Plan Ahead for Awards

Last year, one of my favorite LDS authors was published the end of December. She should have won a Whitney (or at least been a finalist) but no one knew about her book until too late. Now, I'm facing the same issue. My debut novel is scheduled for release in December. I don't know if it will be considered Whitney worthy, but I'd sure like it to have a chance. Any ideas for that?

That happened last year to an author I quite liked. I would have nominated The Dark Divine by Bree Despain for Whitney consideration, but it was released just before Christmas and I didn't find out about it until January. Her second book, The Lost Saint is scheduled for release on December 28th.

Why do publishers do that? I don't get it. It doesn't make marketing sense to me. Maybe they don't want it lost in the glut of pre-Christmas releases, but December releases often gets lost in the post-Christmas/January doldrums. My advice is to save it for the next year.

But whatever.

As an author, you have to work with your publisher and plan ahead. If there's a specific award you're interested in, such as the Whitneys, you have to come up with a placement strategy.

To be considered for a Whitney, you have to have five nominations (minimum) during the calendar year of your release. That means you have to have enough advance readers to ensure that five of them will nominate you.

Of course, you could have your mother and 14 sisters nominate you. Even if it's a bad book and they're the only ones that like it, it will get you on the list for consideration.

However, I recommend judicious use of ARCs and/or ebooks (pdf files). Make a list of LDS readers and book bloggers. Contact your top 20 favs. Let them know that your late release means you may be overlooked for Whitney consideration. Ask them if they'd be willing to read the book and nominate you if they like it. If at least five out of the twenty don't nominate you, then you probably wouldn't have made the final list anyway.

IMHO, asking for nominations and/or online reviews is a good idea for all books, not just end of year releases. Authors, if you do a virtual book tour or give away freebies from your blog, send a note with the book asking the bloggers/winners to nominate you for awards or to leave positive reviews at online bookstores, if they feel you warrant it. If they liked your book, I'm sure most would be willing to help you out—you just need to remind them. Make it easy for them by including a list with URLs of 4 or 5 places you'd like them to nominate or leave reviews.


Emily M. said...

I'm in the process of reading books I plan to nominate for Whitneys, and I'll do a brief blurb about each of them sometime this fall at Segullah in a post about the Whitney nominating process. If anyone wants to send us an ARC, that would be fabulous. (With this caveat: I am kind of picky, and I may not end up reviewing it. I don't do mixed or negative reviews of books--if I would give it below a B+ as a grade, I don't review it. Also it will be included in a group review, not a solo one.)

Email at emilymilner at byu dot net.

Daron D. Fraley said...

LDS Publisher: Thanks for this great post. I immediately went and let my facebook friends know that I would appreciate their consideration.

You are exactly right . . . we all get so busy, and sometimes a gentle reminder is all it takes. Thanks again!

stacy said...

It's also important to remember that authors like Bree Despain publishing on the national market might not be aware of the Whitneys (not saying she specifically wasn't, but first-time authors *might* not be). I wasn't, as an editor, until the year I was a guest editor at LDS Storymakers, and I'm friends with one of the people on the committee.

National-market-wise, publishers often choose late Dec. releases, at least for YA, because they count on teens buying the books themselves with their Christmas gift cards and money. That way, they don't get lost in the holiday book glut--so many HUGE books get released then--and teens have the money.

However, it can backfire on you, because book sales notoriously slump relative to the rest of the year in Feb., no matter whether it's a big year for sales or not.

So, this is good advice for authors, but it's also important to remember that a new author might not be aware of their eligibility for an award like the Whitneys, and New York publishers don't keep an eye on the Whitneys--yet. If the author does tell their national-level publisher about it, you're more likely than not to get your book sent out to whatever committee you need.

I have a feeling this is a place where LDS publishers keep a closer eye on relatively local awards. But the Whitney is also growing, and perhaps in a few years it'll catch a more national-level attention. The committee in general has been really good at being aware of who in the Utah writer community is getting published, but sometimes the random LDS author from another state might not be caught in that net.

Rebecca Talley said...

My next novel, "The Upside of Down" will be officially released in January, but will be printed in 2010. I understand the copyright date of 2010 makes it only eligible for a 2010 Whitney, but it'll be very tough for me to get the word out. Perhaps, it wouldn't be worthy of a Whitney nomination, but I'm not sure it will even have a chance.

Hey, LDSP, wanna read a pdf? :).

Stephanie Black said...

Rebecca, are you sure it will say 2010 on the copyright page? In my books it lists the date of "first printing" as being the release date--not the date when it actually went to press. If your book won't be available until 2011, surely it would be eligible for a 2011 Whitney.