Sunday, 14 November 2010

Galaxy National Book Awards

Book awards are increasingly seen as part of the necessary publicity launch-platform for authors.  Winning one can transform you from a mid-list hopeful to an international sensation over-night -  that is providing your publisher can afford the fees to get you onto the list.  Some of the big prizes require back-up funding that runs into thousands and is beyond the reach of all but the biggest publishers who are unlikely to splurge on new or less well known authors.
Books for the Galaxy awards are apparently nominated by 'around 50 carefully-selected individuals from the Galaxy National Book Awards Academy, who are drawn from retailer chain buyers, independent booksellers, wholesalers and trade press columnists'.   The exact process is rather vague, but the impression is one of democracy and you feel that it should produce a varied list that allows the small fry to swim with the big fish.
So why did I feel so depressed after I'd watched the awards?  Why did I feel that I'd seen it all before?  There didn't seem to be anything fresh or original at all.  (Martin Amis, Stephen Fry, Jonathon Frantzen, Terry Pratchett ...........) And hardly any women at all - though there were loads on the shortlists.  But awards were only given to Hilary Mantel,  and children's writer Julia Donaldson who shared her award with co-author Alex Scheffler.
I thought the biography short list was particularly apalling - celebrity memoirs and diaries by Alan Sugar, Tony Blair, the Duchess of Devonshire, Stephen Fry, and Chris Mullin MP - the one biography on it, Justine Picardie's account of the life of Coco Chanel didn't get anywhere.

One interesting new writer who made it to the shortlist is Katherine Webb, who wrote 7 unpublished novels before The Legacy came to the notice of Orion through the on-line writing site 'YouWriteOn.com'.   It's a peer criticism site where the top ten voted authors are read by an agent or publisher.  Orion are currently giving The Legacy the full treatment and I feel very glad for Katherine who deserves her success for persevering as well as the quality of her writing!

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