We all know about book prizes. We know how important they are, and yet how unquantifiable.
There are basically two kinds of book prizes: those which are decided by a panel of estimable judges, and those which are decided by public vote. Both are problematic.
So What’s Wrong, Ya Big Whinger?
When it comes to panel-decided prizes, the route to the judge’s eye is too often fraught with unassailable obstacles such as elitism, fashion, favouritism, or the lack of a marketing machine.
Which might make it look like we should go with a popular vote instead – if it weren’t for the fact that a public vote is more to do with the popularity (or social media reach) of the author, rather than the merit of their book.
In fact, popular votes are more liable to drive me mad than any other modern inconvenience. I’ve been forced to ask for them myself from time to time, and I hate them. The fact that people are voting on something where they may have read only one – or more often none – of the entries, is the most cynical exercise even I can think of.
Yeah, Whatever. So What?
Both of these types of awards are open to criticism: and yet, there are no real alternatives. Either a judge must judge, or a vote must be counted. At the end of the day, when it comes to literary prizes, no author can afford not to be included, and few if any authors can refuse to let their work go forward. Because awards mean sales. Even nominations mean sales. And of the two types of recognition for their art, most authors would rather the sales, given the miserable state of author earnings at present.
I tried hard to think of an alternative to the estimable judge or the popular vote models, and I’m not going to lie. I couldn’t think of one. But this failure led to me thinking two things. And because this is my blog, I am going to tell you these two things.
(i) The problem might be in the very structure of these awards themselves.
The categorisation of awards can end up becoming the decider. Books which cross genres are often ruled out, or books which are self-published. Territorial publishing limitations can hinder the most talented, and an inability to lobby the right people can bury the shyest of geniuses.
It seems clear to me that we need to write some new book awards from the bottom up.
With that in mind, welcome, ladies and gentlesirs, to the…. *drum roll*
BOOK AWARDS WITH A BIT OF SENSE 2016
There are no nominees in these book awards: only winners. As I am not sure that the global reach of this blog is great enough as yet to, eh, influence sales, I really couldn’t be bothered making shortlists.
I hereby announce the awards as follows (all winners receive a year’s free subscription to the ads I have nothing to do with on this blog)
1. Best Book Sales Despite The Huge Misgivings Of Most Buyers:
Harper Lee – Go Set A Watchman
2. Most Profitable Resurrection of a Dead Author:
David Lagerkrantz (after Stieg Larsson, dec’d)- The Girl In The Spider’s Web
3. Most Blatant Exploitation of The Book-Buying Public:
E.L. James – Grey
4. Best Hopping On The Bandwagon:
Every Adult Colouring Book published after January 2015
5. Best Book Cover Even If Content Didn’t Live Up To Packaging Brilliance:
Timur Vermes – Look Who’s Back
6. Best Book Sales Despite Lazy Covers Which Didn’t Even Try:
Anything by Lee Child, John Grisham, Clive Cussler… basically any book written by a famous American male author, really
7. Book Club Darling Most Likely To Cause Smugness When The Movie Comes Out:
Paula Hawkins – The Girl On The Train
Which brings me to my second thought.
(ii) There Is A Gap To Be Filled By A New Awards Platform.
Over the past few years, indie publishing awards have been growing abroad. Indie authors generally can’t compete with traditionally published authors: quite apart from the marketing might, they don’t have the money, influence or resources to submit to the established literary competitions.
Indie book prizes bridged some of that gap, although there were none in Ireland. But why shouldn’t the cream of the Irish self-published crop be recognised too?
Well, now it can. Because as of right now, in 2016, the Carousel Aware Prize for Independent Authors is entering the stage.
Carousel Writers’ Centre has teamed up with Aware, a charity which assists those directly affected by the illness of depression, to establish this new prize.
There are six categories, which you’ll be glad to know are a little more traditional than the ones I listed above, and the submission deadline is Monday, April 29th 2016. Further details can be found on www.writingcap.ie.
This is an excellent opportunity for Irish indie authors to have their work recognised and promoted on a wider stage. The prize has been established with a view to recognising books which are too often ignored by the mainstream media, and all monies raised through submission fees will go directly to the charity Aware. It’s a double-whammy of positive positivity.
If you have self-published and fulfil the entry criteria, what have nothing to lose by entering this prize. It could mean more exposure than all the Bookbub ads in China. (Or perhaps another, more apt, analogy.) Why not get your hard work and talent recognised? Why not give it a try?
So there you have it. I might have taken a round-trip to get to the actual point, but I do try to trade information with entertainment, and you don’t read this blog for snappy summations (or if you do – do I have to apologise every week?!)