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.
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.