Deb: Winners

If genies granted wishes for books, we’d first ask for quality.  Right behind we’d want readers, and for that you need buzz.

In today’s mega-marketing culture, most buzz comes from money dumped on celeb authors or books that don’t need it.  But there’s a back door to buzz:  book clubs and awards.

Book clubs pack a double wallop.  Readers pick up titles they might otherwise miss, swapping insights and ideas with other bibliophiles.  Writers get buzz – a little here, a little there, all adding up to more readership.  Check our sidebar, and you’ll find five great titles we’re pondering for our next 49 Writers online book club discussion:  Blonde Indian by Ernestine Hayes; The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife by Joan Kane; A Land Gone Lonesome by Dan O’Neill; Rock, Water, Wild by Nancy Lord; and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon.  Vote for your favorite (one vote per reader) before Sunday, January 24 at 5 p.m.  We’ll announce the winner next week, with online discussion to follow March 1 and 2.

Awards generate backdoor buzz, too.  Sure, awards get political, but there are always some backdoor surprises.  Yesterday the ALA announced the big boy awards for children’s and YA books.  I’ve been on a YAWriters listserv for years, one that allows only 100 members, and guess what?  Three of yesterday’s winners came from our list:  Libba Bray won the Prinz for Going Bovine, Rebecca Stead won the Newberry for When You Reach Me, and Tanya Stone won the Sibert for Almost Astronauts.   (Move over, big boys – it’s the big girls this year.) 

Coincidence?  I think not.  Success means you network.  You engage.  You seize opportunities.  Listserving won’t make a bad novel good.  Online connections don’t drive awards.  But connecting does raise a standard, ease frustrations, and motivate achievement.  We hope, in a small way, we’re doing some of that for writers of the North here at 49 Writers.

Andromeda has posted before on formalizing buzz for great books of the North with awards.  Gary Luke at Sasquatch officially bequeathed us the now-defunct Chinook Prize to award as we will.  But there’s another avenue for generating award buzz for our books:  the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association (PNBA)awards.  In 1965 the PNBA began honoring excellence in writing by authors and/or illustrators residing within the PNBA region (Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Montana, Idaho and British Columbia.  Northwest booksellers nominate books by October 31 of each year.  Maybe we should encourage Alaska booksellers to nominate titles.  Or maybe we need an award of our own.  Because backdoor buzz gets books read.

7 thoughts on “Deb: Winners”

  1. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    Thanks for bringing up that old idea, Deb. Maybe the easiest way to promote this is by seeing which local booksellers, if any, are sending nominations to the PNBA award, to see if there is any way we can encourage more participation with that. The goal is just to make sure quality Alaska-authored books aren't forgotten each year. (Any booksellers listening?)

  2. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    I looked at the PNBA link you provided, Deb, and see no Alaska books on the 2010 shortlist (which doesn't mean they weren't among the 200 titles nominated — but who knows?) I just sent an email to PNBA directly, asking them if there is any way we can get a peek into the process, including whether AK booksellers are participating. We'll see if we get a response!

  3. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    My last comment. REALLY! A little detective work and we have this list:
    This shows the AK booksellers who are members of the PNBA. Oddly enough, Title Wave isn't one of them. But we have: 13 others,including Gullivers in Fairbanks, Homer Bookstore, Parnassus in Ketchikan, Hearthside in Juneau, Fireside (of course!) in Palmer, Skagway News Depot. Now the trick is to contact them (and the others) and see if they actively nominate…

    Anyone out there looking for a project?

  4. Since all but one on the list (Riverside Books in Soldotna) have e-mail addresses listed it would be pretty easy to send an e-mail asking if they have ever nominated books for PNBA awards; and if so, how often do they do that (rarely, occasionally, frequently)?

    Another method would be for people in each area who read this blog and may know the book store owners to call and ask them individually, then report back. That might actually be more effective in terms of encouraging booksellers to do so, if there are enough people interested in doing it. I can call Fireside Books in Palmer and Pandemonium in Wasilla (didn't see them on the list as members).

    Anyone else think this is a worthy project and have a preferred method?

  5. I like both ideas, Ann. We could run an email from 49 Writers, maybe a little later in the year, with a link to the nomination form. Local calls/personal contacts would add weight to the request for nominations, plus add insight into why some booksellers opt not to join PNBA (politics?). Also, PNBA says they'll take nominations from the general public.

  6. That sounds like a plan! I like the idea of adding the link to the nomination forms. Put the word out when the time is right and I'll make those calls.

    Another thought — tying into the post about Title Wave, with comments about book clubs and getting some communication going between book clubs in Alaska — would be to send an email to book clubs in the state (once a list somehow got organized), inviting them to submit nominations or just letting them know they can. I could also suggest it to librarians, through the Alaska Library Association.

  7. Soliciting book club info for a mailing list sounds like an excellent idea on several fronts. I'm going to some thinking/research on how these issues converge and run a post, hopefully next week. Would love to tap your AKLA connections once we figure something out…

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