Pulitzer sur-Prize: No fiction winner

The Pulitzer board opted not to award a prize for fiction this year. Normally, the winning author gets a sales bump. So what happens in the book market now?

Kai Ryssdal: The Pulitzer Prizes came out yesterday, among the top honors for journalism, letters, drama and music. The one that's got people gossiping today, though, is the one that wasn't given: The prize for fiction. Three finalists, none of which were judged good enough.

Which can't be good for the book business. Marketplace's Sally Herships has the story from New York.


Sally Herships: We’re so used to focusing on winners, what does it mean to be just a finalist?

Jeff Seroy: Well it certainly can’t hurt.

Jeff Seroy works for Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which publishes Denis Johnson’s book "Train Dreams," one of the three Pulitzer finalists.

Seroy: They’ll all get more attention and readers will be curious about them. Maybe readers will want to read all three and decide for themselves who should have won, since the board hasn’t seen fit to.

Seroy says any publisher will tell you when it comes to driving book sales, the Pulitzer is the most influential award in the country.

Paul Bogaards works with Knopf Doubleday. He says this year’s result is a huge disappointment. Last year, Knopf’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan won the prize.

Paul Bogaards: In 2010, we probably sold about 30,000 copies. In 2011 when the Pulitzer was awarded, we went on to sell over 260,000.

Bogaards says the Pulitzer effect on book sales comes from the press. After all, they are mainly journalism awards, so the prizes are covered by almost every outlet in America.

Jason Boog is editor of Galley Cat, a publishing industry blog. He says the publishing industry counts on winners to get consumers into bookstores.

Jason Boog: The name recognition of people listening to the evening news and hearing Pulitzer Prize winner, that’s the actual moment that catalyzes in your head when you say, I’m going to go to the bookstore and buy that book.

Maybe next year we’ll read a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about tragic injustice.

In New York, I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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