Booker, Pulitzer, Goncourt: what are the most popular literary prizes?

During the summer of 2020, Nielsen Book was commissioned by an international book award to undertake an industry-wide survey of the book industry. The objective: to explore the perception of various literary prizes in the publishing, book selling, writing, media and academic sectors. The same survey was conducted this summer to assess potential changes. The 2021 study has received support from the International Publishers Association (IPA), the Frankfurt and London Book Fairs, and Publishing Perspectives.

While a third of respondents were from the UK/Ireland, one in six were equally from the US, a German-speaking country and North Africa/Middle East (NMEA) — from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The other one-fifth came from the rest of the world (ROW).

In 2020, as in 2021, around a third of respondents were authors. Similarly, a third came from publishing and academia. Wholesalers or the media counted for little. Finally, in 2021, one in four people came from another sector.

Le Goncourt known internationally, or almost

As in the previous year, a large majority of respondents said they knew about the Booker and Pulitzer prizes. The National Book Awards, the John Newbery Medal in the USA, the Costa, the British Book Awards, the Women’s Prize for Fiction in the UK and the Deutscher Buchpreis in Germany are rightly well known in their respective countries. Finally, the Goncourt prize — the only French literary prize in the survey — seems to be relatively well known throughout the world, if we omit the respondents from North Africa or the Middle East.

The impact of a prize on the sales of a book in their own country or region remains, again this year, the decisive factor in the submission of books by publishers to an international literary prize. It should be noted, however, that the gap is widening in the face of media and consumer interest in it in their territories and the promotional support of prize organizers. Another important point: the ease of submission, the financial assistance for translation and the amount of winnings matter much more in 2021 than in 2020.

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According to the figures presented by Nielsen Book, the interest of customers and the media for an international literary prize would above all encourage the panel of sellers to store and promote the foreign translations of winners. Similarly, the general interest of the client has become the main factor at the expense of specific requests for winning books. The other important factors remain, again this year, the status of an award, the fact that an author is already published in a country and that a publisher is a pre-existing supplier.

Translation assistance, crucial

The ability to access translation support remains the deciding factor in encouraging publishers to consider publishing translations of international literary prize winners in 2021. Indeed, the gap is widening in the face of the impact of a price on sales. Other prominent factors include media and buyer interest, as well as the status of an award in their territory, although buyer interest was deemed lower than in 2020.

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According to the 2021 respondents, the awards should continue to focus on impartiality and independence of the decision-making process. This criterion finds a place of choice, ahead of the media profile, the clear/reliable eligibility criteria and the media presence on social networks. Promotional space in bookstores and on e-commerce was considered less important in 2021 than the previous year. However, Nielsen Book notes that this result is explained by the addition of a new factor — the ” tailor-made events – which weighed heavily in the balance.

Commercial potential, a media criterion

Two years in a row, the status of an award in their country/region remains the factor favored by the media to push them to cover it in 2021, ahead of the public’s interest in it. The author’s profile and the fact that a translation of the winning book is available are other key factors, which seem to matter more and more for respondents. Finally, the country where the prize is awarded is also more decisive for its media coverage in 2021 than in 2020.

To sum up, the popularity of an author as well as the availability of his works on a territory remain essential, to generate media coverage of a prize.

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Full study results are accessible at this address.

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Booker, Pulitzer, Goncourt: what are the most popular literary prizes?