Does Winning A Nobel Translate To More Book Sales?
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's Lynn Neary reports.
LYNN NEARY: At this time of year there's endless speculation in literary circles about who might win the Nobel Prize. Truth be told, it's almost impossible to predict. But one thing about the prize is predictable: customers will start looking for the winner's books in their favorite bookstores.
MITCHELL KAPLAN: It's like all of a sudden people are scrambling to get whatever it is we might have.
NEARY: Mitchell Kaplan is the owner of Books and Books in Miami. Kaplan says as soon the winner is announced, his store starts ordering more books by the winning author. And Kaplan says they even order some writers' books beforehand.
KAPLAN: Like, there's talk that Amos Oz might be in the lead for this year's prize, so we're already trying to get additional copies of his work in.
NEARY: For publishers like Jonathan Burnham of HarperCollins, winning an award like the Nobel can be a goldmine.
JONATHAN BURNHAM: Well, awards are bounty. They, you know, come like manna from heaven.
NEARY: Just this week, the Man Booker Prize went to HarperCollins author Hilary Mantel. And two years ago, another HarperCollins author, Doris Lessing, won the Nobel. Burnham says there was an immediate bounce in sales for Lessing's books.
BURNHAM: With a writer like Doris Lessing, you already have a devoted readership and she is a known factor for book sellers, so when the prize is announced they understand what's happening, and the machine is much more effective.
NEARY: Jonathan Galassi is the president and publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
JONATHAN GALASSI: I think it's a spotty thing. If the confluence of the work and the noise that's made by the prize come together right, it can enhance the commercial viability of the author a great deal. But it doesn't do it all the time.
NEARY: On the other hand, some authors have gone from being well-respected writers to literary superstars after winning the Nobel. As an example, Galassi points to Naguib Mahfouz, who won the Nobel in 1988.
GALASSI: He was an author who was very esteemed in certain circles but not generally known. But when people started reading his books, they found them to be delightful and readable. And he went on to sell a lot of books in our market.
NEARY: And says bookseller Mitchell Kaplan, poets like Seamus Heaney or Derek Walcott often find readers who might never have heard of them if not for the Nobel Prize.
KAPLAN: People love reading poetry. And I think with poets, you find that this is a way that people can sort of be guided to reading poets. In other words, it's kind of a seal of approval on a poet.
NEARY: Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.
INSKEEP: This is NPR News.
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