Why Literary Awards Matter

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Photo Credit: Ben Stansall/Getty Images

From 2014 onward, the Man Booker Prize will be awarded to any book written in English. This year was the first in which authors from the United States were included. The prize is one of the most prestigious in the world.

This year’s prize was awarded to Richard Flanagan for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never read anything he’s ever written. I haven’t. This post is about something else. It’s about literary awards.

Flanagan’s book was one of those well-received works that struggled to find an audience. In fact, his previous books have also struggled to gain traction in the ultra competitive publishing industry here in the US. It was because of the poor sales of his titles that he was considering going to work in the Australian mines. Yes. An author who I can’t seem to find a bad word about online was going to work in mines because he was broke. He wasn’t a middle of the pack author with decent sales, he was broke. Until October 14.

October 14 was the day he won one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world. The cash prize is about $80,000, which isn’t bad in itself, but there was more on the way. Last week, Flanagan earned about $220, 000. That total is more than his previous ten years of BookScan sales. You’re talking about $300,000 to a man who had next to nothing.

I know plenty of you are thinking that writing isn’t all about making money. Okay. You probably say that as you have your “real” job that pays all your bills. Writing is a hobby to you. No matter what you say, but it isn’t for Flanagan. This is his job. His career. So don’t sit there and say literary awards don’t matter, because they do. Because there’s one writer out there who almost had to give up on writing because he was no longer able to support himself. He’s no longer facing that decision.

“In essence, this means I can continue to write.” -Richard Flanagan at the awards ceremony.

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3 thoughts on “Why Literary Awards Matter

  1. Reblogged this on Cogpunk Steamscribe and commented:
    I’m still not bitter about the Premier dropping the Literary Awards for Queensland, oh no, no, no…

    Like

  2. I agree with you, literary awards are very important – it can turn an obscure writer into an “overnight success”. The only problem I have with these awards is that there seems to be a certain lack of diversity in the winners. Is it because of the type of judges who judge these competitions (very similar backgrounds, gender, ethnicity, etc.), is it because not many writers from varying backgrounds actually apply to these competitions? Literature is not mathematics – there is a high degree of subjectivity in deciding what is “the best”. I don’t know, because I haven’t carried out a scientific analysis, but many winners of major international awards seem strikingly alike, in terms of gender, cultural background, etc.

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