The National Book Awards will add non-writers to its judging panels this year, and will release 10-book longlists for each of its four categories before narrowing it down to five finalists.
An independent study by consultant Chris Lederer of AlixPartners found that making the changes to the selection process would "broaden the reach and impact" of the awards, given annually for the best American Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People's Literature published that year.
The five-judge panels will now include experts in the literary field such as librarians, critics and booksellers.
Harold Augenbraum, who has organized the panels for the last nine years, told TheWrap that such professionals were included as judges throughout the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
"We don't know when the change to become all writers happened," he said in an interview with TheWrap.
He said that, while he has tried to select a diverse group of writers each year to choose the finalists, broadening the pool of judges may breed more dark horse winners.
By breaking up the list of finalists into two rounds, first with the longlist, then with five finalists, Augenbraum said the foundation hopes to recognize more titles.
Like an Oscar nomination, a National Book Award nomination often adds value to a title and will be included as a selling point when marketing future print runs.
“Every year many worthy titles don’t make it all the way to becoming finalists," Morgan Entrekin, the foundation's vice chairman of the board and the publisher and CEO of Grove Atlantic, said in a statement. "The longlist will allow us to recognize more good books and broaden the conversation."
The foundation will announce the longlist on Sept. 12, five weeks before the finalists are named on Oct. 15. Winners will be announced on Nov. 20. The National Book Foundation announced the action on Tuesday.
The changes to the selection process means the National Book Award --one of the most prestigious literary prizes in the United States -- will emulate procedures for the Man Booker Prize, awarded annually to fiction from the U.K. or its former colonies.
The Booker's panel of judges, appointed by a commission at the Booker Prize Foundation, is made up of an array of critics, writers, academics and other public figures. The foundation also releases a longlist of 12 titles, which is halved weeks later to six on the shortlist.