Thursday, February 26, 2015

Does Anyone Respect Literary Prizes and Book Awards?

The Nobel Prize for Literature has always had its critics, and with good reason. Many forgettable writers have won, while some of the superstars of the 20th century—James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov among them—left the world empty-handed.

Winners are chosen more for “political” reasons rather than literary merit. I don’t think I need to hedge that statement any.

I see so many of today’s books claiming to be “award winning.” I’m convinced every book ever published qualifies for an award of some kind. With only a handful of exceptions, I've never heard of any of the boasted awards. Imagine the thousands of people employed in this award-bestowing industry. Can’t I invent my own award and bestow it on my own book? Bet it’s been done aplenty.


And how do legitimate award bestowers make their decisions? In the world of poetry, it seems ugly, if this article ("What's Really Wrong With Poetry Book Contests") is accurate. We’re back in the territory of politics, and “play to play” only with poems, not songs.

To me, it isn't a selling point when I’m informed by the cover of a book that it has won some award. Not even the Pulitzer Prize. Even the biggest awards seem based on politics, social activism, or who you know.

Are you the sort of person who is persuaded to buy a book because it says it won an award you never heard of? I’m trying to picture in my mind the face of someone who will see that a book won an unheard-of award and decide to buy it based on that fact. I can sympathize if it was the Pulitzer or the author won the Nobel, because there are people who still believe those awards are honestly bestowed.

What Is A “Best-Selling” Book?

And just what is a “best-selling” book, anyway? What is the sales threshold for that? If my book is in the top 1,000 in its category for 1 day, does that mean I can advertise it as a “best-seller?”


With the recent advent of online self-publishing, so many authors are scribbling manuscripts and so much glut has accumulated in the marketplace, it's tough to stand out and garner any attention at all. Therefore, “Best-selling!” and “Award Winning!” You see it everywhere!

How does one tell a good book from a bad one without reading it? I’m leading up to the reviews and the “integrity” of many of them, which I think is lacking. For example, this New York Times story, "The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy." I can see honesty in the hundreds or thousands of reviews for legitimate best-sellers by famous wordsmiths, but otherwise, the system is being played, isn't it? But it's played because buyers respond to reviews and if you have a bunch of them, buyers will jump on the bandwagon and click that button on the upper right corner of the Amazon book page. The economics dictate the system will be gamed.

Take a look at my books:


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