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Steve Lehto Headshot

The Pulitzer Scam

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I hate to narc out fellow writers but this morning I ran across another writer claiming to have been "Pulitzer nominated" on a website to promote a book. The truth of that statement is not what most people think it is -- and it is deceptive.

The Pulitzer Prize is, of course, one of the best known awards in our society. Presumably, it would be a good thing if you won a Pulitzer. Notice that the writer above did not claim to have "won" a Pulitzer; they claimed to have been "nominated" for it. Even so, that has a nice ring to it: "I've been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize." A few years back when I first wondered about this, it was on the cover of a horribly written, self-published book in bold letters: "PULITZER NOMINATED." I looked at the book in wonderment. How could that be? The book had typos on the cover! I did some research.

The Pulitzer Prize competition is open to anyone who wants to enter. Anyone can submit a few copies of their work -- there are categories for books as well as for journalism -- and pay $50 and BAM! The book is now entered in the Pulitzer Prize process. Here is where it gets tricky. Notice that I did not say the book has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It may have been submitted for consideration by the author, but the Pulitzer Prize has a process for nomination. Many writers ignore this part. The Pulitzer Prize organization has juries which select finalists in various categories and then the Pulitzer Prize Board picks the winners from those finalists. According to their own website, the only people who should say they are "nominated" for a Pulitzer Prize are the finalists who have been selected by the juries for consideration by the Pulitzer Prize Board.

So how does one ferret out the true nominees from those who have simply paid the $50 themselves so they could claim to have been nominated (albeit not truly nominated)? The site has a search function which allows you to search the winners and finalists - the true nominees according to the Pulitzer Prize organization - going back quite a few years. Next time you see a questionable book touted as Pulitzer Prize "nominated," go here and do a quick search. Don't be surprised to find that the book was not a finalist and is not listed anywhere on the site. The award has not been given out willy-nilly to writers of self-published books you've never heard of. Some years, there have been categories that don't even have winners.

I suspect that many writers will continue with this little misdirection; pay the $50 and submit a book so it can be touted as somehow related to the Pulitzer Prize. Suggesting it has been "nominated" for a Pulitzer Prize is wrong, however, unless it has been nominated by a Pulitzer jury. I would think that the Pulitzer organization should do something about this. It tarnishes their image, especially when you see some of the things which are claimed to be nominated. Then again, maybe they don't want to lose all of those $50 entry fees.