Trying to put a little gold on the book awards binding

Publishing

February 06, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Roll out the red carpet: The publishing industry is trying to apply some glitter to its image with a new book awards program that is a cross between the Oscars and the People's Choice Awards.

A new philanthropy called the Quills Literacy Foundation has announced the formation of the Quill Awards, a slate of 19 annual book awards, most of which will be voted on by the general public.

Reed Business Information, the parent of Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Variety, among other trade publications, and the 14 local television stations owned by NBC Universal Television are backing the awards. NBC Universal said it would televise the awards ceremony in October on its owned-and-operated television stations, including WNBC in New York, KNBC in Los Angeles and stations in Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington and Miami.

Gerry Byrne, a former publisher of Variety who will serve as the chairman of the Quills Literacy Foundation, conceived the awards to try to remedy what has become an uncomfortable truth in the publishing industry: Book awards are not selling as many books as they once did.

The two most prestigious groups of American literary awards, the National Book Awards and the Pulitzer Prizes, no longer bestow instant celebrity on their winners, as they often did in decades past. Last year, judges for the National Book Awards were widely criticized after the selection of a group of largely unknown authors as the finalists for the fiction prize, the most visible category of the awards.

The new organization hopes that by including consumers, who will be able to vote on the winners in most categories in bookstores and online, the Quill Awards will gain visibility and send people into stores to buy books. The awards carry no cash prize.

Nominations for the award in each category will be made beginning in May by a panel of booksellers, librarians and others. The consumers will be able to vote in the fall for the winners in the categories of best book of the year; rookie of the year (to a first-time author); children's book; graphic novel; literary fiction; suspense, mystery or thriller; science fiction, fantasy or horror; romance; biography or memoir; religion or spirituality; science; health and self improvement; sports; business; and history, current events and politics.

A special committee will help determine winners in several other categories: the book club award, best book-to-film project, best design and a lifetime achievement award.

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