What is the impact of winning the Man Asia Literary Prize? The Shin Kyung-sook experience.

KTLIT LogoUPDATED: I’ve been tracking these numbers over the weekend and the new numbers are added in below. Additions are italicized.

As part of my TBS eFM appearances on 1013 Mainstreet, next week I’m going to talk about Social Media and how they can be useful popularizing Korean literature, but I think I’ve already seen on effect – that is that twitter and facebook (and I’m sure other media) get the news about awards out so fast that the effect is immediate.

I knew the Man Asia Literary Prize was being given at 9 last night (our time) but managed to forget it by the time it came around. Fortunately, the dreaded ‘reverse-insomnia’ woke me up at 4 and I checked it out. Shin Kyung-sook had won.

I immediately clicked over to Amazon to see where her book was ranked (the ranking is not a precise measurement of sales, but it does attempt to quantify how popular a book is). Then, as the day passed, I followed the numbers for the upcoming softcover publication. The impact was obvious:

  • 19,700 at 5 am
  • 9,085 at 8 am
  • 7,047 at 10:30 am
  • 6,590 at 12 noon
  • 8,151 11 pm same day
  • 8,485  Saturday at 11:30
  • 5,938 1:30 Sunday
  • 16,009 Monday about noon

The real impact is likely greater, since by the time I checked on the numbers, the news of the award had been circulating the globe for nearly 8 hours and it seems quite likely that Mother’s numbers had been trending upward for that entire period. Still, it’s a massive leap.

Also, coverage of Shin and Korean literature increased. Google reports that in comparable three-day periods (Friday to Monday the week before the award, and Friday to Monday just after the award), internet mentions of Korean Literature increased 17% and mentions of Shin skyrocketed 450%.

Also, although I shudder to say it aloud, any Korean literature getting this kind of award recognition is likely also a small step towards Korean literature in general being considered estimable enough for Nobel Prize consideration.