Have you ever wondered what writers actually win when they receive literary awards (apart from the fame associated with the prize)? Keep on reading to find out about six famous literary awards and their prizes.

First I present an overview of the literary awards and their prizes, and then I briefly talk about each of them.

Without further ado, here is the comparison of the prizes offered for six of the most famous literary awards:

readers high tea prizes 2
Six famous literary awards and their prizes for the big winners

§ The Nobel Prize in Literature

Let’s start with the most famous award of all. The Nobel prize was founded by Alfred Nobel, who left the majority of his wealth to be “distributed annually in the form of prizes to those who during the preceding year have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind“.

Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in literature has been awarded to 113 Nobel Laureates, selected by the 18 members of the Swedish Academy. The Nobel Prize is awarded for the life’s work of an author, not for an individual book. For example, John Steinbeck was awarded the prize in 1962 “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception”.

In 2016, each Nobel Prize winner received 8.0 million Swedish kronor (around €820.000) and the Nobel Prize Medal in Literature.

Readers High Tea nobel-prize-literature-award

§ The Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prize was established in 1917 as indicated in the will of Joseph Pulitzer (a well-known newspaper publisher) and it is currently administered by Colombia University in New York under the motto “Honoring excellence in journalism and the arts since 1917”.

There are two main clusters of prizes: (1) Journalism and (2) Letters, Drama and Music. The prizes are awarded to American writers whose pieces of work preferably deal with American life. For example, the 2015 winner was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, described as “an imaginative and intricate novel inspired by the horrors of World War II and written in short, elegant chapters that explore human nature and the contradictory power of technology”. 

The winners of the Pulitzer Prizes receive a $15.000 cash award and a certificate.

Readers High Tea pulitzer_front_logo

§ The Man Booker Prize

This prize was launched in 1969 and it aims to “promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written in English and published in the United Kingdom”. The jury is diverse, composed of people from a wide range of disciplines – critics, writers, poets, and actors.

The winner of the Man Booker Prize receives £50.000 and all the shortlisted authors receive a cheque for £2.500 and a designer bound copy of their book. You can see the previous winners and short-listed writers here.

Starting with 2016, there is also an annual award for books translated into English and published in the UK – the Man Booker International Prize.

Readers High Tea Man-booker-prize

§ Neustadt International Prize for Literature

Often called the “American Nobel”, the Neustadt International Prize was established in 1969 as Books Abroad International Prize for Literature, and later changed its name to the current one. They state that it is the only international literary award originating from the United States for which poets, playwrights, and novelists are given equal consideration. A list of past laureates can be consulted here.

The Neustadt International Prize for Literature is awarded every two years and it is managed by the University of Oklahoma and World Literature Today.

Winners receive $50.000, a replica of an eagle feather cast in silver, and a certificate.

Readers High Tea feather-box-1

§ Costa Book Awards

The Costa Book Awards were first launched in 1971 as the Whitbread Literary Awards, and later on (in 1985) the name changed into Whitbread Book Awards. The coffee company Costa took over the prize in 2006.

The award’s jury offers the prize to “some of the most outstanding books of the year written by authors based in the UK and Ireland“. There are five categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book, and one of the five winners is chosen as Book of the Year, announced at an awards ceremony in London every January. If you’re interested in checking out the previous winners, try here.

The winners per category receive £5,000 each and the Book of the Year winner receives a further amount of £30,000.

Readers High Tea costa-book-awards

§ Baileys’ Women Prize for Fiction

After a prize sponsored by a coffee company, now we talk about one sponsored by a liquor company. The Baileys’ Women Prize for Fiction, previously known as the Orange Prize for Fiction, “celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world“. A list of previous winners can be accessed here.

The prize was established in 1992, when a group of journalists, reviewers, and booksellers observed that the Booker Prize shortlist of 1991 had included no women at all, despite the ratio of books by men to books by women being 40/60 in women’s favour. The prize does not only offer the annual award, as the organization also leads educational, literacy and research initiatives.

The winner receives a cheque for £30,000 and a limited edition bronze known as a ‘Bessie’, created and donated by the artist Grizel Niven.

Readers High Tea fiction

I also want to mention two personal observations. The first one is related to the financial earnings of the awarded writers. Apart from the award itself, I personally think that the popularity that comes with a specific award increases the book sales quite a lot. Thus the overall financial earnings might actually be higher than the award itself.

The second observation is related to the last two prizes, sponsored by Costa and Baileys’. I was glad to find out that not only academic institutions offer literary prizes, but also companies get involved in this field and support exceptional authors.

Till’ next time … happy reading!


Information sources:  Nobel Prize | Pulitzer Prize |Man Booker Prize | Neustadt Prize | Costa Book Awards | Baileys’ Women’s Prize for Fiction

Images: goodereader.com | thebookpeople.co.uk | journalism.uoregon.edu | neustadtprize.org | costa.co.uk  | womensprizeforfiction.co.uk |cawleys.co.uk

3 thoughts on “Six of the most famous literary awards

  1. There’s the Stella Prize in Australia for best fiction of non fiction by a woman, and also the Miles Franklin award, which is guess is the equivalent of our Pulitzer. You could do an interesting exercise and collate all the country’s book prizes. It’d be laborious but interesting!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s