Super quickly, this is how it'll work:
1) 100 or so Big Name Authors automatically entered
2) Everybody else self-nominates (indie authorship fine, & assumed to make up the bulk of entrants)
3) Entrants also act as slushpile readers: everyone who self-nominates is committed to reading & rating three books (& their own eligibility depends on delivering those ratings, except in the case of the BNAs)
4) Books are assigned randomly (& I think anonymously), & each book gets read twice
5) Certain administrative & audit procedures (waves hands arcanely)
6) The ratings generate a shortlist
7) Perhaps a panel of great judges picks the winner from the shortlist
9) Interesting to see whether / which of the Big Name Authors flourish
10) The glory of the award comes because of its wide participation, BTW, not its huge purse
So lots of implementation nitty-gritty necessary, but that's the outline anyway.
No time to actually try to make this happen now! Or to give a detailed rationale. But putting it out there. Maybe one day? What do you think?
Would it gain traction? Would the shortlist be way too long? Is three books the right number? (Remember, we need some spare capacity to read those 100 or so BNAs. Maybe there should just be 10 BNAs). What's the risk that people just rate their two assigned books without actually reading them? (Perhaps the rating system involves five drop-down categories, three of which pertain to whether the book makes the shortlist, and the other two have a sort of checksum-esque function: qualities that people who have read the book are much more likely to agree on than people who haven't; if there's no match the slushpile judges don't automatically lose their eligibility, but the book does get reassigned to a third reader, and then its rating will be the mean (or hell, maybe the square? Should we do squares?) of the two rating sets that most closely resemble each other). What kind of systemic biases are we likely to encounter? (Could there be an algorithmic counterweighting to existing visibility biases?) What do we call it? Should the statue be the sploodgy head of a racist or not? What would actually be involved in step (6) -- just "the highest wins," or might we get a more interesting shortlist if we allow really divisive books? Is there a risk everyone rates really low, because they think they might stand a better chance of winning? Are there nudges & prompts we can use to minimize the "wasted" reading of books whose authors vanish into the ether & never deliver their own ratings? Could we use a credit system instead so you could read lots & lots in one year & be eligible for several years? Could there be an iterative, weighted aspect to it e.g. if an author who has historically tended to rate low suddenly rates something really high one year, it "counts" for more than if they were consistently positive about everything? Should the entry criterion be say "slushpile judge c.200,000 words each" rather than "slushpile judge three books each"? Should we get rid of that word "slushpile" because it has the wrong connotations? Would it be a better / more interestingly risky idea to have prizes not for "best book" but "[probably complimentary but ambiguous adjective] book"? What about other categories of prizes that are a bit more like the Oscars, and/or start to edge into crowdsourced literary criticism, e.g. "Best Character," "Best Twist," "Best Relationship Between Two Characters," "Best Non-Romantic Non-Nemesis Relationship Between Two Characters," "Best Cinematography," "Best Subversion of Well-Known Trope," "Best Non-Subversion of Well-Known Trope," "Most Cri," "Best Book With Really Objectionable Politics That Is Somehow Really Good Anyway," "Best Moral Complexity," "Best Texture Impervious to Commodification," "Spookiest Scene," "Good Sex Awards," "Best Page," "Actual LOL," "Best Attempt to Decisively Destroy Some Trope or Subgenre That Will Probably Just Revivify It," etc.? Who would be good to partner with -- maybe an established award like the Clarke or the Kitschies, as an extra category? Or maybe some kind of indie authorship hub? Or a con that isn't yet associated with an award? Could there somehow be a cash prize? What are we all going to wear?