History of the Book Prizes
The Los Angeles Times has awarded a set of book prizes annually since 1980. 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. It was his idea that became the inspiration for the Book Prizes.
Art Seidenbaum was the founder of the Book Prize program. At the Times from 1962 until his death in 1990, he was successively a columnist, book editor (1978 to 1985) and opinion editor. He was also an author, teacher and television host.
The Book Prizes cover ten single-title categories: biography, current interest, fiction, first fiction (the Art Seidenbaum Award added 1991), graphic novel (added 2009), history, mystery/thriller (added in 2000), poetry, science and technology (added in 1989), and young adult literature (added in 1998).
The Robert Kirsch Award recognizes the body of work of a living author who resides in and/or whose work focuses on the West and whose contributions to American letters deserve special recognition. The Innovator’s Award (added 2009) 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. For these awards there are no nominees, just winners that are selected by an anonymous internal Los Angeles Times-committee.
Who is Eligible?
Eligibility for the prizes requires a book to have its first United States publication between January 1 and December 31 of the prize year. 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.
Can I Submit My Book to the Judges?
There is no external nominating process for the Book Prizes. Authors, publishers, agents or publicists cannot propose or submit titles for consideration. Responsibility for nominating books for consideration and for naming both the finalists and the ultimate winners rests solely with nine panels of three judges each. (The fiction panel handles both fiction and first fiction.). The best way to get your book noticed by the judges is to send it out widely for review.
Who Are the Judges?
The Book Prize judges are writers, academics, journalists, librarians, who generally work in the fields in which they judge or they have a deep connection to that field. Not all of the 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 two year terms which are usually staggered so that on each panel either one or two judges are replaced every year.
Five finalists in each single-title category are announced in late February of the year following the actual Prize year (i.e. the 2013 finalists are announced in February of 2014). At that time, the winners of the Robert Kirsch and Innovator’s Awards are revealed. From each group of category finalists, a winner is announced when the Book Prizes are presented in a public ceremony on the Friday night that inaugurates the annual Festival of Books. The winners of the Robert Kirsch and Innovator’s Awards are celebrated at this event as well.
To the Kirsch and Innovator’s recipients, the prize brings a citation and $1,000. The individual category awards bring with them a citation and $500.
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.
For more information contact the Book Prizes’ administrator, Ann Binney (email@example.com / 800-LA TIMES, ext. 75775).