Nobel win may boost Alice Munro book sales
Michelle McQuigge , The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, October 10, 2013 10:05PM EDT
TORONTO -- Alice Munro has long been considered among the elite of Canadian writers, but her elevation to the global list of Nobel laureates and the subsequent debut of two of her books on Amazon's bestseller list suggests her celebrated career is about to enter a new phase.
Experts suggested Thursday that her Nobel Prize for literature may boost her own sales figures while simultaneously bolstering her home country's reputation for literary excellence.
Retailers are stocking up on copies of Munro's famed short story collections in anticipation of a spike in demand for her work.
Those collections earned the 82-year-old Ontario-born author the 110th Nobel Prize for literature on Thursday, making her the first Canadian-based author and the 13th woman to secure the honour.
The impact on Munro's sales figures was immediate. Two of her titles, her latest collection entitled "Dear Life" and a compilation called "My Best Stories," vaulted into Amazon.ca's top 20 sales list mere hours after news of the Nobel award was announced.
Neither title had ever appeared among the retailer's top-selling titles in the past, a fact experts said is not surprising for an author who has garnered more critical than popular acclaim.
Other retailers, however, said they plan to use her Nobel victory to try to bring her work to new audiences.
Bahram Olfati, senior vice-president of print and e-reading with Indigo Books and Music, said Munro's work will be the subject of a promotional campaign.
Chapters and Indigo stores will prominently feature a Munro section in coming weeks, while the author's catalogue will be promoted on the company website. An email congratulating Munro on her accomplishment and featuring her titles will be sent to the entire online customer base, he added.
Olfati said Nobel Prize wins are no guarantee of sales success, saying past winners have languished in obscurity due to lack of name recognition among casual readers.
BookNet Canada, a publishing industry group that tracks sales and inventory across the country, said most authors receive a moderate sales boost after a major award.
BookNet spokeswoman Pamela Millar said Scotiabank Giller Prize winners -- including Munro herself -- average a 543 per cent spike in sales after victory, the largest of all award impacts the group has tracked.
Millar said the impact of Munro's latest major award will be closely monitored in the coming months, but declined to speculate on early effects.
Olfati, on the other hand, predicted Munro's Canadian roots and deeply personal tales of small-town life have positioned her for a popular revival.
That renewed interest may be centred among young readers who are proud of their heritage, Olfati said, adding Indigo's own promotional efforts are driven in part by patriotism.
"There's probably a lot of pride and a little bit of prejudice as to why we want to push Ms. Munro so far," Olfati said. "We're just proud that she's an international figure, and we just want to go out there and push awareness of her work."
That new international stature may extend beyond Munro to encompass her home country, said University of Toronto English professor Nick Mount.
Canada's rich tradition of stellar fiction writers has largely gone unsung in the international literary community, he said.
Munro's win has taken her acclaim to the next level, allowing her to join the ranks of such literary titans as George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, Hermann Hesse and Toni Morrison.
Mount said her elevation into this elite company sends a signal to the rest of the world about what Canada has to offer.
"It's sort of a hangover from colonial days -- we're not any good until anybody else notices us," Mount said. "For one of our writers to win the Nobel Prize, it sort of puts everything to rest. Now we know. We do have a writer that the world considers world class."
Munro's victory virtually ensures her fiction will be taught in English-speaking university lecture halls throughout North America and Europe, he said, but added her prose may not find as much favour outside of the world's ivory towers.
Her higher profile, however, may also bring her short stories to the attention of screenwriters and others in a position to adapt her work for other forms of media.
Some filmmakers have already found Munro's work to be rich fodder for their creativity. Canadian actress Sarah Polley made her directorial debut in 2006 by releasing the film "Away from Her," a work based on Munro's 2001 short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain."
But for Munro's existing fans, the Nobel Prize is primarily an affirmation of talents that were already well-known but deserved to be honoured again, Mount said.
"Among those who care about these things, Alice Munro's reputation was already established. The Nobel was just icing on the cake."