I speculated recently on the effect on book sales of winning a prize, warning that one should be wary of overestimating the effect since most books sell only modestly. We are rarely given real numbers because publishers prefer not to get too specific on sales quantities, since of course in a royalty-based-world such information tends to connect directly to author income. Modest if dramatic is the recent boost in sales of Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other consequent upon her jointly winning the Booker Prize with Margaret Atwood.

According to The Guardian, “New sales figures from Nielsen BookScan show that, in the five days following its win last Monday, Girl, Woman, Other sold 5,980 copies, a stratospheric 1,340% boost in sales week on week. In its previous five months on sale, the polyphonic novel, mostly narrated by black women, had sold 4,391 copies. Waterstones fiction buyer is quoted as saying “We have also enjoyed an uplift for some of Evaristo’s backlist, and look forward to building on this further”. The book’s UK publisher, Hamish Hamilton, ordered a rush reprint of 90,000 copies. (The article doesn’t disclose any sales bump which may have been enjoyed by Ms Atwood’s book. It was no doubt doing fine as it would have done had no prize been at issue. At higher sales volumes the effect of any particular news event or award is difficult to distinguish as we tend to look at these things in percentage terms.)

Facts like these are hard to come by, so cherish this little lot. (Link via Book Business Insight.)

LATER: In its issue of April 24th, 2021, in an article about the declining popularity of the Oscars, The Economist writes: “The 13 novels longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2019 sold an average of 160 copies in Britain in the week before the list was announced, and 470 the week after, according the Nielsen. The winner gets an average bump of about 10,000 sales in the week after the ceremony in the autumn says Philip Stone of Nielsen, with a tail that lasts until Christmas (and a valuable boost overseas). Making it into one of the “book clubs” run by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey means a still-bigger bonanza.”