New National Book Award procedures include surprises

National Book Awards 2001 recipients Jonathan Franzen, left, Alan Dugan and Arthur Miller. The National Book Foundation hopes to draw more attention to its awards with new procedures.
(Stuart Ramson / Associated Press)

The National Book Awards are, without question, the most elegant of America’s many literary awards. But the organizers hope that they can make them more high profile with a new, much-longer lead-up to the prizes in November.

On Monday the National Book Foundation, which organizes the awards, announced it will be sharing the longlists for its awards next week, stretching the news out over four days. Previously, the announcement was made all at once -- and previously, there weren’t even longlists.

The hope is that publicly sharing a longlist will help draw attention to the awards. This has worked for the Man Booker Prizes in England -- although the Man Booker Prize has other support from publishers, booksellers and national media that give the process a boost too.

The announcement that the 10-titles longlists would be shared over four days came as something of a surprise. “For a week. Why,” tweeted Kathleen Schmidt, a.k.a. Bookgirl96, who is publicity director for Weinstein Books.

The announcement begins with young people’s literature on Sept. 16, followed by poetry on the 17th, nonfiction on the 18th and fiction on the 19th. Of course, we’ll cover each announcement -- but will the four days make readers enthusiastic or exhausted?


The National Book Foundation has given an exclusive to the Daily Beast for all four announcements. With the Internet today, “exclusive” really lasts only as long as the rest of us can type, so it doesn’t mean much.

Although I do miss the idea of the announcement being made at literary landmarks around the country, reminding us that the National Book Awards really are national.


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