Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Whitney Fever

by Stephanie Black

Yep, I’m going to blog about the Whitney Awards. It’s Whitney Week! It’s also Jeff Savage Keeps a Secret Week, but I can’t blog about that because I don’t know the secret . . . though I have my suspicions.

I’m excited about the Whitneys, and not because I’m paid to be excited. Yeah, I’m on the Awards Committee, but sadly, President Robison E. Wells (despite massive personal wealth, including a valuable collection of Choose Your Own Adventure novels and a George Clooney bobble-head doll he inherited from Miss Snark when she dropped out of sight) does not deign to give us salaries for our labors.

I’m excited about the Whitneys because this awards program is a super-cool thing for authors, readers and the LDS market as a whole, and as we blend our enthusiasm and hard work in a unified--oh, never mind all that blather; I'm excited because I'm indulging in dreams of maybe, someday taking home a Whitney trophy. Can't happen anytime soon, though--first of all, I don't have a new release this year, and even if I did, Awards Committee members aren't eligible for awards. And even when I do have an eligible release, it will probably come out the same year as Jeff Savage's newest mystery, in which case I won't have a prayer of winning. But I can dream, can't I?

Anyway, trophy or no trophy, here are a few reasons why I'm still excited for the Whitneys:

*The Whitneys can generate excitement and publicity for LDS fiction. We want the whole LDS market to snap, crackle and pop with interest over these awards. Word of mouth is vital to the success of books, and if the Whitneys get more people talking about and reading works by LDS authors, we all benefit. Wouldn’t it be great to have bookstore employees buzzing about potential Whitney nominees and encouraging customers to nominate books? Wouldn’t it be awesome to have people blogging about their favorite picks, or reviewers saying, “Julie Bellon’s latest release will definitely be a front-runner for this year’s Whitneys”? The more people talk about new releases, the more people will read them. The more people who read them, the more sales that word of mouth will generate. The more sales, the more books publishers can support and the more the market grows.

*The Whitneys honor and encourage excellence in fiction. Sometimes superb books have terrific sales numbers. Sometimes superb books have low sales numbers, for a variety of reasons. Without the sales to support it, an excellent book can fade into obscurity. The Whitneys can help give an undiscovered gem of a novel a boost. It only takes five nominations for a book to become an official nominee, at which point the book will be evaluated by the Awards Committee. We don’t care how many copies a book sold, or who wrote it or how well-known the author is—we only care how good the book is. And if one of those undiscovered gems wins a Whitney, the “Whitney Award winner” sticker on the cover of the book will become a signal to bookstore browsers that this book is awesome. We want that Whitney sticker to be the LDS market equivalent of the Newbery Medal—a sign to readers that this book was deemed excellent, above the crowd, worth your while.

We also have an award category specifically for new authors. It’s not easy to start out as an unknown and get readers to drop twelve or fifteen dollars in a bookstore on the chance that they’ll like a book written by an author whose name they’ve never heard. But what if that book has a sticker on the cover declaring it a Whitney Award Winner—Best Novel by a New Author? We want that sticker to catch a potential reader’s eye and give the career of a new author a boost.

*The Whitneys aim to honor a wide variety of LDS fiction. We have five genre categories, as follows:

Romance/Women’s Fiction
Speculative Fiction
YA/ Children’s Literature

We also have two overall winner categories:

Novel of the Year
Best Novel by a New Author

So, if you think these awards are a good thing for the market, help us get the buzz buzzing. Announce the Whitneys on your website or blog and provide a link so readers can go nominate books. Tell your friends! Tell your family! Tell your book club or critique group! If you’re an author with a new release, encourage your readers to nominate your book. Don’t be shy!

The Whitney Awards have fantastic potential, but they’ll only be as big as we make them. So head over to the Whitney site now and nominate a book. Then tell a friend!


At 6/20/2007 6:21 PM, Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve said...

Milton and Shakespeare are famous for poetry and plays. Why aren't there categories for them? Something to think about for next year, maybe. :)

At 6/20/2007 10:02 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Good observation! :) But for now, I think the Whitneys will remain focused on novels (with apologies to poets and playwrights).

At 6/21/2007 11:20 AM, Anonymous rob wells said...

Currently we have no plans for expanding past fiction books. I would doubt we'd see it in the next couple of years, although I wouldn't ever rule it out completely.

At 6/21/2007 2:25 PM, Blogger Jon said...

Maybe you could get some mini-Whitney awards from the same place you're getting the officials ones. You know, distribute them to the committee members, use them as contest prizes, paperweights, or whatever!

Also, I knew a hot cheerleader named Whitney in high school, so I'm very pro-Whitney! Rah rah rah!

At 6/23/2007 2:01 AM, Blogger Elodia Strain said...

Wow! I'm all pumped up now! Your enthusiasm has rubbed off on me. Thanks for your comment on my blog, by the way. Thought I'd sneak my thanks into this comment!


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