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.
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.