Does Winning a Pulitzer Prize Actually Matter?

The answer might surprise you.

Aaron Schnoor
3 min readMay 31, 2024
Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Do you ever dream of winning the Pulitzer Prize and striking it rich as a writer?

I hate to break the news to you, but here’s a harsh dose of reality: it turns out that winning the Pulitzer Prize hardly boosts book sales at all.

Now, let me be clear. I would love to win the Pulitzer Prize. What aspiring writer hasn’t allowed themselves to dwell on the possibility of winning the grandest prize in all of literature?

So, if anyone from the Pulitzer Prize Selection Committee is reading this, please don’t think that I’m turning down any nomination to receive the award. I’m not.

But if you think that you can write a book, win the Pulitzer Prize, and then sell millions upon millions of copies, you’d be wrong. It just doesn’t seem to work that way.

Here’s some data from Mal Warwick on Books:

“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).