J.K. Rowling, Jon Stewart and Stephen King were among the winners Tuesday night of the first annual Quills Awards, people’s choice book prizes better known so far to the industry than to the public.
Rowling, author of the multimillion-selling Harry Potter books, won for book of the year and best children’s chapter book for “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”
“You’ve made a sleep-deprived mother very happy,” Rowling, mother of a baby girl, said in a videotaped acceptance speech.
Other winners included Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Mermaid Chair” for general fiction and David McCullough’s “1776” for history/current events/politics.
Stewart’s “America (The Book)” won for best humor book and for best audio book. Stewart gave a brief monologue at the beginning of the ceremony but, in a comic twist, later was unavailable to accept the prizes, apparently having left.
King and Stewart O’Nan won in the sports category for “Faithful,” their chronicle of the Boston Red Sox’s 2004 season, when the baseball team broke a decades-long jinx and won the World Series.
The Quills include 19 categories, ranging from history and general fiction to sports, cooking and business. In monthlong voting that ended Sept. 19, fans picked their favorites by visiting the Quills Web site, quillsvote.com, and filling out e-ballots.
The winners were revealed at a black-tie ceremony hosted by NBC news anchor Brian Williams and featuring Stewart, Kim Cattrall and Robert Klein. Martha Stewart had been also been expected, but canceled at the last minute, citing a scheduling conflict, Quills officials said. An edited version of the ceremony will air Oct. 22. Fourteen NBC stations have committed to televising it.
The awards, organized by NBC-TV and Reed Business Information, which issues Variety and Publishers Weekly, were started this year as a way of getting the public more interested in book prizes.
Rowling, Jon Stewart and other writers were chosen by a panel of booksellers and librarians and were required to meet one of several possible criteria, such as an appearance on the best seller list of Barnes & Noble or a starred review in Publishers Weekly. There are no cash prizes.
But the Quills can hardly claim a broad mandate with readers. According to comScore Networks Inc., which tracks the Internet, the Quills site attracted so little Web traffic during the voting period, fewer than the threshold of 25,000 unique visits per week, that it can’t even offer an exact number.
Quills founder and chairman Gerry Byrne acknowledged in a recent interview that the new awards were not on “everyone’s fingertips,” but he said he was nonetheless pleased by the response.
“We weren’t expecting a grand slam home run the first time around,” Byrne said. “We wanted a solid line-drive single, and that’s what we got.”