In my on-going series that looks into the numbers of the book market, here are some sales numbers on Pulitzer Prize winning books from Mal Warwick:
- “The 2014 general nonfiction winner, Tom’s River by Dan Fagin, went from 10 copies [before the prize announcement] to 162 copies sold (6,266 copies sold to date) on BookScan [which measures a significant proportion of industry sales].
- “History winner The Internal Enemy by Alan Taylor went from 27 copies to 433 copies (3,375 copies sold to date).
- “3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri, the 2014 poetry winner, went from 11 copies to 81 copies (353 copies sold to date).
- “Megan Marshall’s Margaret Fuller, the biography winner, out in paperback, went from 62 copies to 387 copies (5,038 copies sold to date).”
Warwick notes that fiction tends to do much better than non-fiction:
Was Donna Tartt the sole financial beneficiary of a Pulitzer for fiction? No. The Goldfinch’s sales are less impressive than those of the 2009 Pulitzer fiction winner, Olive Kitteridge. “That book has sold over 994,000 copies to date. 2010’s winner, Tinkers by Paul Harding, has sold 413,000 copies to date; 2011’s winner, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, has sold 408,000 copies; [the 2013 winner,] The Orphan Master’s Son, has sold 180,000 copies.
I wouldn't claim that popularity is an accurate metric of quality, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that sometimes award-winning books don't sell well. But I'm not sure that quality and popularity are necessarily opposed either.