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.
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.)