Women's Prize Trust Announces New Non-Fiction Prize
By Brodie Mckenzie, Anna-Maria Poku and Grace Briggs-Jones
The Women’s Prize Trust have announced their intentions to launch a new non-fiction book prize for women writers following research, finding that women are less likely to be shortlisted for or to win non-fiction book prizes. The new prize will be open to women all over the world who have been published in the UK.
Winners of the annual Women’s Prize for Non-fiction will receive £30,000 and a statuette named “the Charlotte,” provided by the Charlotte Aitken Trust, a charity set up by the former literary agent Gillon Aitken on behalf of his late daughter.
Women’s non-fiction writing is generally less likely to be shortlisted, or win, book prizes, with only 35.5% of non-fiction books written by female writers being awarded a prize in the category over the past ten years across seven of the UK’s prominent book prizes. Non-fiction books by women are also far less likely to be reviewed in the UK national media – according to the Women’s Prize analysis, only 26.5% of non-fiction reviews in national newspapers were allocated to books written by women.
This lack of platform for female voices has a widespread financial impact on authors as well. In their research, the Women’s Prize discovered data by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) that women writers have experienced a 16.6% decrease in their median earnings over the past five years compared to a drop of 13.5% experienced by male writers. The gender pay gap has increased over this period too – from 33.3% to 35.7.
The Women’s Prize Trust hope to turn these statistics on their head, amplifying female perspectives and experiences with their new prize.
In an announcement on their socials and website, the Trust had the contributions of various prolific women emphasising the importance of the new prize, with broadcaster and writer, Afua Hirsch mentioning that “[her] life has been profoundly shaped by the contribution of generations of women to ground-breaking, compelling and essential non-fiction.” Anita Anand, broadcaster and author added that “amplifying the host of extraordinary women writers working in this field can only enrich the national conversation, and the Women’s Prize is the biggest megaphone.” Melanie Eusebe, entrepreneur, author and the co-founder of the Black British Awards rounded off by saying that “non-fiction books are a primary lever for social mobility.”
Kate Mosse, the Women’s Prize for Fiction Founder Director, novelist, non-fiction author and playwright, in a statement on the website said: “This is an extremely exciting moment in the history of the Women’s Prize. Since we launched twenty-eight years ago, we have celebrated and amplified the voices of hundreds of amazing novelists, pressing their books into the hands of millions of readers. We are confident that our new non-fiction sister prize will do the same for those extraordinary non-fiction authors, many of whom do not receive the attention they deserve. The result is that readers are short changed. We are now seeking corporate partners open to joining our family of sponsors. Together, we can champion exceptional women’s narrative non-fiction on a global stage. This is the time to be bold.” We could not agree more.
Currently, the Women’s Prize for Fiction is sponsored by Baileys and Audible. Baileys is synonymous with indulgent delight and resonates with many women. Audible is a leading creator and provider of premium audio storytelling, offering customers a new way to enhance and enrich their lives every day. Whilst these two companies support the Fiction Prize it seems there is a call for new sponsors for the Women’s Non-Fiction Prize. Kate Mosse is looking for brands that are not afraid to be bold and join the family of sponsors that are doing such good work ensuring female authors have a spotlight. Without sponsorship this amazing new prize wouldn't be able to come to fruition, which would be such a shame in a world where non-fiction female authors are already behind their male counterparts. Becoming a sponsor would mean becoming a part of a prize that is sure to make waves in the literary world.
The Women’s Prize for Non-fiction will be awarded annually and be open to all female writers from across the globe, regardless of background who are published in the UK and writing in English. The criteria will include all narrative non-fiction – from history, memoir, music and nature writing, to science, philosophy and biography. As with its sister fiction prize, the Women’s Prize for Non-fiction will celebrate excellence in writing and research, strong and original narrative voices and accessibility. The prize launches in 2024, calling for entries Summer 2023 – so keep your eyes peeled for any front runners.