Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Literary Prizes ~ Which Is More Important, the Author or the Book?

I’ve never attempted to win a writing prize. 

Is the author more important than the book?

Image Courtesy of ostillac callisto ~

Maybe being a citizen of the U.S.A. has taught me that most prizes have hidden strings that can tie up your intentions

Some folks claim prize money supports authors in a time of  faltering book earnings.

Does that mean the authors are slanting their writing in hopes of winning a prize?

And, what about all the evidence of politics amongst various prize judges?

In my very personal opinion, winning prizes can be as bad as the stifling effects of author branding.

Curious stuff

But, please don’t take my opinions as some attempt at moral judgement—I’m sure some authors actually do deserve every accolade they receive, monetary or media.

Let’s look at the Nobel Prize won by non-fiction author Svetlana Alexievich.

She won about US$970,000.

Is such a sum enough to ease all the burdens she’s endured in her 67 years?

Perhaps it will alleviate some pressures during her remaining time on Earth

The publication Quartz has an apropos article I’ll share a few excerpts from—Turning Authors into Celebrities Is Bad for Reading:

“Prizes like the Nobel inspire much ado—in the weeks leading up to the announcement, people give their best guesses as to who will win, look back on past “snubbed” winners, and even place bets as if spectators at a Derby.”

“Our laurel-heaping impulse seems increasingly to contribute to a culture of turning authors into celebrities, where readers follow the author instead of the book.”

Then comes a quote from an author wrapped in mystery (she uses a pseudonym and communicates primarily through letters and email), Elena Ferrante:

“I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors…If [books] have something to say, they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won’t…True miracles are the ones whose makers will never be known; they are the very small miracles of the secret spirits of the home or the great miracles that leave us truly astonished.”

One last excerpt from the Quartz article:

“…our culture of celebrity is often too wrapped up in the way we read: How might the meaning of a work change if the author really didn’t grow up in a poor neighborhood, or if she was abused in childhood, or if she is really a man? Even the anonymous Ferrante has been made the centerpiece of her books’ success.

Finally, here’s Doris Lessing‘s reaction to winning the Nobel Prize:

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6 responses to “Literary Prizes ~ Which Is More Important, the Author or the Book?

  1. Nicole October 9, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    I feel like readers care more about the books. Writers care more about the writers. But my favorite books were so good, I started out not giving a flip about who wrote them, then by the time I finished reading, I was curious about who wrote them, so I looked them up and spent the rest of my time trying to convince myself that ‘that person’ really wrote the book.☺
    Also, contests, I never gave much thought to. I’ve considered entering one before, but after I read all the rules and guidelines, I said forget it, I can’t work under all this structure. But I know people who’ve won awards for poems and such and that’s wonderful, I think (especially when the extra funds are useful).
    The video of Doris cracked me up. I feel like it’s difficult, sometimes, when looking at the way other people behave or react after they win something, to tell if they’re just down to Earth OR ungrateful. Know what I mean?
    Love the post.
    Keep up the good work, buddy.


    • Alexander M Zoltai October 9, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      Perceptive distinction, Nicole: “…readers care more about the books. Writers care more about the writers.”

      And, your comment, “…trying to convince myself that ‘that person’ really wrote the book.”, is also perceptive since many authors read a book they wrote and wonder if they actually did write it…

      I also greatly appreciated Doris’ reaction :-)

      Also, your kind remarks do help me continue to work hard at blogging………


  2. D.G.Kaye October 13, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Lots of food for thought here Alex. And I was taken aback by Lessing’s humble, almost laisser faire attitude about winning the nobel. I would have been jumping to the moon. :) To each his own I suppose.


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