Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Publishing’s Spared Of Its Oscar Moment

The recent debacle at the Academy Awards is hard to imagine.  Here’s Hollywood -- a $10 billion-a-year industry just in ticket sales – not to mention rights sales, rentals, DVD purchases, merchandising, etc. and it couldn’t follow a simple script. 

Or maybe the biggest screw-up in awards history – bigger-than Steve Harvey flubbing the winner of Miss Universe two years ago – was staged.  

That can be the only explanation here.  In either case, the book publishing industry will never be in such a position, not because it isn’t capable of making mistakes or staging scandals, but because it lacks the big red-carpet televised showing of major book awards.

The closest the book world came to televising a prestigious book award is when the 67th Annual National Book Awards were hosted by Larry Witmore, a former Comedy Central late night talk show host, and it was streamed live on Facebook, Twitter, and at

Back in 1980, the National Book Awards were known as the American Book Awards, and the event was televised with prominent co-hosts William Buckley and John Chancellor.  Oddly, some big writers, according to, signed a petition to protest how the awards were moving into an Oscars-like populist event.  They thought it would hurt the literary culture.

Unfortunately, the show was not a success and by 1987 the National Book Awards were restored and off the air.

Warren Beatty either can’t read a cue card or he was too chicken to admit he was confused, and that moment, brought to you by Price Waterhouse Cooper, will live on in awards infamy.  For books, no one knows when the National Book Awards awards are or who won.  How does an industry, based in communications and culture, not promote its biggest awards and most popular or significant properties?

Here’s how I’d do a book awards show:

1.      Cap it at 90 minutes – fast-moving and filled with solid content and not the stupid banter and long-winded speeches the Oscars are plagued by.

2.      Start with a host that toggles books and the entertainment industry.  Think Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert.

3.      Highlight books, literacy, free speech, education, and the power of dreaming.  Infuse viewers with an understanding of what writers do to create how publishers select books, how books get marketed, and why reading books is such a cultural, historical, political, social, and financial phenomenon.

4.      Begin to show how books have proved to shape society, enlighten and inspire us, and record our history.

5.      Mix the program up into awards, dramatic readings, movie clips from films based on books, sprinkling of factoids about major books, publishers, or writers, and encouragement for new writers to pursue their dreams.

The book awards show, before it can push the awards and get into specific books or personalities, must present the world of books in an interesting, significant, and fun way. Even if it only appeals, initially, to hardcore readers, it must expand to appeal to our youth and new readers.

Maybe the awards show needs to be captured or told by way of book.  Could an awards ceremony simply be done in book form?  Take all of the content that would otherwise be shown or stated on TV and lay it out in a book, word for word, with photos and illustrations.  How novel would that be?  Maybe such a book would win an award.

Words matter and the forces, people, and professionals that serve the book world need recognition and in the process of highlighting their accomplishments we can market the world of books.

I can only pray that one day the book industry gets to have its own Oscar scandal.  For now, it’s a thing of fiction, but from novel ideas can come a new reality.

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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 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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