6/9/08

Is There a Whitney Bump Yet?

I like the idea of recognizing and rewarding excellence in LDS fiction with the Whitney awards. It's been just over two months since the first awards were given, and I was wondering if you had heard, either through anecdotes or statistics, if the nominees and winners have seen an increase in interest and sales. Just curious.

I hadn't heard, so I contacted Chris Bigelow at Zarahemla Books and asked him your question. Here is his reply.


While Zarahemla Books published the first-ever Whitney Novel of the Year winner, Coke Newell's autobiographical memoir ON THE ROAD TO HEAVEN, you probably shouldn't judge the Whitneys based on our results. As a new, small publisher trying to carve out a more risky
market niche, we don't have much bookstore distribution yet, and many Mormon readers seem to be hesitant about buying books published by an edgy upstart. So far, our total sales on Newell's book are in the mid-hundreds and the measurable Whitney impact has been in the dozens. Even in the bookstore at the Whitney gala dinner, only five out of ten copies of Coke's book sold.

However, Newell and Zarahemla did get some good attention and recognition due to the award, more from bloggers than from the mainstream media. I think giving Newell this award was a good start for the Whitneys to demonstrate that all LDS fiction titles have an equal chance to win. I'm sure the Whitneys will continue to grow in stature and influence, but I don't know if either Zarahemla or the Whitneys did enough post-award promotion, including to the LDS
bookstores. I would love to hear what other Whitney-winning publishers and authors have experienced and how they have followed up on winning the award.

Chris Bigelow
Publisher, Zarahemla Books


I'd also love to hear if other publishers/authors who won a Whitney noticed an increase in sales or recognition after the award. Please post your experiences in the comments section.

6 comments:

Jon Spell said...

I wrote to Robison Wells and told him they should make "Whitney Award Winner" stickers to put on the books, both to hype the winners and to raise awareness of the awards, but he said it wasn't in the budget. =)

I read Counting Stars recently, partly because of the award.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

I'm an avid reader, but I haven't picked up any books because they were Whitney Award winners or nominees. Some of the books I've purchased were on those lists, but that wasn't the reason I picked them up.

I think there definitely needs to be more marketing about the Whitney Awards. I live in Kansas & anyone else I've talked to about LDS fiction and mentioned Whitney Awards, have no clue what they awards are. So there definitely needs to be more awareness as far as the public is concerned.

Josi said...

I'm a Whitney Winner and I watch Deseret Books bestsellers list on a regular basis. Though certainly not a market wide resource for tracking book sales, it gives me an idea of where I stand with one retailer. I noticed a slight jump (ten spots or so) in my ranking the first couple weeks, then it began moving back down to where it had been before 1) DB put it at a discounted price several weeks before the Whitney's and 2) The Whitney hype died down.

The Whitney's did design an image they are going to send to publishers so that publishers can put it on book covers or promotional items. I agree that there should/could have been better post promotion of the Whitneys, and being as I'm on this years commitee we're discussing how to do that better. I wish that retailers and publishers were picking it up and running with it too, however, I think that would help a great deal and it makes a lot of sense since they stand to gain the most from taking advantage of acclaim. I think individual authors have done a great deal for their own books, and the Whitney committee is trying, but $$ is a huge issue since all the coffers come from donations. If you compare it to the Academy awards--does the academy itself do much pre or post promotion or is it the winners, media, and other industry people that take the baton and run? There are definitely kinks to work out, though, and we're working on it.

Heather B. Moore said...

I won the Best Historical category, but won't officially know the sales results until the end of this month. But I know several people who said they were going to read all of the Whitney Winners. Too bad about the stickers. I was told they WERE doing them, so I held off on printing my own (a marketing tool I don't mind paying for). At least now I can go ahead and do something on my own.

Joyce DiPastena said...

My medieval novel, Loyalty's Web, was a finalist in the Romance/Women's category. I can't say that my sales increased as a result of finaling, but my self-published novel did subsequently get picked up by small publisher out of Sandy, UT, Leatherwood Press. It will be reissued with new cover art in early August of this year. We'll see what happens with the sales then.

Anonymous said...

The mid HUNDREDS? Yikes.