Each year we wonder what
really happens after someone wins a Benjamin Franklin Award and/or any other
award. How does the award affect the overall publishing program for the winner?
Now we’ve asked our previous award
winners to respond to these questions, and I hope you find the answers as
enlightening as we did.
Andrew Hudson, Photo Tour Books, San Diego, CA
As you may know, I am very honored
and proud to have garnered several Benjamin Franklin awards: Best First Book,
1998; Best Travel Guide Finalist, 1999; Best Publisher’s Website, 1999; Best
Coffee-Table/Gift Book, 2001; Best Art/Music/Photography Book Finalist, 2001.
I mention the awards in all
communications. I list them on the company brochure, Web site, business card
(on the back), introductory letter, in each book, and on the catalog to promote
each new book. The books that won awards have the award prominently promoted on
the front or back cover. I am particularly proud of the “best first book” award
and mention that at every opportunity.
The awards did not produce
significant sales, but I didn’t expect them to. They did increase my confidence
and industry stature as an “award-winning” publisher. Whenever I give
presentations, I mention the Benjamin Franklin Awards and people are always
One of the great and unique
features of the Benjamin Franklin Awards is that you get written and detailed
feedback from the judges. No other awards program that I know of does this. I
have found the feedback to be most enlightening and helpful. I entered for an
award my tenth book, A
Photo Tour of Orange County, which I considered to be my best
work to date. I was disappointed to get a low score, and I was shocked at the
criticism by one of the judges. But I came to appreciate the comments and agree
with them, and I am currently working on a second edition that specifically
addresses all the judge’s concerns. I believe that the book will be a lot
better—and hopefully the sales will be a lot better—as a direct
result of the feedback from the judges of the Benjamin Franklin Awards.
Carl Sommer, President, Advance Publishing, Houston, TX
As a small publisher of children’s
books, we found winning the Benjamin Franklin Award a very rewarding
experience. We have constantly used this award in promoting our books; we have
used the award stickers and placed them on the books. We now have 20
character-building picture books and have sold over 200,000 copies. Our books have
been translated into Arabic and Chinese and have also won the Teachers’ Choice
Award, iParenting Award, Mom’s Choice Award, and the <span
Magazine Book of the Year Award.
Winning an award gives publishers
credibility. Our primary markets are school and public libraries, and
credibility is extremely important.
Our mission is to teach children
values; however, there are those who believe children should be the sole
determiners of their value system. Our book <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>The Ugly Caterpillar, which won the
Benjamin Franklin Award, received the lowest possible rating from <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Horn Book Review
because of its didactic content.
One can imagine how valuable
awards are, particularly when some forces in the literary world are opposed to
what you believe. Thanks, PMA, for having an awards program.
John Thompson, Illumination Arts, Bellevue, WA
We won two BFs in 2003, Best New
Voice for The Whoosh
of Gadoosh and Best Children’s Book for <span
In addition to buying the
· Joined in the <span
Award winner announcement.
· Wrote press releases announcing
that each of our four 2002 titles won gold awards in 2003.
· Announced the awards at least
twice each in all succeeding catalogs.
It is very difficult to figure out
what, if any, sales come as a result of the awards. This will not stop us from
continuing to submit, since each submission assures us that at a minimum
several industry insiders will see our beautiful book and immerse themselves in
it deeply enough to vote responsibly.
Jane Comins, Hyperion, New York, NY
We display the sticker on the
book. Sales were already strong; rights were already sold. We feature the award
and book with sticker in our reception area so potential authors see it. When
we think it will be helpful, we mention it in the wooing (acquisitions)
Dave Marx, PassPorter Travel, Ann Arbor, MI
Our 2003 award (Travel Guide
1–2 Color Interior, for <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>PassPorter Walt Disney World 2003)
wasn’t our first Benjamin Franklin. The first edition of that same title won
the Bill Fisher Award (Best First Book by a New Publisher) in 2000. So, the
2003 award had an additive impact on our existing awards-based promotional
activities. All told, our books have garnered nine noteworthy awards and
honors, and we’re sure that this factoid adds some extra weight to our
reputation and image.
Our award-winning status is
mentioned in most of our consumer, press, and trade marketing materials. Our
press and marketing kits include a separate sheet dedicated to awards. We
display our awards at our trade-show booth, and we highlight them in our
trade-show catalogs. A facsimile of the gold Benjamin Franklin seal appears on
the front cover of every edition of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>PassPorter Walt Disney World, and the
silver Ben Franklin seal will grace the cover of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>PassPorter’s Field Guide to the Disney Cruise Line and
Its Ports of Call following its Finalist finish in 2005.
Our books have received awards and
honors from PMA, ForeWord
Publisher magazine, and the Society of American Travel Writers,
as well as an ABA Book Sense pick. Like some beer labels, our back covers carry
miniature copies of many of those gold and silver seals, encircling the text
“Winner of __ national book awards.” The casual reader won’t know what all
those awards represent, but we hope it looks impressive.
Anything short of the Pulitzer or
National Book Award isn’t likely to trigger a buying decision by the average
consumer or to receive a mention in the consumer press, so we concentrate our
award-related publicity efforts within the trade. We slip “award-winning” into
our catalog copy (and most marketing materials). We send individual emails to
trade buyers and our distribution partners in advance of BEA, covering news
(such as award nominations and new titles) and basic catalog information. Their
emailed responses have shown that they do take notice of the awards, and these
are the individuals whose decisions have the biggest impact on our sales.
While winning an award is an
excellent excuse for issuing a press release, we haven’t gotten a significant
response when we’ve issued press releases announcing awards and/or nominations.
No doubt the added “data point” helps raise awareness of our press, but in our
case the expense of a separate press-release mailing doesn’t seem to be worth a
bit of consciousness-raising. Instead, we include mention of recent honors in
the body of other releases and materials.
We do trumpet the awards
prominently at Book Expo America. Our booth sports a poster dedicated our
awards, and we have several trophies on display. We also produce a poster for
each of our titles, and if a title has a current award/nomination, that fact is
prominently mentioned on its poster. We always participate in the back-of-hall
autographing sessions at BEA, and if we’re autographing a current award-winner,
we make an award placard for our autographing table too.
Back to consumer-focused
promotion: we do have a very busy Web site and a 20,000-plus subscriber
biweekly email newsletter. We prefer to share “real” news with our readers so
they don’t get turned off by unnecessary hype, and an award like the Benjamin
Franklin is quite solid news. I’m sure awards help boost our readers’
confidence in recommending our books to their friends and relatives.
Sales results are hard to
quantify. Folks in the trade (especially buyers at the chains and wholesalers)
have been favorably impressed when we share awards news with them, but does it
function as a validation of existing buying decisions, or is it an inducement
to increase purchase commitments? That’s very hard to tell.
Perhaps the awards’ most valuable
consequence is that they’ve helped open doors for us within PMA and the wider
publishing community. Whether we’re trying to add marketing channels or are in
need of a bit of sage advice, the Benjamin Franklins have been a very helpful
calling card. There seems to be a real difference between being just another
independent publisher and being a Ben Franklin winner.
The awards also help with our
self-esteem. When you’re off in a little basement office struggling with the
day-to-day frustrations and challenges of the business, a healthy dose of
positive reinforcement can go a very long way.
As a matter of fact, we
inadvertently shared a table at the 2000 Benjamin Franklin Awards presentation
with several PMA board members. We didn’t know anybody back then (or that we
were noshing with board members), but we chatted and shared our excitement at
the possibility of winning. When Howard Fisher announced that we had won the
Bill Fisher Award, our entire table erupted in cheers. Boy, did that feel good!
Even better, the experience forged relationships that have been incredibly
valuable for us to this day.
OK, so I take it back! The
Benjamin Franklins have had major monetary value for us. If you ever get
nominated, be sure to attend PMA-U and the awards presentation, and network
your butts off. You never know what will happen next!
Thanks for the opportunity to
Ellen Reid, Smarketing LLC, Los Angeles, CA
Louise Gaylord winning first place
in the 2003 Benjamin Franklin Awards for Best Mystery Fiction has given us a
great opportunity for enhanced marketing and publicity.
· Our publicist put the award
information in all her press releases and press kits.
· We put the award stickers on all
the books at Biblio and on every book at our warehouses across the country.
· We put the information on all our
marketing materials and Web sites.
· When Louise’s second book in the <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Allie Armington Mystery
Series came out, we put award information on the inside of the
book on a page called “Also by Louise Gaylord,” which referred to the Benjamin
Franklin Award, and we also put it in all our press materials, blasted it out
to our email lists, and made it prominent on all the Louise Gaylord and Little
Moose Press dot-coms.
Since we are distributed by
Biblio, we can’t track sales resulting from any publicity efforts, but we do
know people are talking about “the award-winning <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Allie Armington Mystery Series by Louise
Gaylord,” and we are gaining brand recognition for her.
We have been invited to have
Louise do book signings and appear on radio.
Nancy Field, Dog-Eared Publications, Middleton, WI
To publicize the fact that we had
won a Benjamin Franklin Award, we initiated the largest public relations
campaign ever conducted by our company. We hired a professional publicist to
write a great press release. We did an email, fax, and mail release to
thousands of magazine and newspaper editors in the categories of children,
parenting, nature, and the environment. We mailed marketing materials promoting
the award to our existing list, plus organizations and educators involved with
the ocean, sharks, and conservation.
The response rate was about 1
percent. Sales could have been better, but we did make a few very large sales
to conservation organizations, including an overseas shark group. In our case,
sales for a new title seem to build over several years. The award gave us
additional momentum. It helps to retain and expand the credibility of the company
and provides an ongoing opportunity to let people know we create excellent
nature books for children. There is lasting value in having the world know that
Dog-Eared Publications is an award-winning company. How do you measure the
value of enhanced reputation?
Bill Dyer, Quantum Leap Resources, Greensboro, NC
As a professional speaker, I focus
on using my book as a credibility factor, as well as on selling books at the
back of the room after speeches and seminars to generate additional income.
Without a doubt, the Ben Franklin
Award has added a lot of credibility to my message and title. I mention the
award when I send out any correspondence or do any marketing whatsoever.
“Award-Winning Author” gets people’s attention.
Also, I made a sale of 300 books
to the corporate market, which booked a few speeches as well, and I believe the
Ben Franklin Award had something to do with that business.
The gold-foil sticker makes a
difference as well, particularly at the back of the room, which is where people
tend to make their buying decisions. The sticker confirms what is mentioned
when I’m introduced—that I’m the author of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>When Life Blows You Down, which won a
2004 Ben Franklin Award. Sales at the back of the room average 35 to 40 percent
of the audience, which is a very, very good percentage in my business.
My title saw a spike of orders
from Ingram in the few months following the award, although I didn’t do any
specific marketing to make that happen. Also, Baker & Taylor called me to
make sure I was registered with them, which I was not at the time. Since
registering, I have been receiving around five orders a month from B&T.
Since I haven’t spent any time or money on marketing to the trade, the activity
is solely due to the award and its credibility in the industry.
Annette Childs, Wandering Feather Press, Incline Village, NV
I publicized my award in my
advertising and marketing everywhere I could. The recognition was immediate,
and it definitely helped my sales and still does to this day. Because I am a
single-title publisher and have an exceedingly small budget, my “advertising”
has been primarily grass roots and word of mouth.
I have sold over 7,000 books in
the last two years, with the majority of these sales having been hand to hand.
The Benjamin Franklin label is a definite eye-catcher to buyers and gives
instant credibility to my book.
Julie Valin, Dawn Publications, Nevada City, CA
We include this award news in our
quarterly marketing e-newsletter that goes out to our reps, key accounts, key
reviewers and family magazines, libraries, educational reviewers, current
customers with email, and potential customers—a total of around 2,000
recipients. Plus, we add that the book won the award in our catalog (we print
35,000/year) and on our Web site.
We’ve had numerous customers
(booksellers and school/library distributors) tell us that they will always
look at/carry books with award stickers, and so will their customers.
A certain humongous book club is
interested in doing another test run of <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Sunshine On My Shoulders now that it has
won the award and has the beautiful gold sticker affixed to it.
Kenny Kemp, Alta Films & Press, Salt Lake City, UT
As the winner of the Grand Prize
in the 2000 Writers
Digest National Self-Published Book Awards for my book <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Dad Was a Carpenter,
I know the value of competitions. Some competitions.
All in all, my books have won
about a dozen awards in the Benjamin Franklin, Independent Publishers, American
Library Association, and other publishing and writing contests. I believe the
award seals may help a prospective buyer decide that a book by an unknown
author probably merits consideration, but I have no statistics to back up that
Frankly, only the <span
award really had an impact on the book and myself. Within days of the cover
story in the magazine, I had dozens of agents, editors, and publishers contact
me, lauding my book and wanting to do business with me. I hired the agent who
impressed me the most, and two weeks later we signed a six-figure deal with
HarperCollins for a reprint of my little memoir about my dad.
All well and good. But this does
not (and cannot) happen to everyone. Since that time, I have won numerous other
awards for subsequent books, but no one has come knocking again. Even though I
have been involved in a multibook deal with Harper, I’ve continued to
self-publish because I had projects I felt I could create and promote best on
The book business is getting
tougher with each passing year. POD means that most anyone with a thousand
dollars can get a couple hundred copies of their book in print. Getting it into
retail outlets is another thing, but if you do, you still have to compete with
famous authors, mainline press marketing juggernauts, and the incredible odds
However, I can’t help but believe
that if someone looks at my latest book, <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>The Carpenter of Galilee, not having
heard of it or its author before, and they see a couple of award stickers on
it, then this might be persuasive. They might take a chance. Ka-ching!
Beyond that, I can’t say. I just
know that whenever I publish a book, I turn over every stone I can find as I
seek ways to promote it. And I also know that whatever the competition entry
fee, it is well worth it in the long run, at least to the ego of the writer and
publisher (often one and the same).
When I think how far the $100 I
spent to enter Dad
Was a Carpenter in two categories instead of just one in the <span
book awards, well, it was simply the best money I ever spent.
Eric Drachmann, Kidwick Books, Los Angeles, CA
While I’ve learned that, as a
small publisher, you need 100 big breaks, not just one, it’s always exciting
when you land one that has an obvious effect. Immediately after winning the
Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Children’s Book & Audiobook for my first
book, Leo the
Lightning Bug, I was approached by a distributor and a large
vendor—before I left the room. The cap may have been loosened by all my
previous attempts to woo them, but winning the award that night finally opened
the jar. I cite that award all the time, so it’s hard to say how many other
caps it’s loosened for me.
Winning a Benjamin Franklin Award,
and even just being nominated, does something for a small publisher beyond the
obvious and financial. It gives you a sense that you belong, and that, all by
itself, can loosen a lot of caps!
Lisa Kay Hauser, Golden Anchor Press, Bowling Green, KY
With the help of our book
marketer, Sharon Castlen, at Integrated Book Marketing, we:
· Prepared press releases in advance
so they were ready to go out the morning after the awards ceremony. They were
faxed to the newspaper offices in all the major markets within 100 miles of the
co-authors’ hometowns. At least five prominent newspaper write-ups came from
those press releases. Several additional book signings came directly as a
result of those write-ups.
· Used the Ben Franklin Award
stickers on the books, which called attention to them in the fall regional
bookseller shows, where we displayed titles, and at some shows where we also
· Captured additional attention as
books continued to go out to the media for reviews, articles, and features.
· Used the award stickers on the
book flyers that we sent to bookstores to alert them to the availability of the
award-winning title when we had media in their area, and when the authors were
touring and speaking in their area.
· Included the words “Ben Franklin
Award Winner” in all copy for marketing through PMA for bookstores and
· Used the same “Ben Franklin Award
Winner” line for our distributor’s catalog copy.
· Added the words “award-winning
author” to the bios of each co-author.
There was so much promotion going
on with this title that it is hard to say exactly what dollars-and-cents impact
the award had on sales, but we certainly know that it opened doors with
talk-show hosts, bookstore owners, and reporters.
Being able to add “award-winning
author” to our bios lends credibility and desirability to all our other work
too. The award-winning book was the first historical fiction from Golden Anchor
Press (earlier titles were children’s picture books), and the award put us on
the map as first-time fiction authors and most certainly helped create stronger
sales for the sequel to the first title.
An important element is immediacy!
Using the stickers and adding the “award-winning” status right away resulted in
an additional media launch for a book that had been published the previous
Even now—several years
later—every press release, postcard, and notice that goes out under the
Golden Anchor Press banner says “award-winner authors,” and, for this
particular title, includes the sticker.
This has create a certain
receptivity. The entire body of our work is looked at with more interest as a
result of the three Ben Franklin Awards that we have won. And we couldn’t be
Merilyn Wakefield, mwynhad, Ashland, OR
To publicize the award, I sent
press releases to all relevant print media, purchased the stickers to place on
the book cover for display, and mentioned the award in all discussions of the
I do not think significant sales
resulted from the award, which was for design. Nevertheless, it was very
important in terms of the prestige and recognition of the press. A well-known
local newspaper that rarely mentions small-press books mentioned our book and
ran a picture of the cover in an article. My credibility as a publisher felt
more firmly established, and the path was easier for the next two books we
published; the next novel got a review in that same newspaper.
Small-press marketing isn’t all
about promoting a single title; gaining credibility and name recognition for
the whole press, especially in the difficult world of literary fiction, is
important. The world may forget the details of which book won an award for
what, but the prestige of a Benjamin Franklin Award for anything sticks to the
The Past as Prologue
We got many, many more responses
similar in tone to those above, and I thank you all for answering my email query.
After reading through all the reports, I felt that one of the most important
results of winning an award is being recognized by one’s peers for excellence
and having one’s belief in one’s chosen career affirmed.
When the awards were initiated,
their main purpose was helping publishers improve their titles. Reviewing the
books that came through our doors over the past 10 years, we can see enormous
improvement. And, hopefully, the books will continue to improve because of
comments each year by more than 150 volunteer judges, who are all potential
buyers and/or reviewers of our members’ books.