LONDON (AP) — A new literary prize is hoping to beat the Booker to the title of Britain's most prestigious fiction award — in part by including Americans.
Unlike the Booker Prize, which is open to British, Irish and Commonwealth writers, organizers said Wednesday the new Folio Prize will be open to any English-language writer whose work has been published in Britain.
The Folio Prize will hand out its inaugural 40,000 pound ($60,000) purse in March 2014.
The award was set up by a group of writers, publishers and agents amid debate over whether the 44-year-old Booker Prize is guilty of dumbing down. Recent Booker winners have included relatively best-selling authors such as Hilary Mantel and Julian Barnes, leading to criticism that edgier voices are being overlooked.
The new prize is named for its sponsor, publisher The Folio Society.
The prize rules state that each year a panel of five judges will be drawn by lot from a 100-strong Folio Academy of "highly respected, award-winning writers and critics from across the globe." It's a high-profile group, dotted with Booker and Pulitzer winners, that includes novelists Margaret Atwood, Pat Barker, Peter Carey, Mohsin Hamid, Junot Diaz and Salman Rushdie.
The five judges will include three members from Britain and two from elsewhere, and can contain no more than three men or three women.
The prize was created after a controversy in 2011, when the chair of the Booker judges said the finalists had been chosen for "readability" — a comment interpreted by some as favoring accessibility over quality.
Others say the Booker is doing its job by rewarding writers like Mantel — a critically acclaimed but modest-selling novelist who got a huge career boost when she won the first of her two Bookers in 2009 for "Wolf Hall."
The new prize has the support of many prominent authors.
Atwood said awards like the Folio Prize "much needed in a world in which money is increasingly becoming the measure of all things."
Mark Haddon, who was propelled into the spotlight when his novel "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" won two major prizes a decade ago, said it was "not a mechanism for generating publicity by propelling a single book into the spotlight but a celebration of literary fiction as a whole."
Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless