What happens when you win a Benjamin Franklin Award? Unbelievable things? Maybe. How many? How valuable? Well, it is my belief that the recipients largely determine the answers.
For Lisa Kay Hauser (this year’s winner for Popular Fiction; a co-author of Turn Back Time), and for her husband, Richard Hauser, it was the nudge needed to make a decision. She announced to the applauding awards-ceremony audience, “I’m going to go home, quit my job with the school district, and write full-time!”
Today her trips to schools are to do storytime for little kids and creative writing sessions for older ones. She’s gearing up for the winter release of a new Young Adult novel, Secrets of Rebel Cave, featuring youngsters from Turn Back Time. In the new book, 16-year-old Dulcie Delaney and her brother, Jackie, age 12, visit cousins in Tennessee. There the pair team up with four other youths to explore Rebel Cave to see if they can prove Confederate soldiers hid out there; what they find is proof, plus much more. Not far behind the release of Secrets of Rebel Cave will be the debut of a sequel to TBT. Lisa’s also enjoying speaking at book fairs and festivals and doing signings. So winning a Ben Franklin is certainly personally affirming–but it’s much, much more.
Well-planned and immediate follow-up can provide the book, its author, and the company a powerful publishing triple-whammy.
Prepare for the Best
Shortly after Lisa Kay Hauser–delighted, excited, and nervous–climbed the steps to accept the trophy, she hurried from the platform and into the foyer of the Hilton. There, pacing the floor, she used her cell phone to call me, her co-author, publisher, and not least Dad, to share the good news. Another purpose of the call was to start the wheels turning to make the prize a potent tool for reaching distributors, wholesalers, book marketers, media, and the book-buying public.
How do you make the most of winning? Number one, be prepared–have your game plan designed and materials ready. Number two, be thorough–ferret out every possibility and doggedly pursue each.
The moment you learn your book is a finalist, gear up for the victory. Chances with Ben Franklins are one in three you’ll win. To wait until the trophy is in your hands is to greatly diminish its worth.
Have a news release ready to fax right after the ceremony. Have a media kit prepared, preferably with a quality photo. One taken the night of the presentation is ideal. Since I couldn’t be in Chicago, we used a photo of us in our Turn Back Time Depression-era gear with miners’ caps, carbide lights, etc. Our lunch buckets and the bibs of our overalls featured book covers.
Where do you send media packets? With our book marketer, Sharon Castlen of Integrated Book Marketing, our team covered the places where we co-authors were born, places we’ve lived, where Lisa started school, areas in which I’ve spoken in schools, our current hometowns, and the publisher’s Northwest locale. We even got coverage where our next book, Secrets of Rebel Cave, will debut soon.
Alerting the Trade and Library Markets
The above activities were geared to stimulate public awareness about the book, with secondary impact on bookstores and libraries. However, additional activities focused primarily on these other two groups.
The day after the award ceremony, Turn Back Time, along with other Benjamin Franklin Award winners, went on display in PMA’s exhibit at BookExpo America. Then the winning books were displayed at the American Library Association’s convention in San Francisco.
I immediately ordered 3,000 gold-medallion stickers from PMA that proclaim the book to be a BFA winner. I also ordered 1,000 for our book marketer. Every copy of the book going out now has a sticker. So do packages, letterheads, flyers, and advertising pieces. We’ll use camera-ready art from PMA on future printings of covers and literature.
At book signings, I display the book on a vertical dump. To add pizzazz, we feature the award on an eye-catching poster with a row of the gold medallions highlighting it. Now we’ve added one with the kind words of the Benjamin Franklin Award judges. What a credibility builder! Nothing equals words of praise from people respected in the field. These quotes are finding their way into flyers, posters, media releases, etc.
Results Worth Rejoicing Over
Have these efforts made a difference with wholesalers and bookstores? Certainly! Quality Books Inc.–the largest company selling exclusively to libraries–now carries Turn Back Time. They didn’t pick it up when the book was first offered. But then they saw it at PMA University, watched Turn Back Time win at the Benjamin Franklin Awards ceremony, and said, “We want that book!” They even hand-carried it so the book could be included in the display at their booth at the American Library Association Conference in San Francisco. With their encouragement, we supplied customized flyers for that event.
Crossings Book Club (one of the Doubleday clubs that recently merged with Book-of-the-Month to become BookSpan) had been sent a full media kit and galley early on. When they got the word that Turn Back Time had won the Ben Franklin, the report was again reviewed. We got a “Yes,” with the offer being made to the club members for this year’s holiday-buying season. This doubles as a great promotion opportunity since Crossings will offer it to club members a minimum of four times–each time reaching more than 700,000 members.
We notified existing wholesalers of the award with a resulting increase in inventory. Also, we’ve added regional wholesalers as a result of the BFA. And more bookstores want signings. A major plus is that sales at personal appearances have increased significantly.
Now we look ahead. Turn Back Time will be featured in an issue of The Readers Edge, a customer magazine distributed nationally through bookstores. Also, the book is under serious consideration for a Library Journal column on first fiction.
In addition, George Foster, the cover designer for Secrets of Rebel Cave, helped us capitalize on the award. Under our names on the front cover are: “Authors of Turn Back Time,” then “2001 Benjamin Franklin Award for Popular Fiction.” This copy strengthens the credibility of the new book while continuing to sell Turn Back Time. So the BFA provides dual marketing value. When the novel’s sequel comes out next spring, it will tout the award again, adding credibility to a new book while boosting Turn Back Time sales.
Bottom line: The Benjamin Franklin Award (and others), judiciously used, sell books!
Philip Dale Smith, Publisher/Owner of Golden Anchor Press, is an author and co-author of children’s picture books. He and his daughter, Lisa Kay Hauser, have two series of novels under way. A past winner of “The World Championship of Public Speaking,” conducted annually by Toastmasters International, Smith conducts parenting seminars nationally and does opening and closing keynotes for conventions