The Good, Bad, & Ugly About Book Awards

Book awards give a little recognition to a vast array of books on the market. They help point out the good books. They are a very important part of the book trade. But, sometimes awards go all wrong …. REALLY!

We just got a bunch of book awards. We, and the authors, feel great. But there is an ugly side to awards programs that you have to be aware of. Sometimes, book awards’ programs can be very political and a beauty pageant. But, some awards’ programs are fair and transparent.

Let’s start off with the fair ones. The awards’ programs have to have more than one judge. This may seem like a no-brainer but for a title to be read and judged by one person can be bad. People have their own preferences, hates, likes, and sometimes believe the hype. If there is more than one judge for a book title you can kinda average out the results. It is also fairer.

I, for example, hate sci-fi and poetry. So, I would be a very bad judge for those genres. But I know kids’ books, history, art, and enjoy those books. Not all people can do all genres of books – no matter what they say. It may be advisable to keep the identity of the judges confidential. Yes, some authors do try to lobby for their book. And, other stuff with the book – like bookmarks, sell sheets, and press – should not be included. The award is for the book and not for the stuff.

Books need to have a number rating of how good or bad they are. To say in the judging – “it’s great,” or “I loved it,” or “it sucked,” is not helpful. Numbers can be shown if there is a problem and anything else is up for interpretation. Especially if you enter a large book awards’ contest, numbers need to be entered in a computer. How can you enter, “it has been done before?”

Judges should NEVER ADVOCATE FOR A BOOK. To have a judges meeting to decide on who wins is a minefield. Special interests come into play and some judges are bullies for a certain title. Let a computer spit out the results. Done! It saves time.

Judges may be able to suggest a title needs to go in a different category but frankly, common courtesy dictates that the organizers of the awards contact the person who entered the book in question and explain the suggestion. To just uproot a book looks like it was moved so another book can win a category. So wrong! We had that happen to us and no matter if it was done honestly, PERCEPTION IS REALITY!

A press release needs to go out after the results are announced to tell the world who won. Why have awards if you don’t tell someone? And those stickers mean a book shouts to the world, without humans, that it is a good book even if it is on a shelf alone.

Finally, you have to play to win. If your publisher doesn’t enter then the author has to. If it is too expensive and time consuming to enter then maybe the author pays the money and fills out the form, and the publisher supplies the books. They both have skin in the game.

There is nothing better than winning and nothing worse than feeling you were robbed.

Barbe Awalt


Rio Grande Books
June 16-18: Sacred Art Market, Gallup Cathedral
July 15: Lavender in the Village, Los Ranchos Agri Center
Nov 4, 2017: Tempe Book Festival, Tempe Public Library

Henrietta Christmas & Paul Rhetts
April 30: Santa Fe Public Library, 2pm "Basic Genealogy Checklist: 101 Tips & Tactics to Finding Your Family History"
June 24: Treasure House Books, Albuquerque Old Town 1-3pm "Basic Genealogy Checklist: 101 Tips & Tactics to Finding Your Family History"

Loretta Hall
April 29: Loretta will be on Green Knees Radio Show on KSFR ( reading "Miguel and Michelle Visit Spaceport America"
May 3: Bear Canyon Senior Center, 10:00-11:30, "Getting Men to the Moon: Behind-the-Scenes Stories"
June 10: Bookworks, 11am. 4022 Rio Grande Blvd ABQ
July 13: OASIS, 1:00-2:30, "What Sex Differences Mean for Space Travel"

Pat Hodapp
April 23: Collected Works, 2pm "Santa Fe Bucket List"

Ross Van Dusen
May 7: Ross will have a reading at the New expo at the ABQ Balloon Museum at 11:30am and again at 2pm
May 11: Ross will read to the kids from Griegos Elementary School at a special event at Bookworks on Rio Grande Blvd.
June 4: Treasure House Books, 1pm "Lyle Got Stuck in a Tree" and "What Makes Lightning?"