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Originally published Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 12:13 PM

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New Folio Prize to reward English-language fiction

The new Folio Prize will be open to any English-language writer whose work has been published in Britain.

The Associated Press

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LONDON — A new literary prize is hoping to beat the Booker to the title of Britain’s most prestigious fiction award, in part by including Americans.

Unlike the Booker Prize, which is open to British, Irish and Commonwealth writers, organizers said Wednesday the new Folio Prize will be open to any English-language writer whose work has been published in Britain.

The Folio Prize will hand out its inaugural $60,000 purse in March 2014.

The award was set up by a group of writers, publishers and agents amid debate over whether the 44-year-old Booker Prize is guilty of dumbing down its choices. Recent Booker winners have included relatively best-selling authors such as Hilary Mantel and Julian Barnes, leading to criticism that edgier voices are being overlooked.

The new prize is named for its sponsor, publisher The Folio Society.

The prize rules state that each year a panel of five judges will be drawn by lot from a 100-member Folio Academy of “highly respected, award-winning writers and critics from across the globe.” It’s a high-profile group, dotted with Booker and Pulitzer winners, that includes novelists Margaret Atwood, Pat Barker, Peter Carey, Mohsin Hamid, Junot Díaz and Salman Rushdie.

The five judges will include three members from Britain and two from elsewhere and can contain no more than three men or three women.

The prize was created after a controversy in 2011, when the chair of the Booker judges said the finalists had been chosen for “readability,” a comment interpreted by some as favoring accessibility over quality.

Others say the Booker is doing its job by rewarding writers such as Mantel — a critically acclaimed but modest-selling novelist who got a huge career boost when she won the first of her two Bookers in 2009 for “Wolf Hall.”

The new prize has the support of many prominent authors.

Atwood said awards such as the Folio Prize are “much needed in a world in which money is increasingly becoming the measure of all things.”

Meanwhile, Mantel is heading toward a clean sweep of Britain’s three top literary prizes with a nomination for the Women’s Prize for fiction.

The novelist has won the Booker and Costa prizes for her Tudor novel “Bring Up the Bodies.”

Mantel is one of 20 candidates announced Wednesday for the Women’s Prize, previously known as the Orange Prize. Nominees include previous winners Barbara Kingsolver and Zadie Smith, as well as Gillian Flynn, for her best-seller “Gone Girl.”

The award, in its 18th year, celebrates writing by women in English from around the world. The winner will receive $45,000.

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