Saturday, April 02, 2005

Have you heard about The Quill Awards?

From the April 4th edition of Publishers Weekly comes news of a brand-new awards ceremony in the style of the People's Choice Awards. The Quills, sponsored by PW's parent company, is "designed to be an industry-qualified "consumers choice" awards program for books, honoring the current titles readers deem most entertaining and enlightening." In a bid to become the Oscars of the literary world, The Quills "[w]inners will be revealed during an awards ceremony similar to that of the Golden Globes—including a ritzy dinner party and celebrity presenters. The NBC Universal stations will broadcast the event in major markets on the evening of October 22."

Now, I enjoy a good awards ceremony as much as the next gal, but somehow I don't think this will be a ratings bonanza for NBC...

But lest we think that The Quills are designed to honor "quality" or even "entertaining" literature, the PW article reveals the method behind the madness (yes, rereading Hamlet is indeed paying off!): "What will the publishing industry gain from yet another literary prize? In a word, sales. That's the goal, anyway." (I'm feeling the confidence there...)

And to reach that goal? Well, PW suggests publishers push their titles aggressively (think of the ubiquitous film ads in the trade publications leading up to the Oscar votes...): "Instead of passively waiting to get the nod —and then hoping someone will notice and care about the award— publishers can lobby voters on behalf of their books during the competition, then capitalize on the honor afterward." Rather baldly put...

Just in case you didn't get it, the PW article (press release?) continues with a pithy example: "Think of how television uses the Emmys and movies use the Oscars—to build buzz and demonstrate quality. Think of how that could translate to books with The Quills." Thinking... thinking... head exploding...

The explanation of the rules is also quite interesting -- note the sources from which the books are to be culled:

Competition in the book genre categories will begin with a slate of about 1,800 eligible titles. To make the long list of nominees, a book must have been published in its original format in North America between August 1, 2004, and July 31, 2005, and marketed in the United States. It must also meet one of the following criteria: a starred review in Publishers Weekly, Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers selection, one of the ABA's Book Sense Picks, a Borders Books & Music Original Voices title or has made it onto the bestsellers list of Publishers Weekly, Book Sense, Barnes & Noble or Borders.
That's just the first step. Then it's time for a select 6,000 to create shortlists for each category:

A nominating board of about 6,000 members, invited from the subscriber base of PW, mostly booksellers and librarians, will narrow the list to five contenders for each category, beginning in May. Each month, the board will create a shortlist for five or six categories. In August, the voting will open up to members of the public, who can cast ballots online for their favorites among the shortlist for each category. Consumers will also vote on a "Book of the Year," choosing from the finalists in all the genres.
But Borders, B&N, and co. will not determine the candidate pool for best novice author: "For the "Rookie of the Year**" award, each publishing division [does that mean each imprint?] is invited to nominate two debut authors."

But people, don't get too excited if you like film adaptations or book design; it seems consumers are not qualified for THAT part of the judging, since "[f]inalists for the "Book to Film" and "Design" awards will be named by committees of experts." And then something I don't understand -- and I swear that these two sentences go after the ones just quoted: "For each of the awards, consumers will have the final say on who wins. One other prize, the "Book Club Award," will be chosen by Bookspan." Is it me, or is this confusing?

The Quills Calendar, as printed in PW:

April: PW publishes lists of eligible titles for May categories: Audiobooks, Children's picture books, Religion/spirituality, Poetry, Health & Self Improvement, Romance

May: PW publishes lists of eligible titles for June categories: Children's novel for pre-teen and younger, Science fiction/fantasy, Biography/memoir, History/current events/politics, Sports, Business

June: PW publishes lists of eligible titles for July categories: Rookie of the Year, Literary fiction, Graphic novel, Suspense/mystery, Thriller/horror, Young adult, Humor

April 15–July 15: The Quills Nominating Council votes on the shortlists for each category.

August 15: Shortlists announced in PW and released to national consumer media.

August 15–September 15: Consumers vote online or at participating bookstores.

October 11: Winners announced during The Quills awards ceremony

October 22: NBC airs the event in major television markets [11 days after the ceremony itself, so even we book fanatics who might be interested already know who won...]
And finally, here are all The Quills categories:
Book of the Year
Rookie of the Year*
Book Club Award**
Children's [would this include young adult?]
Best Book to Film**
Graphic Novel of the Year
Literary Fiction
Suspense/Mystery or Thriller [interesting grouping...]
Science Fiction/ Fantasy or Horror [another interesting grouping...]
Biography / Memoir
Religion / Spirituality
Health / Self Improvement
History / Current Events /Politics [so I guess a book about ancient Rome will compete with one about the current Bush presidency...]
So, fellow citizens of the literary blogosphere, what do you think?

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