Everyone is Special

While I was hanging on the National Book Awards coverage tonight with the devotion most people reserve for the Oscars, it was still good to know that for everyone who didn’t win one of the season’s coveted prizes—or didn’t even get nominated—there’s still an award with your name on it, somewhere. According to Salon‘s Laura Miller, vanity literary awards are the new logical extensions of vanity publishing, and the prize-for-a-price business is booming.

For a reading public that increasingly gets its cues from the media, book prizes are one more guarantor of good taste and quality. While they don’t have Oprah’s personal touch, they’re still signs of discernment on someone committee or other’s part. The National Best Books 2009 Awards from USA Book News, for instance, has its own logo, gold foil sticker, laser-printed parchment certificate, and a big picture of The Lost Symbol on its website. They list 150 active categories; “everyone who enters in any category winds up listed as a ‘finalist,’ and some categories are so specific (“Mythology & Folklore”) that they have only one entry.” The price for finalist status and your very own gold foil sticker, $69 per category entered. As Miller points out

That’s still not much cash to shell out for a bogus award that will impress those friends and relatives who haven’t heard of the National Book Awards in the first place and will perhaps even (briefly) deceive the few who have. Yet with 150 categories, the takings do add up. A press release for the National Best Books 2009 Awards claims “500 winners and finalists,” which comes to the nonshabby sum of $34,500 (and that’s before whatever markup they get on the stickers) — not bad for the cost of setting up a basic Web site with content that can be cut and pasted from the Web in an afternoon or two.

Special

Which is, of course, not to devalue winners of the actual juried awards. Congratulations tonight to Phillip Hoose, Keith Waldrop, T.J. Stiles, and Colum McCann. I bet they get nice stickers on their books too.

(If you don’t want to spend $69 on your own book award, you can purchase the Everybody Is Special t-shirt pictured above from Zazzle for $18.60.)

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4 Comments to Everyone is Special

  1. Kat Warren's Gravatar Kat Warren
    November 18, 2009 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    Next year, Lisa, you could be there in your own self.

  2. Kat Warren's Gravatar Kat Warren
    November 18, 2009 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    I expected the McCann to win the fiction category for a variety of reasons, not least because it’s a NYC love fest. Ok, bitterness speaking but the truth is I was rooting for Marcel Theroux’s Far North which is so finest kind and unexpected.
    “Far North” sold only 1275 copies (as of, oh, I don’t know, last week or something) and that’s painful, ay de mi.
    Thrilled, tickled and gratified by the Vidal award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Boy howdy. But so very worried that he is the last of his kind.

  3. Karen Wall's Gravatar Karen Wall
    November 19, 2009 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I’d never heard of Claudette Colvin. What a fascinating story.

  4. Sean Long's Gravatar Sean Long
    November 19, 2009 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Ever since I can remember, I’ve always looked forward to the NBA’s more than any of the other awards, even the Pulitizer or the Booker. Still have not got around to reading the McCann. I was rooting for either Jayne Anne Phillips’ Lark and Termite or Bonnie Jo Campbell’s American Salvage.

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