Letters: Reality Publishing

To the Editors:

In “Reality Publishing,” [N1BR, January 13, 2009], an article recently posted on the online version of n+1, Darryl Lorenzo Wellington suggests that there is a partnership between the National Book Critics Circle and the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. No such partnership exists. It is true that a former president of the organization, John Freeman, was involved in the contest (as a judge), as is at least one present board member. Other NBCC members may have signed on to help with the culling process. But these are private, remunerated affiliations—the organization has no connection with Amazon’s contest.

Jane Ciabattari
the National Book Critics Circle

The Board of Directors
the National Book Critics Circle

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington replies:

At the time of the contest’s inception, John Freeman was president of the National Book Critics Circle. He was more than simply a contest judge. He was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award spokesperson. He promoted the contest enthusiastically and his name appeared on innumerable promotionals, always accompanied by a reference to his National Book Critics Circle affiliation. The National Books Critics Circle also assisted in soliciting reviewers for the ABNA contest (as I stated in my article) via a list serve message which I assumed was approved by the NBCC executive board. I completely accept Ms. Ciabattari’s assertion that no official relationship existed between the National Book Critics Circle and the contest. I note however that Mr. Freeman’s enthusiastic participation tended to blur the distinction in the minds of the general public. My point wasn’t that the contest had necessarily been endorsed by the National Book Critics Circle—only that the National Book Critics Circle’s name appeared so often that from the perspective of potential contestants there was sufficient reason to feel that was the case.

The Editors:

For the record, we agree that there was no partnership of any sort between the National Book Critics Circle and the Amazon.com contest. The call for reviewers that went over the NBCC list-serve from a member of the NBCC board specifically stated that PW (an official partner in the contest) was searching for reviewers. And John Freeman, though at the time president of the NBCC and advertised as such by Amazon, was not acting as a representative of the NBCC when participating in the contest. The presence of NBCC-affiliated judges seems to have been confusing to a number of people, but this essay should not be read as suggesting that an actual partnership existed between Amazon.com and the NBCC as it did between Amazon and Penguin and Publisher’s Weekly. It did not.

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