Negative Positivity: Book Prize Success, Audience Response and Literary Value

Abstract

Literary prizes purport to honour ‘superior’ authors and their works, judging which books are the best in a given year and announcing it for the world to react to. Whilst it is widely assumed that monetarily winning a prize is a good thing, previous studies have noted what appears to be a negative correlation between prize success and audience reactions. Building on findings in Kovács and Sharkey’s quantitative study of three prestigious literary awards (2014), this article reports on a comparative, mixed methods study of a wider range of book prizes, including more commercial and genre-specific awards. It explores the impact of changing reading habits and new ways of sharing responses to reading on the oxymoronic phenomenon of negative positivity. The research comprises quantitiative analysis of the effects of different book prizes on book sales and on star ratings on Goodreads, and qualitative analysis of popular reviews of prize-winning novels. The article aims to illuminate the effects of different prizes on audience response and to consider how both may contribute to literary value.

Keywords

Literary Value, Goodreads, Awards, Booker, Literary Prizes

How to Cite

Shanahan, K., (2021) “Negative Positivity: Book Prize Success, Audience Response and Literary Value”, Interscript 4(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.14324/111.444.2398-4732.1178

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Authors

Katie Shanahan (UCL)

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

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This article has been peer reviewed.

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