A prized Nobel effect: an increase in book sales

French author Annie Ernaux was announced today as the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The award, which has been around since 1901, has the power to bring relatively obscure authors to regular bookstore shelves and boost sales of those who are already well known.

When Abdulrazak Gurnah won the Nobel Prize in Literature last year, his print book sales in the United States were virtually non-existent, according to NPD Book Scan.

“He was well known, but not very well known,” said RCW’s Peter Straus, his agent.

Since winning the Nobel Prize, Gurnah – who was born in Zanzibar and now lives in England – has sold more than 26,000 copies in the United States, according to NPD.

And Straus said his 10 different books have grown from being available in a few countries to more than 40.

“There was tremendous work, and it was great work, and publishers embraced it.”

The Nobel effect is also apparent for other authors, even if they do not gain in literature. Daniel Kahneman won the economics prize in 2002. Cambridge University Press had published several books by Kahneman before that.

Editor Stephen Acerra said sales immediately jumped in the first year and remained high.

“Although, at the same time, it wasn’t like it had risen to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. They are quite academic specialist books,” he said.

Acerra points out that the award also comes with other benefits, such as increased awareness of the field of work.

There’s a lot going on in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is there for you.

You rely on Marketplace to break down world events and tell you how it affects you in a factual and accessible way. We count on your financial support to continue to make this possible.

Your donation today fuels the independent journalism you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help maintain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.