Winning the Booker Prize should mean a lot more for Paul Lynch, the author of Prophet Song, than the £50,000 (€57,935) prize and a handsome trophy for the mantelpiece. International recognition and a dramatic increase in global book sales are almost guaranteed.
Fellow Irish author Anna Burns’ Milkman sales saw a week-on-week increase of 880 per cent in Britain (from 963 to 9,446 copies) after it won the 2018 Man Booker Prize, then almost doubled again (from 9,446 to 18,786 copies) the following week.
For Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo, in the week after their joint win in 2019, sales of The Testaments rose from 11,955 (already high as it had just been published) to 13,400 copies, while Girl, Woman, Other sold 5,980 copies, more than double its lifetime sales up to that point and a 1,340 per cent increase week-on-week.
In the first full week after the 2020 announcement, winner Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart sold more than 25,000 copies in the UK, a 1,900 per cent increase on the week preceding the announcement. It is now published (or forthcoming) in 40 territories and has already sold more than 750,000 copies in its Picador editions. TV and film rights have also been sold.
Two weeks after Damon Galgut’s The Promise won the 2021 Booker Prize, Chatto & Windus announced that it had reprinted 153,000 copies, having sold 23,878 copies in hardback, 14,622 of which sold in the two weeks following the news – a 1,925 per cent jump in volume compared with the previous two weeks. According to the Bookseller, in the 12 weeks after his win, Galgut sold more copies of his books than he did in the previous 17 years since first being published in the UK. Rights to The Promise have been sold in 35 territories and it has been a best-seller in Germany and Greece.
After winning the Booker Prize in 2022, sales of Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida soared to more than 100,000 across all formats. It has now been translated into 19 languages with another 10 in process. The book has massively outsold – by 2,000 per cent – Karunatilaka’s previously acclaimed and prize-winning novel, Chinaman (Jonathan Cape, 2012).
The Bee Sting by Paul Murray, the other Irish title on this year’s Booker shortlist, sold 10,004 copies in Ireland before being shortlisted, in contrast to Prophet Song, which sold 2,643 copies. By last weekend, The Bee Sting had sold 18,526 copies, and Prophet Song 8,095. That gap is now likely to narrow between now and Christmas as the Booker bounce takes effect.
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