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Sunday, August 23, 2009

For Your Consideration - The Truth About Sydney Taylor Book Award Submissions



I am honored to serve on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. It is a responsibility that I, and my fellow committee members do not take lightly. We are passionate about the books we read and the integrity of our evaluation process. We are fully aware that our voices will be heard and will make a difference in the books selected and purchased in homes, schools, and libraries.

Many authors and publishers may question if their books are appropriate for the Sydney Taylor Book Award and if is worthwhile to send their books for consideration. I’d like to offer some insight about our selection criteria as well as benefits authors and publishers should consider. We offer book awards for younger readers (picture books), older readers(chapter books and Middle grade), and teen readers (Young Adult).

The STBA mission statement is as follows:

The purpose of the Sydney Taylor Book Award is to encourage the publication of outstanding books of Jewish content for children and teens, books that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience.

This is a Jewish book award, so if a book has no Jewish content, it is not going to be a contender. That does not mean book needs to be religious. Books that reflect Jewish values or offer well-developed Jewish characters are generally considered to be Jewish books. We do receive many books that do not fit the basic criteria of our award. Some of have outstanding literary merit, but no Jewish content. Other entries may have Jewish content, but were clearly written for an adult audience and STBA is a children's book award.

If your book seems to meet the criteria of the STBA, there are numerous benefits of submitting your book beyond the potential to receive an award. Each committee has a unique perspective. While a given book may not be chosen as an award winner or placed on a notable list, it does not mean the book is without value. In many cases a committee member falls in love with a book, and will “hand sell” the title to librarians, teacher, parents, and readers. Not every good Jewish book wins an award. But it could be a terrific book that meets the needs of a particular readership. If we are not introduced to a book, we can’t share it.

In the case of the STBA, members' reviews are compiled in a CD that is available for librarians as a selection tool. Many librarians wait for the CD to make their purchases. The opinions of the committee are well respected throughout the US and Canada. Many of us contribute our reviews to Jewish Book World and The Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter, both widely read professional publications. Finally, at our annual convention, the committee presents many titles to a group of 100 plus librarians. We discuss our honest opinions about the books we have read over the course of the year. The audience takes copious notes about the books they want in their collections.

Submitting a book for an award is not just about winning a prize. It’s sharing your work with professionals and allowing your book every opportunity to make its way into the hands of readers.

More information about the Sydney Taylor Book Award can be found at
www.jewishlibraries.org/ajlweb/awards/stba/STBA_AbouttheAward.htm

Many thank to my fellow committee members who generously shared their thoughts with me so I could share them with you!

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