Last night at the BookExpo America launch party, Kirkus Reviews—one of the largest tastemakers in the book world—announced it had created three new literary awards to be presented annually starting this year. The Kirkus Prize will be awarded for one work of fiction, one of non-fiction, and one piece of young readers’ literature; each prize will come with a $50,000 award for the work’s author, and each winner will be chosen by a panel of jurists (each of whom are to receive $1,000 for their service). Though these amounts still aren’t very much in the larger sense of praising art with reward, literary awards are notable for their especially modest sums. The 2014 winners will be announced at a ceremony October 23 in Austin, Texas.
While the field of book prizes has gotten a bit crowded, Kirkus and its starred review system has long been a major player in making or breaking a particular book. In an age where hardly a month can go by without a new think piece on the dying gasps of the publishing industry and hardly a week can go by without an despairing screed on the death of the written word, Kirkus has kept an 80-year-old print publication alive and increased online users by more than 200 percent in just a few years. That’s probably reason enough to create a whole symbolic ornament, reward excellence, and keep good writers writing.