Literary Awards: RBC Taylor Prize

We hope you haven't put away the New Year's confetti yet; today marks the release of the RBC Taylor Prize 2018 shortlist! A big congratulations to all the authors and publishers who made the cut this year.

Island of the Blue Foxes
Stephen R. Bown
Douglas & McIntyre
Daniel Coleman
Wolsak and Wynn
Life on the Ground Floor
Dr. James Maskalyk
Doubleday Canada
Seven Fallen Feathers
Tanya Talaga
House of Anansi Press
In the Name of Humanity
Max Wallace
Allen Lane

You can see all the books in this BNC CataList catalogue.

Created in 2000 to commemorate Canadian historian Charles Taylor, the RBC Taylor Prize is awarded to the best Canadian Non-Fiction book published each year. The winning author is chosen by a three-person jury, which in the past has consisted of members of the academic, publishing, and political worlds. This year's jury — Christine Elliott, Anne Giardini, and James Polk, all prominent figures in the Canadian literary and political spheres — is no different. With such formidable vetting from esteemed members of the Canadian public, the winner of the RBC Taylor Prize is given immediate prestige on a national level. With that said, what can the prize-winning title expect sales-wise in the weeks following the shortlist announcement?

It can often be hard to determine the direct impact of a single literary award with many nominated titles appearing on multiple award shortlists, both national and regional. In the case of the RBC Taylor Prize, the 2017 winner, Mad Enchantment, was also shortlisted for the 2016 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, and would go on to be longlisted for the 2017 British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

The dotted line in the graph above represents the Non-Fiction market as a whole and is included on a different axis to illustrate general fluctuations in the market. There is a downward trend in the overall Non-Fiction market after the holidays and it remains flat for the rest of the 18-week period. Meanwhile, we see sales increases for the individual titles shortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize and we see definite sales spikes for the winning titles in the week the prize is announced. 

Sales trends in Non-Fiction often differ from Fiction, i.e., there's usually a more gradual uptick in sales. That, in addition to the fact that the shortlist is announced after the holiday season, when overall consumer behaviour is on the decline, can contribute to fewer sales. That being said, overall, sales for the winning titles from 2012-2017 were positively affected by the award. Last year’s winner, Mad Enchantment, sold the most units of the five nominated titles in 2017 during the 18-week period observed.

The RBC Taylor Prize clearly has a positive sales effect on winning titles; all of the winning titles in the past six years experienced a sales bump after the winner announcement. The 2017 winner, The Inconvenient Indian, experienced the highest sales numbers during this 18-week period when compared to the other winners — more than double the units sold of the title with the second-highest number of sales.