As an NBA panelist this year, I can tell you what the judging is not about. It's not about settling scores. Not about rewarding career achievement. Not about "side-lining already successful titles." Not about lifting up lesser known authors. In fact, it's not about literary politics or really anything described above: it's about the book at hand. Is it successful? That is, a good story extraordinarily well told? If so, the novel will rise up from the pile of hundreds of submissions, and find its way to the judges' final selections. Indeed, the panelists are so overwhelmed by the volume of reading that who wrote or published the book is far down the list of considerations. We don't much care about the author; but we care greatly for his or her book.
(in reaction to “What Does The National Book Award Stand For? What Should It Stand For?” NPR.org, Oct 14, 2011)