There’s a new kid on the block in award shows. Another red carpet, spotlight swirling, dressed to the nines event. Sounds just like the rest doesn’t it? Ah, its what’s being honoured that makes this show different.
The Quill Awards are for books. Yes, that’s right, dusty, sitting on library shelves, books. The Quill Literary Foundation has created the first literary awards whose results will be decided by the book buying public. Readers will get to choose from five pre selected titles in nineteen categories, ranging from Romance to History.
How was the list of ninety-five finalists set, and how are they judged? Well according to the Quill Foundation web site the initial qualification and selection was done in two stages.
The first requirement was that the book was published in North America and marketed in the United States between Aug. 1, 2004 and July 31, 2005. Secondly, it had to meet one of the following criteria:
1.) Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly
2.) Barnes and Noble Discover Great NewWriters Program
3.) BookSense Picks
4.) Borders© Original Voices
5.) Bestseller lists from Publishers Weekly, Book Sense,
Barnes & Noble, and Borders
Once they had this list together, the Quill Nominating Board, a group of 6,000 librarians and booksellers, established, somehow or other, the short list of five books for each category. The last stage begins on Aug. 15th, 2005 when voting is opened up to the public. You’ll be able to walk into your local Barnes and Nobel and Borders book stores to cast a ballot, or on line at the Quills’ web site.
Once voting wraps up on September 15th, 2005 it will be another month until the award ceremony. On October the 22nd N.B.C. television will broadcast an hour long special with highlights from the award show announcing the winners.
As they are trying to recreate the glitz and excitement of a Hollywood style event, I’m sure there will lots of red carpet and fancy gowns. The problems that I can see already are authors are nowhere near as photogenic as movie stars and two, horror of horrors, have been known to shun overt publicity. I’m sure the organizers considered these factors while making their plans.
Just who is behind all of this anyway? In response to an email query concerning this, Gerry Byrne, Chairman of the Quills Literary Foundation replied:
I was asked by Reed Business Information (I was publisher of Variety for a dozen years) to look at the opportunity to create an awards program. Appreciating there are many in the space, I looked at creating a pre-qualified “Reader’s Choice” awards that would have nominations coming from within the industry (booksellers & librarians) on a national basis… I walked around the idea to the community, created an Executive Council of folks I have a relationship with, took the idea to NBC and thus was born the Quill Awards. Process took nearly two years. Reed has generously put up the financing to get it going and has helped create The Quills Literacy Foundation which will support literacy programs as well as develop many of its own.”
According to their web site Reed Business Information is a subsidiary of Reed Eslevier Group PLS the world leading publisher and information provider. Reed Business Information publishes business-to-business communication and information channels: magazines, web sites, directories, online services, and marketing services, across five continents.
The executive council that Mr. Byrne has created reads like a who’s who of industry heavyweights in the American publishing, film and television production, and advertising worlds. Rounding it out are one writer, a couple of lawyers, some Internet media types, and the current publisher of Variety, Peter Bart.
Aside from producing the awards show, the foundation will also be responsible for selecting an annual Distinguished Service Award for the person or group they feel have made a significant contribution to the advancement of American publishing.
With NBC signed on as their media sponsor and broadcast partner they seem all set to deliver an awards program that will bring sparkle and glitz to the previously staid world of publishing. With the integration of popular opinion into the process, they hope to generate renewed enthusiasm for the written word.
While it cannot be denied that there is the appearance of self-serving behind these awards, to be fair there are very few awards which are not industry generated. Why shouldn’t the book industry celebrate itself in the same manner as other mainstays of entertainment?
While some may decry this as simply a popularity contest without any basis on literary merit that argument weakens in the face of the selection process before voting begins. Besides, what’s wrong with having an award for books based on popular opinion? There are sufficient book awards already that are supposedly based on merit, for those authors whose work is gifted but not bestseller material, to be appreciated.
The concept of having separate awards for distinct genres of writing also eliminates concerns that a more popular style of writing will overshadow offerings from writers in fields less well known. To me, the Quills seem to offer a more egalitarian approach to author recognition than say the Booker Awards, or other major “literary” prizes. Unlike its older relatives, it will also generate increased awareness of the variety of work available.
The Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) ran a similar contest called “Canada Reads” where they had individual authors promote their favourite books by reading excerpts. The radio audience than voted for a weekly winner, and the weekly winners were entered into a final “read off” to select the book most Canadians would like to read.
Aside from being able to vote for books within individual categories, readers will also be able to choose one book from the nominees as an overall best book of the year. Just like the Oscars, the winners will be receiving a physical rather than a monetary award. Each category winner will receive an award specially designed by Nick Fasciano.
Contests and award show like this are beneficial in creating interest and excitement in reading. No matter what reservations that anybody may have about the Quills, they seem to be doing their best to achieve that goal. All you need do to participate is vote.
To see the titles of the selected books in each category go here. As of August 15, 2005 if you want to vote you can go here or here to find the address of a Borders store to vote in. Ballots should also be available in all book and music stores across the United States (Voting is limited to those residing in the United States).