What now for Eleanor Catton?

19:46, Oct 16 2013
Eleanor Catton
KIWI SUCCESS: Eleanor Catton claims the Man Booker Prize.

Record book sales are just a small taste of what is to come for Eleanor Catton on the back of her Man Booker prize win.

Before yesterday she had sold 6000 copies of The Luminaries in New Zealand.

But that changed within the space of the day, said Lincoln Gould, chief executive of trade organisation Booksellers NZ. Stores were reporting selling out of the book, despite anticipating her win and getting in extra stock.

Four thousand new copies set to arrive in New Zealand today have already been pre-sold.

Library waiting lists skyrocketed to more than 1000 at Auckland Library by yesterday afternoon and Wellington Library was pushing 200.

The details of Catton's contract with her publishers are unknown, but Mr Gould said a typical deal would mean she would receive 10 per cent of the recommended retail price. The 6000 already sold in New Zealand would represent about $20,000 for the author.


However, being shortlisted for the Booker generally ensured sales of about 10,000 copies in New Zealand alone, Book Council chief executive Catriona Ferguson said.

Canadian author Margaret Atwood, who won in 2000 for The Blind Assassin, had sold about 8000 copies before being shortlisted. After winning, that rose to 500,000, Ms Ferguson said.

If Catton were to match that, she could be looking at about $1.5 million from sales. "This award will push the sales of The Luminaries, but long term there will also be more media interest in her other books," Ms Ferguson said.

"That interest will raise expectations of her, and it will be inevitable that any books published after this will be compared to The Luminaries."

Kiwi authors struggled to get international attention unless they were published overseas and open to bigger reviews. "What this will do internationally is raise the profile of New Zealand writers and their writing.

"There's a strong literacy culture to be recognised in New Zealand and this will go a long way towards helping that happen."

Catton told Radio New Zealand yesterday that the experience so far of being a Booker prize winner had been "a little bit daunting".

She was "a tiny wee bit worried" that her work would suffer if she no longer had to struggle.

"I need to keep that in mind in years to come. I don't want to rest on my laurels in any kind of way."

Wellington writer Lloyd Jones, whose novel Mr Pip was shortlisted for the Booker in 2007, said the media interest in Catton and the change to her life would be extraordinary.

"It won't last forever so she should enjoy it," he said.

"It changes you, as it did me. You end up not being a writer but a representative for your book, which shakes your inner world a bit."

He had put November aside to read The Luminaries, he said.

The book is published in New Zealand by Victoria University Press, whose publisher Fergus Barrowman was sitting beside Catton when the Booker announcement was made.

The win came on the same day as The Luminaries was being released in the United States, shortly after its British publication, and as translations to other languages were coming out.

"It's going to have a huge publicity push behind it," Barrowman said.


Sarah Forster, of Booksellers NZ, on how to pretend you've read it:

The book is set on the West Coast of the South Island during the gold rush, and has a feel of Wild West TV series Deadwood.

It is a murder mystery, with all the elements of a melodrama - self-made men, opium-hooked whores, rogues both lovable and not-so-lovable, and a huge cast of characters.

The story (and book) is big and broad, and astronomical charts for each character are used to set up each part of the story.

It begins in a bar, as all good West Coast tales should.

A "homeward-bounder" is a gold find that allows the person finding it to go home - what every gold-digger is looking for.

The story is about gold, but as much about love, honour, greed, and running away from a past.

There are only two main female characters, and 18 main male characters. The story is told from many of their viewpoints, sometimes going over the same period of time.

The Dominion Post