Book Business EXTRA! Q&A--National Book Awards’ Executive Director Chats about the Impact of One of the Industry’s Top Honors.
EXTRA!--What pluses exist for a publisher whose author’s work is nominated for a National Book Award?
Augenbraum--Probably the most important is the prestige of having published work of great quality that has been recognized by the top writers in the field, but then there are the sales, current and future, which, particularly among the fiction finalists and winners, tend to rise exponentially.
EXTRA!--How have past recipients leveraged their nominations or awards to attain greater attention for their work and for books in general?
Augenbraum--Virtually every publisher will tell you that a writer’s backlist sales are much greater after being a finalist or winner of the National Book Award. The writers themselves will tell you that publishers put them in a different category after they have been National Book Awards Finalists. One poet told me that, after he was selected as a National Book Award Finalist, he was immediately offered a two-book contract, for poetry!
EXTRA!--How do you see the transition to digital-based works altering the way titles are eventually selected?
Augenbraum--Another complex question. Since selection of the National Book Awards is based on content and not on delivery method, it shouldn’t make a difference. However, I think it will open the selection process to varied forms of narrative structure, especially as the judges become more familiar with the uses of technology. Digital works will also change the way we look at narrative in general. We, as literary consumers, already read differently from the way we did in the past. Literary people read graphic novels, novels with embedded graphics, typographically pliant novels, novels that reflect our reading habits as consumers of Web site material. As we continue to read digital work in other genres (like newspapers--what do you call a “newspaper” on the Web, since there is no paper?), it will change our expectations of narrative structure.