What with all the new forum categories, I hardly know where to post. This seems like as good a place as any.

After coming back from New York, I started to wonder about awards for mystery writers. There are so many of them that I can't even make a list because I'll leave some off. So my question is, are there too many?

Once upon a time, there were the Edgars. And that was all. I believe that's still the most prestigious award, the one most likely to translate into more sales or better contracts for a writer, particularly in the novel categories. Now, though, it could be that the prestige is a little less, thanks to all the other awards out there.

On the other hand, the more awards there are, the more publicity the books get, even if the other awards aren't hyped quite as much as the Edgars. And we all know that publicity is good for everybody in the field.

So what do you think. Are there too many awards, are there just enough, or do we need more?

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I've heard that, that no funny book wins an Edgar. And in a way I appreciate what else has been said here, by John Dishon- that there are too many categories. Maybe what there should actually be are different awards for different types only, and no cross-over. In a way, we have that - the Shamus are PI awards, for example. But how do you match the name exposure of the Edgars? You really can't.

So, instead of maybe consolidating the existing awards and making them more effective people just keep adding to the mix. The solution? Anyone finds one, I'm all ears.
I'm sure we'd all like to have a solution. So far, nobody's found one. There may not even be one.
I do pay attention to which books win awards, but I don't think I'm a typical book buyer. Over the past few years I have been collecting the books listed in 100 Favorite Mysteries and They Died in Vain. From that I expanded to keep books that won other awards such as the Shamus, CWA Dagger, Arthur Ellis and the St. Martin's best first novel. Then I started watching for books that had won other awards such as the Anthony, Malice Domestic, etc. even though I knew I would probably never read them. In most cases, they were used PBs so it wasn't a big investment. Now I'm going to stop except for completing the 100 Favorite and Died in Vain lists. In the case of this year's Edgar nominees, only a few interested me. Usually when the nominees are announced, I will look up any books that I don't already have on my list and decide if they are worth buying or borrowing from the library. If not, I forget about them immediately. This year I didn't rush out to buy any. When I am in England, which seems to have been nearly every year since the decade began, I will look for Dagger winners that I haven't seen in Canada. I don't like or want to admit it, but few of the recent Arthur Ellis nominees ever seem to interest me.
Like Kent, I do look up books that have won awards to see whether they would be something I would like. And for theings like the Lefty or the Anthonys where I get a chance to nominate and vote I will always nominate and I always read the list of nominees before I vote. And I can attest to the fact that it is just such a wonderful feeling to be nominated and as for winning...well...that's just gobsmackingly brilliant.
I think you have the makings of a good mystery right here. Here's the jacket blurb: "It's Mystery Month in Lesser Metropolis. Thirty days of awards nights, culminating in the grand daddy of all recognition, the DCIDM (Dah Check's in Da Mail)."

"Someone is choking off the panel of book reviewers and leaving behind the same nasty note...[Judge not, lest ye be Judged.] Corporate Security Sponsor, Aunt Betty, has her fluffy in the wringer. Who will be next? Can Private Eye Edgar Dagger break the case before the next deadly review?"
Hey, what do you mean "you"? I think you're the one who needs to write it. Sounds as if you've started already.
If awards are genre based (such as the Lefty or Shamus) then I think there is nothing wrong with the award.

I completely agree with Sandra in regards to all-inclusive categories such as best novel. If a cozy, thriller, hard-boiled and historical mystery are all nominated for the same award, my question would be how do we know which of these very different kinds of books is the best? That is like having an award for best fruit that includes oranges, apples, bananas and grapefruit and then someone saying that an apple is the best fruit.

You know what they say, compare apples to apples.

My biggest concern is with awards that have nebulous nomination and/or winning criteria.

I believe that all awards must have submission guidelines, all submissions must be read and nominees must be selected from the submitted works. The winners should be selected by a different group of people than selected the nominees.

This keeps everything above board and makes the award more valid.

Anyone who has been in this industry for even a short period of time knows that when certain awards are announced that listservs and blogs are filled with analysis on why the award is biased. It devalues the value of the award when people feel it is rigged or biased.

Personally I think the best method would be to have readers select the nominees and then an eclectic panel of industry people (Authors, Publishers, Editors, Reviewers, etc) do a blind selection process. A book with the most votes wins. This eliminates the American Idol-type voting scandals and prevents feelings that the selection committee just picked its friends.
Sounds frighteningly logical. So it will never happen.
I don't think it would be possible to have a "blind selection process." Too many series. Can't get too far into a Tess Monaghan or Hieronymous Bosch novel before you know the author.

On the other hand, it is quite late, and I might easily have misunderstood.
While that is true, if handed the latest Laura Lippman to judge, some people would become bias by the author before the book was opened. Some people would say "I love everything Laura's done, so she should win." and other would say "I think she's won too many books, someone else should win this year."

Winners should be chosen by what's in the book not the name on the cover.
I was at a writers conference in Madison Wisconsin over the weekend and Donald Maas of DMLiterary Agency was the featured speaker for a whole day on Saturday. He started the session by asking the 250 people in the room how many read fiction on a regular basis. Nearly all the hands went up. Then he asked how many read a book because it was featured on Oprah. About 30 hands went up. How many because read the book because it had recently won a major award. Less than 20 hands went up. Finally he asked how many read the book because they liked the author or heard it was good from a friend. Nearly all the hands went up again.
I think award nights are all publicity stunts, otherwise you'd get your Edgar in the mail. That doesn't mean that the award is not well earned. It just think that writers and sellers of the written word know they have to compete for our attention.

So we're back to the 1985 Academy Awards and Sally Field's "You like me. You really really like me." speech.
Word of mouth works for me. I read a lot of books recommended by friends. But then I read my own favorite writers, too.


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