When I saw an author talking a couple of weeks ago about having received an email from an author she doesn’t know asking for a nomination for an award, my first thought was that someone, somewhere is giving people bad advice.
Because nobody would do that off her own bat, right? Send an email to a perfect stranger—a fellow author, no less—saying, “please nominate my book for WhateverAward”?
Apparently, someone would. More than one someone.
Am I surprised? Not really. Many authors are understandably desperate to get visibility for their books. You’re spending a bunch of money to attend a conference (say, Malice Domestic or Left Coast Crime), and you want to make the most of it. I get that.
Donna Andrews wrote an excellent in-depth post on the subject of awards etiquette. I agree with most of it (nothing is ever 100%, right?). You should click here to read it, and then come back.
In thinking of awards as a marketing tactic, etiquette is certainly crucial (more on this to follow), but it’s also important to first consider the actual value of these awards.
Will winning an award sell more of your books? Probably not; it depends very much on which award and event or conference we’re talking about. It’ll definitely get more drinks bought for you in the bar following the award ceremony, and so if that’s important to you, by all means, invest plenty of time/energy/money in awards. (That sounds completely sarcastic, but I only mean it to sound a wee bit sarcastic. Bar socializing can often be beneficial, particularly in terms of building relationships.)
Ok, ready for my guidelines? Here goes:
1. Know the Awards
My favorite list of crime fiction awards is at Omnimystery. It includes the year each award was first given and a list of winners. For a website for each, though, you’ll have to invoke your googlepowers.
2. Evaluate the Options
Your book will not qualify for every award. And for those it does, some might be worth your time and energy, while others will not. Be as objective as you can about this—or ask someone who is objective for help.
3. Learn the Rules
Some awards are decided in stages and/or by a committee. Some are voted on by all the attendees of a conference. Most require books to be published in a specific timeframe. Some are only for books in a particular style. It sounds like a duh, but apparently needs to be stated: Don’t waste time on awards for which your book isn’t qualified. If you are compelled to ask a question about the rules or request an exemption from them, do so politely, expect that the answer will be negative, and don’t bitch when it is.
4. Follow the Rules
Again, should be obvious, but apparently needs to be stated.
5. Campaign Correctly
Here, I have a slightly different perspective than Donna, but that makes sense because I’m a marketeer and a reader, not an author. I’ll keep it simple:
- Do Campaign: If you’ve invested the time/energy/cash to figure out that an award would be beneficial for you and said award is open to public or conference attendee voting, by all means DO campaign for it. If you’ve written a great book, just sitting around hoping it wins an award is a fruitless endeavor.
- Don’t Listserv: I don’t see marketing value in listserv discussions (because the audience is tiny), but they might well be helpful to you as an author, and if so, they’re well worth your time and effort. That said, these are not appropriate places to campaign for nominations or votes.
- Don’t Email: That conferences post lists of attendees on their websites bugs me tremendously. But they do. This is not, however, an invitation for you to look up each attendee’s email and send cold “please nominate me” emails. Same with organization membership lists. And emails to people you do know? Also not appropriate.
- Do Facebook: Your Facebook page is absolutely an appropriate place to ask people to consider your book for an award nomination or vote. These folks should even be grateful to know you’re eligible!
- Do Newsletter: If you have a list of folks who have subscribed to your newsletter, including information about awards for which you’re eligible or nominated makes sense. I wouldn’t send a newsletter all about awards, though.
- Don’t Twitter: 140 characters isn’t enough to accomplish anything productive on this front.
Look, I know that if you publish (build) it and don’t tell anyone, nobody’s going to come. I’m all for telling people. Through multiple venues, even. But not every vehicle is appropriate for each message, and not every tactic will help sell your book.
I’ll leave you with three last thoughts:
Awards that are voted on by conference attendees are normally decided by a shockingly small number of people. (I do mean literally; you’d be shocked.) Most attendees don’t vote, and so each vote matters.
Within a relatively short period of time, people will have forgotten who won what. If your life depended on it, could you name the book or author who won an Agatha two years ago? Thought not—neither can I. And authors who go onandonandonandon about winning an award just end up seeming pathetic. Not fantastic for brand-building, that.
Whatever energy you were going to put into getting nominated for an award would be better spent elsewhere. Almost anywhere else, in fact.