NEW YORK (October 11, 2006) — It was the second annual Quills Awards, a night on the town for the publishing industry. Caroline Kennedy made a special appearance, Fantasia Barrino belted out “Summertime,” and Donald Trump and Harry Connick, Jr. were among the presenters at the American Museum of Natural History.
But by the end of Tuesday night’s three-hour ceremony, you got the impression that many of the attendees including some on stage would have rather stayed home with a good book.
“I’m from frigging Jersey, I don’t talk this way,” joked novelist and awards presenter Janet Evanovich, one of several who struggled to follow a TelePrompTer which frustrated even show business pros like Connick and Stanley Tucci.
Nora Roberts, Maya Angelou and former Vice President Al Gore were some of the winners of Quills prizes voted on by the public although the awards don’t seem to get much public notice. The Book of the Year was Tyler Perry’s “Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings.”
The Quills were supposed to loosen up the stuffy image of literary prizes, but glamour does not come naturally to the book world. It was a subdued crowd, which greeted most of the winners and presenters with polite applause and awarded no one a standing ovation, not even Caroline Kennedy, given an honorary prize for her “commitment to providing support for education and literacy in New York.”
By the time the last award, Book of the Year, was announced, several tables were empty.
Created last year by NBC Universal Television Stations and Reed Business Information, the Quills have attracted little attention beyond the publishing industry. Comscore Networks, Inc., an Internet research firm that monitors Web traffic, was unable to compile any numbers on visits to the Quills links, saying low traffic was the likely reason.
Even some publishers attending Tuesday night’s ceremony acknowledged not voting, including Alfred A. Knopf head Sonny Mehta, who laughed and said “I didn’t know if I could vote for my own writers.” (He could.)
Ninety-five nominees in 19 categories were chosen by thousands of booksellers and librarians. They were required to meet one of several possible criteria, such as an appearance on the best seller list of Borders Group Inc., or a starred review in Publishers Weekly.
The Quills will be aired on at least 100 NBC stations on Oct. 28.