books, describes Flanagan’s win as “brilliant”, telling SmartCompany she had predicted his win during Riverbend’s first book club of the year.

“We have literally sold hundreds,” says Wilson. “And I’m excited I have plenty in stock today.”

Riverbend has so far sold 400 copies of the book, which Wilson says is “probably double” what the store sold of last year’s winner The Luminaries by New Zealander Eleanor Catton.

Wilson has already put in another order for more copies this morning and says she will be stocking up on copies of the new, smaller format edition of the book, which was due to be released next month but is likely to be fast-tracked.

“It’s just so exciting that writing like that has won the prize,” says Wilson.

“Richard is such a champion for the Australian book industry and a great supporter of independent bookshops.”

Melbourne’s Readings has also been fielding customer requests for the book this morning, with managing director Mark Rubbo telling SmartCompany he is stocking up on both the hardback and paperback editions of the book.

To date, Readings’ five bricks-and-mortar stores and online shop have sold more than 3000 copies of The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Rubbo believes the book “has a lot more potential”.

“It’s such a terrific book,” he says. “It’s a book that would appeal to many people, it’s incredibly readable.”

“For Australian booksellers, it’s fantastic.”

Rubbo says Readings will be going all out to promote the book in store and shoppers can expect to see the book featured prominently in the stores’ front windows.

“We’ll be doing everything we can,” he says.

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Eloise Keating

Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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