So, earlier this year, the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction failed to be awarded. There was a lot of handwringing and shock about it in publishing/literary circles, and a lot of opinion giving, because writers do love to give opinions.
The news story says that the judges could not give any single book a majority, and so the prize wasn’t awarded. This isn’t exactly common, though it’s not unprecedented — apparently it was a crap year in 1976 too, since no award was given in 1977.
The books that are submitted for the Prize go through a screening process first, with a three-person jury, and the three finalists are then submitted to the board for consideration. If the board doesn’t like any of them, it can go back to the jury and request a fourth book be submitted, but apparently they didn’t even bother.
It is a bit baffling; the board won’t discuss how selection works or why the decision was made, though I’ve spent long enough studying PR and con men to suspect it was done to generate buzz about the Pulitzers. Because unless you are a journalist or writer, and even then really only among journalists and writers, who gives a damn anymore? Any book shortlisted for the prize is already well-known to the public, and it’s not like I or anyone I know outside of publishing was scanning the papers on April 16th, waiting to see who won. But if the prize doesn’t even get awarded, people are going to (however briefly) take note.
The other option is that they wanted to be assholes and tell the literary world it wasn’t good enough, but I will kindly give them the benefit of the doubt and assume their ulterior motives were merely mercenary, not cruel.
It does kind of make me want to submit The Dead Isle, though. Did you know your book doesn’t have to be published by one of the big six to be considered? I checked the bylaws, and there’s nothing anywhere against submitting a self-published book. Anyone can submit a book, as long as they fill out the entry form, pay the entry fee, and send four copies to the Pulitzer offices for jury reading. Mind you, that $100+ price tag is a bit steep for me, but it’d be pretty funny.
After all, if nobody won last year, I figure I’ve got as fair a shot as anyone.