Two New Australian Book Awards from Readings: $4000 each

Melbourne bookseller Readings has just announced two new annual book awards, worth $4000 each. The aim? To give more attention and support to new and emerging Australian writers.

Managing director Mark Rubbo says that despite the high profile ‘instant’ success stories of Hannah Kent, Graeme Simsion and Favel Parrett, it’s generally quite tough for Australian writers to secure an audience and a living for their work.

‘A cynic could argue that there’s good reason first-time authors struggle – they just aren’t good enough – and this might be true in some cases, but anyone familiar with the vagaries of creative recognition knows that excellent works are often overlooked or have limited commercial appeal,’ he says.

Guest judge Hannah Kent

Guest judge Hannah Kent

With this in mind, Readings will launch two awards, judged by guest authors Hannah Kent (fiction writing award) and Sally Rippin (children’s writing award) with experienced bookshop staff,. Usually, award managers ask publishers to submit eligible titles for consideration; these awards will work by invitation. Readings staff will ask publishers to send the required five reading copies for books they want to consider.

The inaugural Readings New Australian Writing Award will go to a work of published fiction, which may be the author’s first or second book. This decision was partly inspired by Readings books division manager Martin Shaw, who said that ‘for many authors it was their second book that was the important one, as if that book failed then their writing careers were often over’.

The shortlist will be announced in October 2014, with the winner announced in November. (Eligible books must have been first published between 1 August 2013 and 31 July 2014.)

Guest judge Sally Rippin

Guest judge Sally Rippin

The Readings Children’s Book Prize will go to a debut or on-the-rise children’s author; the winner must have published no more than four books in the category.

Mark Rubbo said that children’s author and bookseller Emily Gale, who made ‘an impassioned plea’, was instrumental in his decision to include the prize for writing for children. ‘It was harder, she argued, for children’s writers to gain recognition even after their third or fourth book. A prize could make a real difference.’

The shortlist will be officially announced at the Children’s Book Festival on Sunday 23 March, with the winner announced in July. (Eligible books must have been first published between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2013.)

The announcement comes after last year’s Age Book of the Year awards were held over for 2013. Readings sponsored the 2013 Age Short Story Award, allowing it to go ahead.

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