Kirkus Media announces new $50,000 literary prizes

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England has the Man Booker ($83,000) and the Folio Fiction Prize ($66,000). American poets have the Kingsley Tufts Award ($100,000) and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize ($100,000). English-language writers worldwide, working in any genre, are eligible for the new Windham-Campbell Prizes ($150,000) administered by the Beineke Library at Yale.

And now there’s another big prize on the table: The Kirkus Award, which will be $50,000.

Kirkus will award prizes annually in three categories: fiction, nonfiction and young readers literature.

The announcement of the new awards program was made Wednesday in New York at an event held to coincide with Book Expo, the publishing industry’s annual conference. Book Expo is under way this week.


Books published between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014, are eligible for the Kirkus Prize. Those that are reviewed in Kirkus and receive a starred review will automatically be nominated for the prize.

It’s a big turnaround for Kirkus, which just five years ago was on the ropes. Its corporate parent, the Neilsen Co. (then NVU), said in late 2009 that it would shut down the review completely.

Founded in 1933, Kirkus had by the early aughts been publishing about 5,000 book reviews a year. Its reviewers looked at books well in advance of release; Kirkus was one of the sources librarians and booksellers relied upon to evaluate forthcoming titles. In the dark economic days of 2009, it looked certain that Kirkus would become a thing of the past.

However, by February 2010, Kirkus had a reprieve in the form of Herb Simon, owner of the Indiana Pacers and a shopping mall entrepreneur. Simon purchased Kirkus, renamed it Kirkus Media, and brought on Barnes & Noble veteran Marc Winkelman as chief executive. Together, Winkelman and Simon own Tecolote Books, an independent bookstore in Montecito.

In a statement Wednesday, Winkelman said, “Since relaunching Kirkus Reviews in 2010, the company has enjoyed tremendous growth. Everyone at Kirkus feels a deep responsibility to our readers and the publishing industry; this prize is a symbol of that commitment.”

The prizes will be preceded by a shortlist of six titles in each of the three categories. The shortlist will be announced Sept. 30, and the first prizes will be awarded at a ceremony in Austin, Texas, where Kirkus Media is based, on Oct. 23 on the eve of the Texas Book Festival.