International Prize for Arabic Fiction Introduces ‘New Quota System’ for Publishers

The system for submitting books to the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) is changing:

IPAFSubmissions for its 10th annual prize, in 2018, will have to follow a new set of guidelines that are “a means of maintaining fairness, and of ensuring continued eligibility for every publisher to submit novels for consideration.”

The prize has had problems, in past years, with an overwhelming number of submitted titles. While some other Arabic prizes employ committees to wade through hundreds of titles, it has been difficult for five judges to read through nearly 200 books in a few short months. In the past, every publishing house has been allowed to submit three novels, with any previously longlisted author additionally allowed a “free” slot.

Publishers have complained that large houses, which put out dozens of titles, got the same number of slots as fly-by-night publishers, sometimes opened up just to submit for the prize.

So, from the 2018 Prize year onwards, IPAF organizers are introducing a new “quota system” that privileges large and established publishers, whereby the number of books each publisher can submit “will depend on that publisher’s inclusion in longlists over the previous five years[.]”

Publishers who’ve had no previous longlisting can submit one title; one or two longlistings earns you two submissions; three or four longlistings earns you three submissions; five or more longlistings earns you four submissions.

Thus, as the IPAF news release points out, the number of submissions for a publisher might change year to year.

They note that rule allowing “additional submission of any new title by an author who has previously been shortlisted” remains on the books, and judges can technically still call in a book that hasn’t been submitted.

“Fairness and excellence are at the heart of this change in IPAF rules,” IPAF chair of trustees Yasir Suleiman said in a prepared statement. “The new rules will allow for breadth with depth in submissions, and they will do so in a manner that builds on the outstanding success of the Prize in promoting Arabic fiction in the original and in translation.”

The IPAF announces a longlist, a six-title shortlist, and a $50,000-earning winner each year. The prize also supports translation, and many of the authors have been translated into world languages.

The dates for this year’s prize:

Longlist: Monday, January 16, 2017 by electronic announcement.

Shortlist: Thursday, February 16, 2017 in Algiers, Algeria.

Winner: April 25, 2017, in Abu Dhabi.