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Contests, Lists And Prizes Like The Pulitzer Sell Books

Maybe it is not as extreme as apples and oranges but - really - there is no *best* book of the year (or movie, or song). Many are better than others, and many are superb. But, as publicity and an advertising angle - "Open the envelope, pul-eese!


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Just How Much Does a Pulitzer Prize Help a Book's Sales?  
By Gabe Habash 


Part of the outcry over the lack of a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction selection this year relates to the sales increase that each year’s winner inevitably receives, and how that windfall will be absent in 2012. But just how big of a sales increase does a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel experience? Using Nielsen BookScan, PW took a look at the last five winners of the fiction prize—A Visit from the Goon SquadTinkersOlive KitteridgeThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoThe Road—and the effects the win had on sales.

The trade paperback for Jennifer Egan’s Goon Squad (Random House) was released just four weeks before its Pulitzer victory in April 2011. Weekly sales of the book immediately tripled following the announcement—in the week leading up to the announcement, the book sold 3,800 copies; the next week, after the announcement, the book sold 9,578 at the outlets tracked by BookScan (about 70% of print sales). Sales then hovered around 10,000 copies per week until June, and the book finally dipped under 5,000 copies per week in the week ending September 11, 2011. On average, following the Pulitzer, Goon Squad’s weekly sales for a three month period were triple what they were before the prize. To date, the book has sold 280,000 copies in trade paperback at outlets followed by BookScan. It should be noted that none of these figures includes e-book sales, which would’ve likely figured into Egan’s novel's sales most prominently out of all the past winners.   

Paul Harding’s Tinkers perhaps benefitted the most from winning the Pulitzer. Published in early January 2010 by Bellevue Literary Press, the book had only sold 1,120 copies at BookScan-tracked outlets before the Pulitzer announcement. To date, it has now sold 360,000 trade paperback copies in outlets followed by BookScan. The weekly spike is also astounding: in the week before the announcement, Tinkers sold only 40 copies. The next week, immediately following its Pulitzer victory, it sold 1,042 copies, doubling its total sales in a seven-day span. The following week, sales continued to climb, reaching 6,131 copies, and weekly sales remained steady around 5,000 until January 2011, 10 months after it won the Pulitzer.