This is known as the John W. Campbell Award, and recognizes the accomplishments of new authors in the field of science fiction and fantasy. As any writer who aims for the glory of publication knows, they’ve overcome the biggest obstacle to a writing career—and the readers of SFF look forwards to the output from these young stars in the years to come.
Clarification: As Cheryl Morgan points out at io9, the John W. Campbell Award, while administered by WSFS and voted on in the Hugo ballot, is actually presented on the behalf of Dell Magazines (they publish Asimov’s and Analog).
Note: The schedule slipped by a week or so, thus the nominees for novels are not part of this year’s countdown on Sd. However they will be part of a more in-depth Hugo review series.