Author Rana Dasgupta has never been so busy. But it\u2019s not writing or research that\u2019s keeping him occupied these days. What\u2019s kept him on his toes for the past four months is giving interviews, coordinating photo shoots, working on promotion details, finalising marketing strategies and running social media campaigns. Dasgupta is the literary director of the JCB Prize for Literature, the newest literary prize for Indian writers, which has unfolded with great promise\u2014the prize promises to be India\u2019s answer to the Man Booker Prize. \u201cNot immediately, though. But we aim to reach there in the next 15 years or so,\u201d says Dasgupta. In the first week of October, JCB Prize came out with its five shortlisted books\u2014Anuradha Roy\u2019s All the Lives We Never Lived, Amitabha Bagchi\u2019s Half the Night is Gone, Benyamin\u2019s Jasmine Days (translated by Shahnaz Habib), Perumal Murugan\u2019s Poonachi (translated by N Kalyan Raman) and Shubhangi Swarup\u2019s Latitudes of Longing. \u201cWe are recommending these five books from a list of 60 read by us. These are the five books that will stand out in time and you would like to read them again after many years,\u201d says novelist Vivek Shanbhag, one of the jury members for the 2018 JCB Prize. The winner, to be announced this Wednesday, will carry home a prize money of Rs 25 lakh\u2014an additional Rs 5 lakh will go to the translator in case a work of translation happens to win. \u201cIt\u2019s a wonderful validation for our editorial team, which works so hard and brilliantly to produce these books. It\u2019s wonderful for authors to be recognised. Each longlist and shortlist feels especially exciting,\u201d says Chiki Sarkar, founder and publisher, Juggernaut Books, which has two titles (Half the Night is Gone and Jasmine Days) in the JCB shortlist. Billed as the country\u2019s richest literary prize, JCB\u2014the multinational behind it\u2014is looking to create a space for Indian writing with an award that is as prestigious as its American or English counterparts in the eyes of the public. After all, the Man Booker Prize\u2014which announced its 2018 winner (northern Irish author Anna Burns for Milkman) on Tuesday\u2014is an award that\u2019s keenly awaited not just by literary enthusiasts, but common folk as well. It\u2019s this kind of appeal that the Man Booker Prize\u2019s counterparts in the subcontinent are aiming to achieve in the coming years. \u201cIt\u2019s time to move beyond being a mere spectator to the Booker Prize. We want to alter the publishing scenario in India and create more space for literary fiction and translations,\u201d Dasgupta adds. Season of awards It\u2019s an exciting time for the Indian publishing industry, which, as per trade reports, is pegged at `20,000 crore and is growing at 30% year-on-year. There are new publishers on the horizon, more books are getting translated from Indian languages into English, new writers are finding a voice and more literary festivals are being organised than ever before. Add these new awards, which promise to provide Indian writing more prominent shelf space in the global market, and the scenario looks quite bright. Writer Anuradha Roy, who won the 2016 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature for her book Sleeping on Jupiter, considers awards to be \u201ca kind of validation\u201d of a writer\u2019s work. \u201cAmong the judges for the DSC Prize were academics from Bangladesh, Britain and Sri Lanka, as well as a well-known US bookseller. It made me feel as if my book had crossed cultural and national boundaries and had made sense to well-informed, intelligent readers from completely different backgrounds,\u201d she says. Roy, who was also on the 2015 Man Booker Prize longlist, has made it to the shortlist of almost all literary awards this year with her latest, All the Lives We Never Lived. \u201cMost writers are plagued by self-doubt and I am no exception. So literary awards are very reassuring,\u201d she adds. In April, The New India Foundation, a Bengaluru-based trust, announced the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay New India Foundation (NIF) Book Prize for non-fiction. The annual prize, named after the social reformer and freedom fighter, carries a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh to be awarded to a non-fiction book about any aspect of India since independence. \u201cAwards are always welcome, as they restart conversations about books and are great for authors,\u201d says Thomas Abraham, managing director, Hachette India. The winning title to be announced at the Bangalore Literature Festival from October 27-28 will be picked by a jury comprising Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, historian Ramachandra Guha, Teamlease Services chairman and co-founder Manish Sabharwal, and historian and senior fellow at Centre for Policy Research Srinath Raghavan. As for the shortlisted books, while on one hand, there is Sujatha Gidla\u2019s Ants Among Elephants, which focuses on caste oppression in modern India, on the other there is partition literature in the form of Aanchal Malhotra\u2019s Remnants of a Separation. The other books on the list include Abhinav Chandrachud\u2019s The Republic of Rhetoric, which is about free speech and the Constitution, and bureaucrat Anirudh Krishna\u2019s The Broken Ladder, which explores the potential of people in India\u2019s villages. Milan Vaishnav\u2019s When Crime Pays (which looks at how criminals exploit the existing conditions to entrench themselves in politics) and Francesca R Jensenius\u2019 Social Justice Through Inclusion (on how electoral representation for Dalits through reservation has played out since 1952) are also in the fray. It\u2019s an interesting shortlist, considering that the prize focuses on the history of modern India. Guha, while announcing the shortlist, had commented that the titles \u201creflect the Foundation\u2019s ecumenical charter of recognising high-quality non-fiction regardless of genre and ideology.\u201d Interestingly, all the new awards announced this year cater to different segments and have completely stayed out of each other\u2019s territories. While JCB Prize is about fiction and translations by Indian writers, New India Foundation focuses on non-fiction around modern India. Another prize announced this year in January is the \u2018Prabha Khaitan Woman\u2019s Voice Award\u2019\u2014by the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF)\u2014for emerging women writers in India. Carrying a cash prize of `1 lakh, the award will recognise women writers in all Indian languages\u2014this year\u2019s winner will be announced at the next AKLF in 2019. \u201cIsn\u2019t it such a wonderful time to be publishing in India?\u201d asks author and translator Arshia Sattar, who is one of the jury members of the JCB Prize and co-curator of the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize 2018, which was set up in 2008 to honour a debut writer from south Asia. The winner of the Shakti Bhatt Prize, which is accompanied by a prize money of `2 lakh, was awarded this year to Sujatha Gidla for Ants Among Elephants. Two more awards debuted quietly this year: the CK Prahalad Best Business Book Award and Neev Children\u2019s Literature Awards. Founded in the memory of management guru, author and entrepreneur CK Prahalad, the CK Prahalad Best Business Book Award recognises the best business book of the year. Announced at the Bangalore Business Litfest in September, the award, which carries a cash prize of `1 lakh, went to Mindtree founder Subroto Bagchi for his book Sell: The Art, the Science, the Witchcraft. And with Neev Children\u2019s Literature Awards, the children\u2019s category has finally its own award too. An initiative of the Neev Literature Festival, the inaugural prizes were awarded in September in three categories. The best picture book award went to I Will Save My Land, written by Rinchin with illustrations by Sagar Kolwankar, the Young Readers Award went to Mitali Perkins for Tiger Boy and the best Young Adult Book Award was won by Queen of Ice by Devika Rangachari. The award and prize money of `1 lakh each was an attempt to recognise and promote \u2018high-quality\u2019 writing in children\u2019s literature from across India. According to Surina Narula, founder of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, awards promote good writing. \u201cThe publishing industry is facing huge dilemmas because of the digital world taking over. So anything that promotes writing and literature in the published form is always going to be welcomed by publishers,\u201d Narula says. The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, into its eighth year now, comes with a cash component of $25,000 (it was $50,000 until 2016). The award announced its longlist earlier this month, which was brought out by an eclectic jury comprising Rudrangshu Mukherjee, jury chair and chancellor of Ashoka University; Nandana Sen, writer, actor and author; Claire Armitstead, associate editor-culture, The Guardian; Tissa Jayatilaka, executive director of United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission; and Firdous Azim from BRAC University, Bangladesh. Jury on call With so many awards, it\u2019s naturally a busy time for jury members. Reading each submission, discussions over Skype calls or messenger chats, arguments over what makes it to the final list, etc, keep them fully occupied. Coming from diverse fields and residing in different geographical locations, jury members have to ensure that they are on the same page when the final list comes out. \u201cIt seems like I was doing nothing else but reading for the past four months. We have had long discussions for many days. Coming up with a shortlist is relatively easy, as by then, you know what is on most jury members\u2019 minds,\u201d says author and translator Sattar. Besides her and novelist Shanbhag, the jury for the JCB award for 2018 comprises a diverse list of personalities, including filmmaker Deepa Mehta, entrepreneur and founder of Murty Classical Library Rohan Murty, and Yale University astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan. The JCB prize will change its selection committee annually and will be audited to ensure fair evaluation. While each jury member at every literary award brings a different perspective onboard, almost all work on the core principles of \u2018good writing\u2019 and \u2018enduring quality\u2019 of a book. Shanbhag believes a literary prize is something akin to a book club, where a group of members read a book for a larger audience and then recommend it. \u201cA smaller version of a lit prize can be seen in a book club,\u201d he says. A literary award also reflects the best in writing in that particular year. And it opens the doors for publishers to pay more attention to a genre\u2014like translations or literary fiction. Keki Daruwala, poet, short story writer and former jury member with the DSC, believes that awards bring \u201coptimism\u201d into the publishing world. \u201cPrizes are very necessary,\u201d explains Daruwala, adding, \u201cIt is the climate of optimism, which a prize builds that matters.\u201d Hailing the literary prizes focusing on India, Daruwala, says, \u201cWestern standards of judging Indian writing, to put it mildly, are waspish.\u201d Fine print When the Booker Prize announces its shortlist, the sales of all the books jump manifold. Even the most modest seller on a Booker list benefits hugely from the Booker stamp. According to data released by trade body Neilsen Bookscan a few years back (which scanned all the Booker winners from 2001 to 2010), sales rose significantly for shortlisted titles. For instance, Kiran Desai\u2019s The Inheritance of Loss, which won in 2006, sold around 1,82,044 copies post its Booker win, as against 2,397 sold before the announcement. It is well-documented that literary prizes increase the awareness for nominated books among readers, as well as the visibility of the book. \u201cThe DSC Prize helps the author in getting known in the greater world, as the writing reaches a larger global audience. Most works have been published in other countries after they have been awarded the DSC Prize,\u201d says Narula of the DSC Prize. The organisers even conduct book tours for the author to promote his\/her novel, leading to greater visibility, both in media and at bookstores. But at a time when sale of literary fiction is overrun by mass market titles, will these prizes significantly drive sales? \u201cThough the award gives a greater profile to both the writer and the publisher, unlike the West, we still have not seen a rise in book sales of a prize-winner,\u201d points out Sarkar of Juggernaut Books, adding, \u201cThe Booker and, on occasion, the Pulitzer are the only prizes that have sales impact in India. So the sales for a Jhumpa Lahiri, Aravind Adiga, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Kiran Desai and Arundhati Roy (book) benefitted, but I can\u2019t think of others.\u201d The reprints of a book are the biggest indicator that sales are flourishing. \u201cI have seen various book prizes over the past two decades across both Penguin and Hachette, and it\u2019s sad, but only three prizes (and all of them international) have ever made a real difference to sales in India\u2014Man Booker, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize. For all of these, we\u2019ve had to reprint quite a bit\u2014Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (which was on the Booker shortlist); Malala for the Nobel; Donna Tartt\u2019s The Goldfinch for the Pulitzer. And these are substantial reprints, ranging from 5,000 to 50,000 copies,\u201d says Abraham of Hachette India. JCB is, however, leaving no stone unturned to increase the sales of its shortlisted book. Book extracts have been made into audio clips by the authors and uploaded on YouTube. Authors will also visit universities and literary festivals to promote their books. Magazine photo-ops are being organised and profiles being published. \u201cWe want our writers to be known outside the literary world. The objective is to increase sales tremendously in the next three-five years,\u201d says literary director Dasgupta. The real challenge, though, writers maintain, is having an impact on readers. \u201cWhether a book progresses to the shortlist or not, wins or not, a Booker nomination gives it a much wider readership; many people become aware of the book. Still, all prizes eventually fade from people\u2019s memories and the book has to live on its own steam. How many people remember books that were on even last year\u2019s Booker list?\u201d asks writer Roy. She explains further how well-publicised prizes do have a temporary impact on a writer\u2019s earnings and career. \u201cFor a while, sales of the book increase and it has a ripple effect, making people aware of you and your other books. But plenty of books that never won a prize also have a significant and lasting impact,\u201d she adds. Maybe you are as good as your last award. Or as good as your last published book. The jury is out on that.