11 March 2007

Cybils Sales Effect

Awards matter most when someone besides the awarders and the awardees care--which usually means there’s money at stake. Alfred Nobel and Joseph Pulitzer knew that when they put some of their fortunes into prizes. So did the founders of the MacArthur Foundation: before 1981 no one knew what the organization was. Now “MacArthur genius” can serve as a synonym for “rocket scientist.”

Among American book prizes, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals are prominent not because they offer a lot of prize money but because they always increase a book’s sales significantly. The Pulitzer and Oprah’s Book Club are basically the only other American book awards that have the same consistent and lasting effect.

Now the organizers of the Cybils Awards have documented a pattern of four award-winning books, including our Fantasy/Science Fiction pick Ptolemy’s Gate, suddenly climbing up Amazon’s sales rankings as word of the Cybils spread. Will that effect last for future years? Will it catch publishing marketers’ eyes so that they start to claim and proclaim their “Cybils-winning” titles?

While waiting breathlessly for the answer, this week I’ll post remarks on the rest of the Fantasy/Science Fiction nominees for 2006.

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