Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Do Authors Need A Prize To Write A Great Book?

Millions of writers attempt to write a book each year.  A good percentage complete a manuscript and hundreds of thousands of them get published.  There are many reasons people write books – because they have an important message or feel a need to share their story; ego; they believe they are destined to write; they seek fame; because it helps their brand; and any of a dozen other reasons.  Few write to get rich, but would a major, contest with a multi-million-dollar prize motivate writers to put their best pen forward?

I just read how 78 different cities applied for a $40 million federal prize. The task?  To present the best new ways to use new automated driving and sensory technologies and big data to reduce traffic and cut auto emissions.  In fact, the final price might get up to $50 million, including ten million bucks from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The public-private combination is a great idea.  So is offering a huge bounty.  This will spur ideas to be exchanged and seed the level of innovation that America needs.  Why not do the same with books?

Most prizes offer prestige, some fame and a small level of financial award, especially in the book world. We need to move past chump change and bankroll something big here.

Would we get better books by offering a fat prize-like five million to the best book?  Would there be so many submissions that we’d uncover many very good books?  Woulld any of these have been written if not for the lure of a huge payoff?

I don’t know, but it seems like our capitalist society favors getting rich as the ideal pursuit for so many people. Of course writers, though they’re not opposed to getting rich, are generally motivated by non-monetary factors, so I wonder how much of a difference a big, prize would make in the quantity and quality of the caliber of books being written.

What if we took that five-million-dollar grand prize and instead turned it into 25 grants of $200,000 each, bankrolling authors to use up to 18 months, full-time, of their creative juices and writing abilities to produce the best possible book or books.  Maybe some will create a laboratory to collaborate with each other in order to crowdsource a great book.

Writers need a bit of security to create their best work.  If they don’t have to work (beyond writing) in order to support their writings, they would feel unburdened and freed up to live the creative life they dream of.

As great as some books are I have no doubt that the best is yet to come.  The marketplace awaits the best researched written and analytical books on curing cancer, having great relationships, losing weight, etc.  The marketplace awaits the most motivational and inspirational book yet.  We await new ideas, visions, and approaches to life that come to us via books.  Maybe a huge prize or grant is what will get us there.

Imagine being able to write where you don’t have to worry about money, in an environment that supports and nurtures you, under an inspired setting.  Maybe we need a big prize to truly bring out the best work.

But writers write out of love, desire, and passion. They need to say something and to be heard. I don’t know that a grand prize turns a non-writer into a writer, or if it makes a writer better or more productive, but I do believe a prize or grant nominating structure will yield a wild number of submissions looking to cash in. What would be great is there would be an organized, uniform editorial review board to evaluate these works.  This would allow for a huge collection of ideas and writings.  Perhaps the very process of having all of these works under one roof could even spur additional ideas or works.

If a grand prize helps us remake our transportation system, surely it’s worth using to transform the books that get written and published.

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