Friday, December 18, 2015

Interview With Nautilus Book Awards Director Mary Belknap, PhD

  1. What are the Nautilus Book Awards and how long have they been around?  The Nautilus program started in 1997, and is now in its 18th year. The program reviews hundreds of books each year that are submitted by their Author or Publisher, in one or more categories (there are 33 total categories, including books for adults and for  children); see website There are generally one Gold Winner and several Silver Winners in each category annually; receiving a Nautilus Award is a prestigious recognition of a book’s contribution to helping create a better future. The byline of Nautilus is “Better Books for a Better World.”

  1. How have the awards grown over the years? There are many more categories now than there were 18 years ago; and some of the categories have been modified to reflect changes in cultural trends and greater consciousness about the importance of certain fields. ex: Green Living & Sustainability, Health & Healing /Wellness & Vitality, Inner Prosperity /Right Livelihood, and Science & Cosmology.  Another sign of the program’s growth is the increased number of entries from authors in more States in the USA, and the program is now well-known in other nations. As of 11-30-15, we have received entries from 30 States in USA, and from 11 other nations thus far, and we are halfway through the Nautilus season – which ends January 30, 2016 (by Postmark date on book packages).  \

  1. What distinguishes your award from other awards? In brief, there are three aspects that distinguish the Nautilus Book Awards from other literary competitions:  We have an explicit mission to recognize and honor books that are helping build a more positive culture; not just “wishful thinking” about a better future, but actually sharing information, stories, transformational experiences, community initiatives in many genres that can help people who read books to find sources of hope and guidance. 

Second, the Nautilus program is built around the unity of Mind & Heart, of Spirit & Matter. We strive to help readers find Books that assist them to move beyond dualities, into the space where Life is whole and people can learn to be in love with life, to create peace through their experiences through books, and engage more deeply with each other, and with life.  

And third, there is a conscious choice to base part of the ratings on whether the Books are visually impactful and invite the Reader into the world of the author. The aesthetics is an important aspect of the content; it is not a separate component. 

Because of this conscious Mission to recognize and welcome books that are helping uplift the culture, the Nautilus program is popular among a wide range of writers: first-time Authors, Self-published authors, Small Press authors, and the larger Publishing Houses in the USA and abroad.  There is also a great range in the experience of the authors who choose to submit their best work to Nautilus; and we are grateful to them for trusting the integrity of the review process that we have developed over 18 years.

4.      What standards do you use to determine who should win? There is a detailed Evaluation Sheet that the judges use in reviewing each book. The primary Nautilus Core Values, which are described on our website, are Conscious Living, Green Values & Sustainability, Spiritual Growth, and Positive Social Change. Each of those is an important aspect of the overall purpose of our program, and each book that becomes a Nautilus Winner embodies one or more of those core values.  In addition, the visual appearance and presentation of the book is a section of the ratings.  And of course, the several elements of the Content are central to reviewing each book: Is it well-written; does it say something old in a new way; does it stimulate discussion /compassion /openness. All these and many other elements are covered in the review process, both on the written sheets and in the discussion among the judges about the books.  

5.      How do you go about selecting the judges? Most of our judges are experienced in the genre of books they review, either as a teacher, librarian, business person, engaged-parent, or other appropriate specialty.  We have several judges who have been with the Nautilus program for over a decade. A couple of others have joined in the past six months. It is a highly committed group of individuals who care about the power of the written word, and about helping people who enjoy reading to find the highest and best use of that amazing human capacity to trade meanings through alphabet-symbols on a page.  You might even say that our judges tend to be “in love with books” as a tool of human communication. There is continual feedback between the judges and the Nautilus staff about how to improve the process, and when to include new genres or modify genres of books among the Categories to reflect the growing edge of cultural and spiritual evolution. 

6.      Which exceptional books that were honored by the Nautilus Awards did you find to be truly amazing? A few of my personal favorites include: 
* Urban Farm Handbook (Annette Cottrell) 
* Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet (Matthew Fox) 
* I Am Malala (Malala Yousafzai) 
* Energy Medicine for Women (Donna Eden)  
* Earth-Honoring Faith (Larry Rasmussen) 
* Wild Money (Luna Jaffe)  

7.      What do you think is the future of book publishing? My own view is that the eBooks and iBooks will increase over the coming decade, as well as the continuity of print Books. We need to balance the channels of reaching the Readers, in order to offer ways of reading that attract new generations, and also reduce the impact of the Publishing industry on trees and the environment. 

8.      What role can your award play when it comes to book sales? Several authors who have become Nautilus Winners report back to us that their visibility as a winner has increased their sales. This occurs both through their own marketing, through the bookstores that display winners from various book competitions, and from the Authors participating in winners’ exhibits at some of the regional book conferences. There have been two recent self-published Nautilus winners who were contacted by a major Publisher and negotiated a national-scale contract, on the basis of the Nautilus recognition.  In addition, many booksellers appreciate having the Nautilus recognition (decal) on the front-cover of several of their books, because walk-in traffic is attracted to the winners’ decals.  

9.      What advice do you have for authors?
  *  Follow your passions – write about what excites your head and your heart  

  *  Look on the Nautilus website, archives page – we show the Titles and Front-covers of the Award Winners for the past several years. Look at the winning books in your genre, where you imagine your book would fit best. How many of those winning books have you read? Get to know the authors who are writing in your genre, and what they have already said that is important to you. How can your book ADD to the collective conversation, to say something about the human experience in a new way, a refreshing new voice that is Your Voice!  

  *  Get to know a good editor – they will be an amazing partner in your writing adventure, and all of us can benefit from having another set of eyes on our creative work. 

  *  Submit your book to several book award programs; and if it doesn’t win an award, know that there are more opportunities the following year!  We have had several authors win a Nautilus Award with their second or third year that they entered a new book in the Nautilus program.  We noticed how each book they wrote was getting better!    

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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