Tuesday morning, June 4, started just like any other at our office. We charged through our e-mail, checked the fax and voice-mail messages, put out the outgoing mail, and checked the production schedule. When the typical foot-high stack of Monday mail arrived, our office manager Stephanie Rosencrans started sorting. Then she opened a large flat envelope and exclaimed, “Fabulous!” Marina Snow’s novel, The Walking Wounded, had won the “Best First Novel Award” from BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Association).
Little did we realize that there were six more book awards in the mail that day!
Why submit your book for a national award–one that your title may only have a snowball’s chance of winning? Well, what better way is there to get your novel into the hands of the book industry’s movers and shakers? Judges for the National Book Award include leading editors and writers. Jurors for other awards include booksellers, editors, regional reviewers, designers, typographers, marketing gurus, and specialists in various subjects.
Types of Awards
There are awards for design (interior and cover), content, marketing, subject matter, production values, and even indexing. You can research awards using–among other things–LiteraryMarket Place, Writer’s Market, www.google.com (to see whether a particular association or type of association offers an award), and http://www.bookwire.com/bookwire/otherbooks/Book-Awards.html. If you’re the author, be sure to check all the organizations you belong to–you might be surprised at the awards you discover. If you’re the publisher, review your author’s questionnaire for a list of memberships.
With or without membership, it is possible to win awards from hundreds of organizations, including the Dog Writers Association of America, the Cat Writers Association, the Organization of American Historians, the International Association of Printing House Craftsmen and, of course, PMA.
What to Do When You Win
Get the word out immediately.
Be sure to notify your exclusive distributor or wholesaler network, and your top store, library, and special sales accounts.
Send a press release to the local media–radio and TV too, not just the newspapers. Make sure you know which of your local and regional media have national news connections (Gannett, The New York Times, network affiliates, etc.).
A simple announcement can work fine for your sales and distribution network–your buyers at Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Partners/West, and BookPeople, for instance. They’ll know just what to do with the information. But be sure to create a strong release, complete with snappy headline, for the media. Make it quotable, excerptable, and basically “stealable.” We love it when one of our press releases appears verbatim under someone else’s byline; it means we can use it in our critical acclaim sheets, or perhaps on the cover of the reprint.
If the award is from a small or regional organization, association, or publication, call and find out what promotion they’re doing to spread the word. At the least, you can get a copy of their newsletter with the awards mention. Perhaps you can piggyback further efforts too. And even if you haven’t won yet, but your book is a finalist, you can promote that while you’re awaiting word on the ultimate results. Some organizations offer “Finalist” stickers.
When an award comes with a beautiful sticker, as PMA’s Ben Franklin awards and the Before Columbus Award do, you can use these on the book covers, reproduce them on flyers, and add them to posters and tent cards for display at trade shows. Some smaller awards don’t have stickers available, but you can create your own. (Be sure to get permission from the awarding organization before duplicating their logo, of course.) Your printer can affix book stickers for you, or you can do this yourself. Or consider incorporating a banner or lead line into the cover of the reprint.
Always be sure to send a thank-you note to the staff of the awarding organization. Handling submissions, jurying, publicity, and the awards ceremony all add up to a big job.
[subhead] What If There’s an Awards Ceremony?
Write your mini-speech notes ahead of time. Be sure to thank everyone you can: the awarding organization, the author (if it’s not you, of course!), the editor, the designer, the publisher, the typesetter, the printer, Mom, your spouse, your cat, and your marketing director can all be included here. Be prepared–even if you don’t think your book has a chance of winning.
Some awards givers will provide you with copies of the jurors’ notes on your book, whether you win or not. These notes can be both fascinating and confounding. Since jurors may be first-time authors, readers with no particular expertise in publishing, marvelous typographers and designers, or nationally known authors and marketers, you might find clear, cogent feedback on your title, your typography, and your cover design–or you might merely learn one individual’s personal response to your book’s content. We’ve noticed that more and more experienced jurors expect the cover and the title page of a book to match; and we’ve learned that a clear title and subtitle–one focused on the market, and not too long, please–can go a long way.
As a result of a regional award this year, one of our fiction authors is now negotiating a premium sale with his state’s travel bureau for 1,000 to 10,000 copies (on a nonreturnable basis). They found out about the award from fax and e-mail press releases we sent out. From the same outreach, we’ve also received subsidiary rights interest in Spanish and Arabic language translations and in audio rights. We use our in-house list of contacts and supplement it with Paul Krupin’s Imediafax (
Although this is just one example, I offer it to show why we believe that submitting books for awards, and promoting both finalists and award winners, should be part of your overall marketing and promotion plan.
Cynthia Frank, President of QED Press, Cypress House, and Lost Coast Press has 20 years experience in writing, publishing, editing, and teaching. Cypress House is a full-service book production and promotion company as well as a royalty house that has won national and international awards and grants. So far this year, its award count is up to 10.