Do awards matter?

Over at Books & Such blog, Rachel Kent asks this question. It’s a good one to ask in light of the recent news surrounding book awards. In the U.S., the Pulitzer board couldn’t name a clear winner from three very deserving nominees. In Australia, the Queensland Premier has announced no winners for the Queensland Literary Prizes be named at all and the prize is on hiatus indefinitely due to state budget cuts.

Ms. Kent looks at this question from a publisher’s view. She freely acknowledges that some prizes are a “notch” above others, but all awards can make a difference in a writer’s professional life. For publishers, fledgling writers that come with an award are a much easier sell. Of course consumers will pay attention to a book with a shiny gold or silver medallion it. Booksellers know this, publishers know this, and library staff know this.

For all the wonderful books out there to choose from, it’s not that easy for some book groups to select only twelve per year. Sometimes a vetted title will hold more sway than one that didn’t get nominated for a prize. Some book groups only want to read award winners. And occasionally the good jurors who bestow the prizes recognize a title the rest of us would have missed.

Prizes do matter to all concerned, publishers, authors, and readers alike. Prizes will boost industry sales, discussion and readership, and, hopefully, a writer’s confidence and name recognition.

It’s a little disappointing that the Pulitzer board couldn’t come to a consensus for a Fiction winner, but they did provide three exceptional titles that will generate plenty of discussion in the year to come. Book groups everywhere will read all three and cast their own votes for the best of the trio. My library is running it’s own “Publitzer Prize” promotion right now and generating more conversation about titles that weren’t even in contention.

It’s a grave disappointment that the Queensland Literary Prizes have been decommissioned. I’d bet that if we asked any of the Australian authors living in Queensland, and quite a few who do not, that it’s not about the purse attached to the literary prize. It’s the recognition for artistic merit and hard work that prize winners appreciate the most. It’s the dialogue among new readers that will follow after the prize has been given.

The discussion doesn’t stop because there’s no Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year and there won’t be any Queensland Literary Awards winners at all. But there’s definitely a lull in the conversation.

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About the Author:

Kaite Mediatore Stover refuses to give up her day job as director of readers' services for The Kansas City Public Library to read tarot cards professionally or be the merch girl/roadie for her husband's numerous bands. Follow her on Twitter at @MarianLiberryan.

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