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Calvin Reid on the National Book Awards, Graphic Novels, and the “Wow” Factor
posted November 22, 2004

Calvin Reid
Publishers Weekly

Hey TS:

Thought you might like to hear about something unusual that happened last week at the National Book Awards.

Last week the National Book Awards were presented in New York. The National Book Awards are an annual awards rite that picks four books (young peoples Lit, Fiction, nonfiction and poetry) that will stand as the best book in that category. It's a gala black tie event that's held at a big Times Square hotel and the winners, both publishers and authors, are feted as icons-at least within the publishing industry-of contemporary American literature.

But this year something different happened. A small but a notable thing. Graphic novels were mentioned in the remarks of Harold Augenbraum, the new executive director of the National Book Foundation, the organization that administers the National Book Awards. In introductory remarks, Augenbraum was discussing the role of the NBF, which is to promote reading and books to as large as audence as possible.

Auguenbraum said what readers want are books with the "wow' factor.

"That's part of the excitement of being a reader," Augenbraum continued. "You're constantly looking for the Wow Factor in every book. And any genre can have it, from great novels on a big canvas to small novels of domestic life, from great biographies to government reports, from well-done whodunits to GRAPHIC NOVELS [caps are mine]. "

Well, that remark nearly knocked me off the press balconey. I've been reporting on the book industry for Publishers Weekly for nearly 20 years, but I'll bet that's the first time the words "graphic novel" were ever uttered from the podium at the National Book Awards ceremony. The world really is changing. I think Harold Augenbraum will be hearing a lot more from the comics and graphic novel community in the very near future.