Yes, Virginia: Winning the Nobel Prize DOES Sell Books

In News by Dennis Abrams

Alice Munroe Titles Sold

Volume of Alice Munro titles sold before and after winning the Nobel Prize.

By Dennis Abrams

A report from BookNet Canada, done in conjunction with Nielsen Book shows that when Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature, sales of her books skyrocketed, not just in her native Canada, but internationally.

The report, “Alice Munro at Home and Abroad: How the Nobel Prize in Literature Affects Book Sales,” (PDF) compares sales data for her titles in ten countries, both before and after the announcement of her Nobel win. Canadian sales were provided by BookNet Canada; Nielsen Book provided figures for Australia, India, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Alice Munroe

Alice Munro: a most deserving winner of the Nobel Prize for literature.

It is probably not surprising that the increase in sales was most pronounced in Canada: when comparing sales in the week ending September 21, 2013, to the week ending October 19 (the week after her win was announced on October 10), her sales increased by a most impressive 4,424%. This increase was, no doubt, helped by availability: the paperback of her latest collection, Dear Life, was published in North America just two days prior to the Nobel announcement. “Since Dear Life was coming out that week, bookstores in Canada had ample stock on hand,” said Pamela Millar, BookNet’s Director of Customer Relations. “Therefore, they were better positioned to meet the increased demand for Munro titles when her Nobel Prize win was announced.”

But even translations of Munro’s titles sold well. In Italy, for example, sales of translated titles increased by 4213%, and in Spain, they increased by 1890% (comparing the week ending September 21, 2013 to the week ending October 19). In that same period, sale of English language Munro titles (outside of Canada) increased by anywhere from 369% (in Australia) to 2,625% (in Ireland). In several cases, sales increased even more significantly by the end of the week ending October 26, a lag in sales that might be explained by readers rushing to increase their stock to meet demand.

Of course, percentages can be misleading. In Canada during the week of Munro’s win, sales increased by 6,650%, which meant sales went from 94 units to 6,345 units. In the U.S., sales rose from just under 3,000 units to over 32,600 units the week of November 2.

And since Alice Munro was unable to attend the prize ceremony in person, she sent in a videotaped interview. Watch it here.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.