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Wednesday, December 23, 2015
What Does It Mean To Be An Award-Winning Author?
I talk to an author who won a book award, I can hear pride in their voice. Often the awards vary in significance and
many awards are chosen out of applicants who pay to be considered. Some awards have far fewer competing titles
than others and many awards give out not just one or two awards but sometimes
dozens. So what does it mean to be an
likes to throw around three terms:
times these terms are tossed about without a qualifier. For instance, there’s no legal definition for
“best-selling author.” One can make the
claim without giving further details.
There’s a difference between being a New York Times best-selling author
and someone who was on the Amazon best-seller list for an hour under a narrow
category such as Best-Selling Cookbooks About Bagels. That doesn’t mean the term is meaningless. It just means we need details: which list,
how long were you on it, and just how many copies did you sell?
are the same way. Tell me what the award
was for and who issued it.
a big difference between a USA Book Award or a Benjamin Franklin Book Award vs.
National Book Awards, Newberry Medal or a Caldecott Medal. The pecking order goes all the way to a
Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize in Literature.
Each of the awards means something, but not equally.
one still has to wonder what it means to be a winner of any award. Isn’t it a subjective process that begins
with who is picked as a judge and what methodology is chosen to evaluate the
nominees? How is one even nominated for
an award? How does any award take into
consideration the many hundreds of thousands of eligible books into
guess with awards it reaches a point that anyone of a dozen or even a thousand
books – out of up to a million published annually – could interchangeably be
chosen for an award. It’s somewhat easy to filter through and dismiss a lot of books
– assuming you have the time to read them - but it gets much more challenging
to determine why one book is better than the rest. I know it’s hard to do when discussing
restaurants, music, and movies, so books are not different. In sports, there are winners and losers. Pints are tallied, runs are scored, goals are
totaled. Very little may separate two
teams in a given game, season, or series, but there is always a final game to
determine, head-on, who is deemed the champ.
Can book awards really do that?
awards have a scoring system that is transparent to the public – or must the
decision-making process remain behind closed doors? What would be the fairest way to determine an
pageants have scores for different areas and competitions, from speaking to
performing, to bathing suits. But each
thing is subjective. So is judging
music, movies, and dog competitions. But
some things are statistically quantifiable, such as hot-dog eating contests,
highest GPA at a high school, a champion golf tournament, and NASCAR racing. But apple pie taste contests, fashion
competitions, and even gymnastics events come down to opinions rather than
fully measurable facts.
find it interesting that you really don’t see much overlap in any of the award
winners. The IPPY or Indie Excellence
Award Winners did not capture a Pulitzer, nor did a Caldecott capture a
Newberry. Each award has its own
qualifying rules, time of application and consideration, judges, and different
standards. Some awards are exclusive by
nature, geared towards a certain format, such as awards for audio books
(Audies), or genre, such as fiction (Man Booker Prize), or some other
demographic such as the National Jewish Book Awards.
someone wins an award it seems like it’s forgotten by everyone but the
winner. I can tell you who won the World
Series in 1985 but I couldn’t name the 2014 winner of a major writing award.
awards, as flawed as they may be, are better than nothing. At least they highlight books and honor decent
writers. It’s just that too much
politics, money, and bias seem to attach to the awards, making you feel a
little suspect as to whether someone else was more deserving of winning.
like an award for my blog but I never even entered it into a contest or for any
honors. Really, the reward or award that
I earn from this is purely self-satisfaction in knowing I helped others and
that others enjoyed reading my ideas and thoughts. I share a piece of me every time
I post something. I know book writers
feel the same way.
I raise a glass to every writer who won an award, to anyone whoever applied to
one, and fell short, and to those who never looked to get a medal or trophy but
who write out of love – or madness.