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Orange Prize For Fiction Loses Its Key Sponsor

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One of the longest running cultural partnerships in the U.K. broke up for good Tuesday, threatening a major suporter of female novelists worldwide if a new sponsor or major donor is not found.

The Orange Prize for Fiction, which was launched in 1996 as a response to other prizes primarily featuring male authors, has provided one female novelist each year with a cash reward of 30,000 pounds and a subsequent increase in book sales. The BBC once referred to the Orange Prize as part of the "trinity" of significant book prizes in the U.K., which also includes the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Book Awards.

The award's sponsor, Orange, a major telecommunications company based in Bristol, said in a statement that the decision to abandon the award was based on a "strategic review of its U.K. partnership portfolio," and it wanted to shift its focus primarily to film projects.

"Obviously there's an element of sadness, because it's been an incredibly successful partnership," said Kate Mosse, the co-founder of the prize. "As a novelist, obviously I like books best."

Mosse added that over the years the prize provided Orange with "the equivalent of 17 million pounds in advertising revenue," yet perhaps the split will be best for them both. Mosse said they were looking to expand the prize and gain more traction around the world, making it "bigger and better," and she thinks another sponsor will come along.

"We should say thank you to [Orange]," she said, "and also ask for a new sponsor."

The Orange Prize isn't just for British authors -- the prize has a wide-spanning, international bent, and doesn't discriminate based on nationality, residence or age. Celebrated novels like Marilynne Robinson's "Home," Lionel Shriver's "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and Ann Patchett's "Bel Canto" are all past winners. On this year's shortlist for the prize, half the authors were American.

In today's Guardian, author and past Orange Prize recipient Linda Grant stressed how much she hoped the prize could continue with a new sponsor.

"What winning means is money: not money to buy a diamond ring, but to be able to push aside everything else that interferes with writing books," Grant wrote. "To give up the day job, say no to journalism or teaching; to see your advance for the next book increase, your foreign rights sales grow; to be translated into other languages."

Mosse said she was confident another company or organization would step forward and take over where Orange left off.

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