One-Minute Book Reviews

February 24, 2008

Questions and Answers About the 2008 Delete Key Awards for the Year’s Worst Writing in Books

Filed under: Delete Key Awards,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:35 am
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Which authors haven’t used their delete keys enough in the past year?

One-Minute Book Reviews will announce the finalists for the 2008 Delete Key Awards on Friday, Feb. 29. The first book to make the shortlist will be named at about 10 a.m. with other titles released throughout the day. [Note: This is a time change.] The full list of finalists will be posted by 5 p.m. To avoid missing the list, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed. I would appreciate it greatly if you would forward this post to others who might be interested, such as booksellers, librarians and the media.

Questions and Answers About the Delete Key Awards for the Year’s Worst Writing in Books

Why do we need the Delete Key Awards?
When you go bed with a book, you should be able to respect yourself in the morning. Unfortunately, too many publishers don’t realize this.

Who is eligible for a Delete Key Award?
Anybody who has had a book published in hardcover or paperback in the U.S. in 2007, including reprints. Jan Harayda is the sole judge of when a book was published if there’s a conflict between the official publication date, the on-sale date, the date listed on, or the date when she first saw it on a rack in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. A few books published in late 2006 may be grandfathered in if there’s a good reason, such as that Oprah selected them for her book club in 2007. That’s the beauty of the Delete Key Awards. They’re completely arbitrary.

Why are the awards for “the worst writing in books” instead of “the worst books”?
The overall quality of a book involves subjective issues such as taste and judgment. The Delete Key Awards recognize more clear-cut sins. They call attention to such things as clichés, bad grammar or writing at a third-grade level according to the readability statistics on Microsoft Word. The listing for each finalist will give an example of the bad writing in the book and comment on what’s wrong with it.

What kind of bad writing qualifies for an award?
Anything that would make an intelligent reader cringe. The sins that may qualify a passage in a book for a Delete Key Award include clichés, bad grammar, dumbing down, psychobabble, stereotypes, mispunctuation, stilted dialogue, unintentionally comic sex scenes, and overall tastelessness (the “that’s just sick” factor).

What doesn’t count? A writer’s politics. Last year a Democrat, the former New Jersey governor James McGreevey, made the shortlist for his bestselling memoir The Confession. And because so many political books have come out in this presidential election year, a Republican could be a finalist this year.

A writer’s or bad intentions don’t count, either. What matters is what’s on the page. Mitch Albom may be perfectly sincere in wanting all of us to make the most of our time on Earth. But he’s still writing at a third-grade level in For One More Day, according to the readability statistics on Microsoft Word. And that’s partly why he was the first runner-up in last year’s competition.

How do you select the finalists?
At the end of each review on One-Minute Book Reviews, you’ll find the best and worst lines in the book. The finalists usually come from the “worst” lines. But all of the selected examples of bad writing are typical of what you’ll find in the book that made the shortlist. No author became a finalist because of one or two bad lines.

Why are you picking on struggling authors?
First, “struggling authors” is a cliché. Strike it from your vocabulary. Second, I’m not picking on those people. Most of the Delete Key Awards finalists are rich. If they’re not rich, they’re usually influential or representative of a strong trend in publishing.

When will you announce the winners of the Delete Key Awards?
Visitors to One-Minute Book Reviews will be able to comment on the finalists for two weeks, and the winners will be named on March 15. I’m announcing the winners on the Ides of March because Julius Caesar was assassinated then, and at least in spots, these books assassinate the English language.

Why are you announcing the finalists one at a time instead of all at once?
It will provide more entertainment for people who are bored at work. And there are so many bad writers published in the U.S., my site might crash if they all rushed over at once to see if I’d recognized their contributions to literature.

Why are you qualified to pick the winner of the Delete Key Awards?
One-Minute Book Reviews doesn’t accept free books or other promotional materials from editors, publishers, literary agents or authors whose books may be reviewed on the site. So the reviews aren’t affected by the marketing considerations that sometimes affect the decisions of others.

I also received more than 400 books a week during my 11 years as the book editor of The Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper. These included Knitting With Dog Hair, which is still in print. Critics laughed when the book was published. But Knitting With Dog Hair looks like Madame Bovary compared with some of the finalists who were announced in February 2007, when the awards began.

I’m fed up with bad writing in books. How can I support the Delete Key Awards?
First, send a link to this post to people who might like to have it, especially bloggers. Second, visit the site throughout the day on Feb. 29 to see names of new finalists. This could help One-Minute Book Reviews make the list of the “Blogs of the Day” on WordPress, the “rising posts” list on Technorati or other search enginges, so more people will see it.

You haven’t blogged about one of the most controversial books of 2007, If I Did It. Are you going to consider it for a Delete Key Award?
No. I’ve disqualified If I Did It even though it may be the most repulsive book in the history of American publishing. My reason was pretty straightforward: I didn’t want to taint any finalist by association with O.J. Simpson’s “hypothetical” account of the murder of Ronald Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson. To say to an author “you’re in a class with O.J.” – that seemed just cruel. My other reason for disqualifying the book was that I couldn’t stomach the thought of reading it. You can name anything on the forthcoming shortlist, and I’d rather read it than If I Did It.

I have blogged a lot about another controversial book, Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone. But its sins are different from Simpson’s, and I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to do about it. I hope to issue a statement about that soon.

I’ve read a 2007 book that was so bad, you wouldn’t believe it. How can I nominate it for a Delete Key Award?
Oh, I’d believe it. But you can leave nominate a book by leaving a comment on this site or sending an e-mail to the address on the “Contact” page on this site. If you send e-mail, please mention the awards in the subject heading.

Thanks so much for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. It was created by Janice Harayda, an award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor and critic for The Plain Dealer and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle. She would like to expand this site to include podcasts, Webcasts and other services and is looking for a home for it that would make this possible.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.


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