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How to Make a Buck Writing Novels (Tip: Use Spanish)

Writing novels is generally not a very good way to make money, but publishing one that wins a top literary prizes can give your bank account a real boost. That is, if you don’t write in English.

With the announcement of the Man Booker Prize due on Tuesday, Bloomberg reviewed the value of some of the most prestigious awards across the world. The upshot: Spanish and Arabic writers with a gifted pen have access to much larger fortunes.

Topping the list by a wide margin is the 601,000 euro ($710,380) Premio Planeta de Novela. Even the runner-up gets a whopping 150,250 euros. And if that doesn’t work, Spanish writers can turn to the Alfaguara prize (148,000 euros) or the Romulo Gallegos prize (125,000 euros), to mention just two.

Compared to this, the Man Booker’s 50,000 pounds ($66,400) and the Pulitzer’s $15,000 are puny. The French, as usual, are in a league of their own: the famed Goncourt prize pays just 10 euros.

Yet, these prizes have something to offer that is worth more than money: widespread recognition – and the sales that come with it.

“Many presumably like the idea of something like literature not being ‘sullied’ by crass cash awards – the honor is enough,” said Michael Orthofer, who runs the international literature website Complete Review. “Thankfully, in these cases, the reputation of the prizes is often enough to assure a big enough bump in sales to properly reward the winning author.”

By the way, there’s an even better way to make big bucks with writing: Abu Dhabi’s Million’s Poet TV talent shows gives as much as 5 million dirhams ($1.36 million) to the winning poet and performer. But again, being an English speaker won’t help you.

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