AP NewsBreak: Rewrite for National Book Awards

Ironically, publishers were happy with the fiction nominees of 2012, the last group to be voted on under the old rules. The finalists included a mix of well-known writers (Louise Erdrich, Junot Diaz, Dave Eggers) and debut novelists (Ben Fountain and Kevin Powers).

For years, foundation executive director Harold Augenbraum has issued oral instructions to judges that they should not pick books based on the publisher or commercial success or the author’s reputation. In 2012, the point was reinforced in written guidelines that stated “fame or obscurity, small press or large, should have no bearing” on their decisions.

“I have no idea if that made any difference,” Augenbraum said. “In fact, one judge thought the rules meant not to overlook the smaller presses.”

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