The Quills, an initiative sponsored by Reed Business Information (PW's parent company), is designed to be an industry-qualified "consumers choice" awards program for books, honoring the current titles readers deem most entertaining and enlightening. Leaders from film, television, education, publishing and bookselling are members of an Executive Council that has been created to help shape The Quills program, which launches this month. Ultimately, though, it will be up to the bookstore customer and the library card holder—the folks who pick up a book because they want to, not because it's their job—to decide through a nationwide vote which titles get top honors.
Recognizing that the old literary-versus-commercial divide no longer applies (did it ever?), The Quills will celebrate the best books of the year in more than a dozen popular categories, ranging from romance to biography to graphic novels. Awards will also be given for the best film adaptation of a book, best cover and best book club title. Winners will be revealed during an awards ceremony similar to that of the Golden Globes—including a ritzy dinner party and celebrity presenters. The NBC Universal stations will broadcast the event in major markets on the evening of October 22.
What will the publishing industry gain from yet another literary prize? In a word, sales. That's the goal, anyway. The Quills were designed not just to honor excellence, but to provide a vehicle for publishers to build excitement for their books through marketing, advertising and in-store promotion. Instead of passively waiting to get the nod—and then hoping someone will notice and care about the award—publishers can lobby voters on behalf of their books during the competition, then capitalize on the honor afterward.
Think of how television uses the Emmys and movies use the Oscars—to build buzz and demonstrate quality. Think of how that could translate to books with The Quills.
And with growing concerns about the number of people who can't read—or just don't—The Quills Literacy Foundation will financially support programs that promote literacy. Seed funding for the foundation is being provided by Reed Business Information. Gerry Byrne, the designer of the Quills Awards program and the former publisher of Variety (a Reed publication), will also be founding chairman of the foundation. In addition, each year a "Lifetime Achievement Quill" will be awarded at The Quills to recognize an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the cause.
Competition in the book genre categories will begin with a slate of about 1,800 eligible titles. To make the long list of nominees, a book must have been published in its original format in North America between August 1, 2004, and July 31, 2005, and marketed in the United States. It must also meet one of the following criteria: a starred review in Publishers Weekly, Barnes & Noble's Discover Great New Writers Program selection, one of the ABA's Book Sense Picks, a Borders Books & Music Original Voices title or has made it onto the bestsellers lists of Publishers Weekly, Book Sense, Barnes & Noble or Borders.
A nominating board of about 6,000 members, invited from the subscriber base of PW, mostly booksellers and librarians, will narrow the list to five contenders for each category, beginning in May. Each month, the board will create a shortlist for five or six categories. In August, the voting will open up to members of the public, who can cast ballots online for their favorites among the shortlist for each category. Consumers will also vote on a "Book of the Year," choosing from the finalists in all the genres.
For the "Debut Author of the Year" award, each publishing division is invited to nominate two debut authors. Finalists for the "Book to Film" and "Design" awards will be named by committees of experts. For each of the awards, consumers will have the final say on who wins. One other prize, the "Book Club Award," will be chosen by Bookspan.
Throughout the summer, PW will run stories exploring the categories included in The Quills awards and highlighting titles that make the shortlist. Following the awards program, PW will publish in-depth stories about the winners—drawing even more attention to books that have already demonstrated their appeal.
How to Vote
Booksellers and librarians who have been selected to serve on the nominating board have been notified and were given a Quills registration number that enables them to cast their ballots online at www.quillsliteracy.org, choosing and casting online votes for their pick of the best from the long list for each group.
By August 1, the nominating board will have completed its work in narrowing down the lists and consumers will go online to vote for their favorites from the list of five finalists for each category.
When and Where
May 1—July 31: The Quills Nominating Council votes on the shortlists for each of categories.
August 15: Shortlists announced in PW and released to national consumer media.
August 15—September 15: Consumers vote online or at participating bookstores.
October 11: Winners announced during The Quills awards ceremony
October 22: NBC airs the event in major television markets
Children's Illustrated Book
Children's Chapter Book/Middle Grade Reader
Debut Author of the Year
*Publishers are invited to submit (to abinkley@QuillsLiteracy.org)