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How Novels are Chosen for the Pulitzer Prize

Updated on August 10, 2012
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.


You hear about Pulitzer Prize winners. You bow down to their greatness. But, wait! Who decides that one book deserves the prize over all the others? What is the Pulitzer Prize? What does it mean for an author?

Most people have no idea how Pulitzer Prize winners are chosen. After quite a bit of research, here is what I found.

What is the Pulitzer Prize?

In 1904, Joseph Pulitzer passed away leaving money behind to set up a series of awards for excellence in writing for American works. The Pulitzer Prize is generally a monetary award and a certificate. Some prizes are in the form of medals. On top of that, there is the national acclaim of receiving the award.

Would you read a book simply because it won the Pulitzer Prize

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Submission of Novels

Do the best sellers list give us the Pulitzer Prize winner of fiction? No, it doesn't.

To have a book considered for a Pulitzer Prize, you have to fill out an application, pay an entry fee of around $50 and send four copies of the book to the committee overseeing the awards. The author can send it. The publisher can send it. A fan can send it. Anyone can nominate a book to be a winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

Oh, it has to be published in that calendar year. So, for the 2012 selection, only books published in 2012 are chosen and they have to be sent in around the middle of the year. That does seem a little unfair to those that are published after that period. For those, they can be sent in no later than October 1st and can be in galley form. So, no books published from October 1 to December 31 can be considered.

Choosing a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

All the submissions are given to a jury of three people who read them, review them, discuss them, and narrow them all down to three choices. These are the three the jury feels best meet the criteria to be called a Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction writing.

From there, the finalists are sent to the Pulitzer committee of over a dozen members to read and consider. They vote with the majority of votes deciding who the winner is.

That's all there is to it.

But who are these that decide? Most are academic and/or from the world of journalism.


No Winner!

A shocker occurred in 2012 when, for the first time in several decades, no award was given for the category of fiction writing. This announcement shocked the entire literary world. Why would they do that?

It seems that a majority vote could not be obtained. It was a draw for the three finalists. No one got the coveted award.

Shock is a mild description of the overall reaction to the announcement. Some people are glad for the results, while a vast majority are highly upset for a work not being chosen.

Years No Award Was Given

When has a Pulitzer Prize not been given? Here are the years since it first was created that no prize for fiction has been handed out.













A marker2950 Broadway New York, NY -
2950 Broadway, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA
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Columbia University - We invite entries in the Books, Drama and Music categories of The Pulitzer Prizes for 2013, spanning work in calendar 2012.


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    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Interesting. I never new what the process entailed.