Friday, 29 March 2013

The new Forward Prize requirement

For the Forward Prizes this year, submissions have to be accompanied by author photos. At the risk of sounding like UKIP, this is another pointless and wholly unnecessary little rule.

Most writers, I think, are perfectly happy to supply event and prize organisers, and newspapers too, with photos. A few are not. This is fine; there’s no problem here. A problem only arises when someone makes a rule requiring all writers to supply photos. For the Forward the organisers presumably want photos for publicity purposes (any other reasons?); but if, say, out of a shortlist of six writers one doesn’t want to supply a photo, why does this matter? Who does this hurt?

The reason that photos are required at submission stage, Susannah Herbert of the Forward Arts Foundation says, is to minimise ‘admin, aggro and to-and-fro at the shortlist stage’. How so? Most publishers will, I think, paste a photo into a Word document with the author’s mini-biography (also required), print out, and send this with the books. There’s no mention of sending electronic files. At the shortlist stage, the Forward will then have to ask publishers to re-send the photos as jpegs. Rather than minimising admin, this process increases it.

There happens to be a CBe author who is not keen to supply a photo. Susannah Herbert suggests that surely the author and I ‘are ingenious enough to figure out a way through this little challenge’. Maybe we are. But we are not in primary school.

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