Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

What’s the Real Value of Literary Prizes?

What's the Real Value of Literary Prizes? I started out in my preparations for this post with just one article, which I will feature; but, as I thought about what to call it, I, for some intuitive reason, did a Google search using that title up there…

I’d already known that there are quite varied and strong opinions on the value of literary prizes—some folks think book publishing will falter and die without them, some feel they’re just the result of non-pretty political machinations…

Here are just a few of the highly varied opinions from the Google Search of What’s the Real Value of Literary Prizes:

Why Books Need Literary Prizes

Why Do We Care About Literary Awards?

Writing And Winning

The Double-Edged Impact of Literary Awards?

If any of you actually went and read all those articles, you’re Amazing :-)

They are, actually, very worthwhile reading

But, now for the article that got me writing this post.

It’s by the fiction and non-fiction writer, critic, and multiple literary prize winner, Amit Chaudhuri, and is titled, My Fellow Authors Are Too Busy Chasing Prizes to Write About What Matters.

Here are a few excerpts (he’s talking about the Man Booker prizes; but, I’ll share excerpts that apply to nearly all prizes…):

“Publishing houses were once homes to writers; the former gave the latter the necessary leeway to create a body of work. Today there’s little intellectual or material investment in writers: literary prizes and shortlists are meant to sell books…”

“…the attractiveness of the free market has to do with its perverse system of rewards – unlike socialism, which said everyone should be moderately well off, the free market proposes that anyone can be rich. [Literary prizes’] randomness celebrates this; it confirms the market’s convulsive metamorphic powers, its ability to confer success unpredictably. In literature, it has redefined terms like ‘masterpiece’ and ‘classic’.”

“The meaning of a writer’s work must be created, and argued for, by writers themselves, and not by some extraneous source of endorsement. No original work is going to be welcomed with open arms by all, and the writer is not doing their job if they don’t make a case for their idea of writing through argumentation, debate, and fervour.”


What are Your thoughts and feelings about Literary Prizes…?

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18 responses to “What’s the Real Value of Literary Prizes?

  1. The Story Reading Ape September 7, 2017 at 4:25 am

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Call over and tell Alexander what YOUR thoughts and feelings about Literary Prizes are…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Audrey Driscoll September 7, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    I wonder if anyone has collected numbers comparing sales of books that win a major award, compared to similar books (i.e., “literary”) that do not win, but attract positive reviews from ordinary readers. The real question, though, is whether sales = merit. Only time travel to the future would reveal which books endure over the long haul. And for indie authors, the issue is pretty much irrelevant, because their books are outside the charmed circle of the mainstream awards.


    • Alexander M Zoltai September 7, 2017 at 6:16 pm

      I rather doubt that, Audrey; in fact, what I’ve read suggests that most book sales numbers, from traditional publishers, are faulty, if not also impossible to find…

      As far as the “sales=merit” question, the author of the featured article said that awards have, “…redefined terms like ‘masterpiece’ and ‘classic’.”

      And, indies, at least, have good access to sales numbers…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Cynthia Reyes September 7, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    My book, An Honest House, won a small literary award. The news delighted me. It was a very tough book to write, and the award was an endorsement that I didn’t think I needed, but greatly appreciated all the same. In terms of big literary prizes, I’ve been given many books that won prizes — I loved some, and gave up on others. But as authors we do our best, and after that, it comes down to marketing, and a matter of the reader’s personal taste.


    • Alexander M Zoltai September 7, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      I agree, Cynthia; and, thanks for your comment :-) Curious… Did you agree with what Amit Chaudhuri was saying?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cynthia Reyes September 7, 2017 at 8:13 pm

        I agree somewhat with point 1. Some of those big literary prizes are sponsored or otherwise supported by the traditional publishers, so it’s a case of one hand washing the other. The bigger literary prize system rewards writers already chosen by traditional publishers. Indie authors don’t stand a chance.
        I also agree with the first part of point 3 – partially: “The meaning of a writer’s work must be created, and argued for, by writers themselves, and not by some extraneous source of endorsement.” Because while supporting the first part of the above sentence, I do attest that receiving recognition of my hard work from “an extraneous source of endorsement” delighted me.


  4. Robert Kirkendall September 8, 2017 at 12:41 am

    I imagine the value of the award depends on which award it is. The Nobel Prize in Literature I assume has the most value, followed by the Pulitzer Prize, then I suppose the National Book Award is after that. Not sure if there are any others that are considered important.


  5. Matthew Wright September 8, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    I’ve jumped across from Chris’s blog! Good points about the direction literary prizes have taken – I think all of it has to reflect the way the general industry has gone. A couple of authors, here in NZ, have won the Man Booker prize. The first, a couple of decades ago, continued to languish in commercial obscurity. The second, just a couple of years back, hit the best seller lists – demonstrating your point. That said, there is still a degree of ‘snootiness’ about such things – certainly here in New Zealand, where the literary community is tightly closed, pretentiously snobbish, and uses review opportunities as a way of bullying others out of the field. Our last Man Booker prize winner used the fact of winning the prize (and thus becoming so high in status, by their terms, as to be immune to their abuse) to make the point. It may be different elsewhere. I hope it is.


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