Eligibility & Judging
The Los Angeles Times has awarded a set of book prizes annually since 1980. Eligibility for the 2013 prizes requires a book to have its first United States publication between January 1 and December 31, 2013. This American publication must be in English; however, English does not have to be the original language of the work. Authors may be of any nationality. They should be alive at the time of their book’s qualifying U.S. publication although eligibility is also extended to significant new translations of the work of deceased writers. Books by current employees of the Los Angeles Times, by current employees of Tribune Company or any of its other affiliates, by currently serving judges of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, or by immediate family members of these groups are not eligible.
The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes now have ten single-title categories: biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction (the Art Seidenbaum Award added in 1991), graphic novel (category added 2009), history, mystery/thriller (category added in 2000), poetry, science and technology (category added in 1989), and young adult literature (category added in 1998). In addition, the Robert Kirsch Award is presented annually to a living author with a substantial connection to the American West, whose contribution to American letters deserves special recognition. The Innovator’s Award which recognizes the people and institutions that are doing cutting edge work to bring books, publishing and storytelling into the future, whether in terms of new business models, new technologies or new applications of narrative art, was added in 2009. The Innovator’s Award is a prize that functions much like the annual Robert Kirsch award, in that there are no nominees, just a winner that is selected by an anonymous internal Los Angeles Times-committee.
Art Seidenbaum, who died in 1990, was the founder of the Book Prize program as well as Times book editor from 1978 to 1985. Robert Kirsch — novelist, editor and teacher — had been the Los Angeles Times’ book critic for a generation at the time of his death in 1980.
Nominations for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes do not begin with authors or publishers proposing their own work. Responsibility for nominating books for consideration and for naming both the finalists and the ultimate winners in the ten individual-title categories rests solely with nine panels of three judges each. (The fiction panel handles both the fiction and the first fiction categories.) Not all of these judges are, in any given year, from Los Angeles, or even from California. Most, but not all, are published writers. None is ever a current Times employee. Judges are appointed, typically, for a term of two years. Terms are usually staggered so that on each panel either one or two judges are replaced every year.
Five 2012 finalists in each of the ten single-title categories will be announced in late February 2013. From each group of finalists, a category winner will be announced when the 2012 Book Prizes, including the Robert Kirsch Award and Innovator’s Award, are presented on April 19, 2013.
To the Kirsch and Innovator’s recipients, the prizes bring a citation and $1,000. The individual category awards bring with them a citation and $500. The presentation ceremony for the 2012 Book Prizes will inaugurate the 18th Annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books to be held on the campus of the University of Southern California.
The Los Angeles Times Book Prize program has been directed since 1995 by Kenneth Turan, who was Times book editor from 1990 to 1991. He is currently the newspaper’s film critic.
The Los Angeles Times presents the Book Prizes and the Festival of Books as part of its many community programs promoting literacy and education to benefit people across Southern California. Additional information about the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes is available elsewhere on this site or by contacting the Book Prizes’ administrator, Ann Binney (email@example.com / 800-LA TIMES, ext. 75775).