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The relative futility of publicizing book awards

Discusses whether it makes sense to send out news releases publicizing book awards

Many of my clients ask me why I don’t think much of sending out a news release to publicize the fact that their book has been nominated for a book award.

The reason is that I have not seen media respond well to what basically is a marketing fact.  While the nomination, or by golly even to be a gold award winner, in a contest where you pay to be considered and which has dozens of categories might seem like an accomplishment to you, well, to me, it’s a paid sort of endorsement.  

Even if you get a gold medal or award and are the absolute top winner in a contest where it’s truly a national honor to have been independently reviewed and selected, well then maybe media might take note, depending what else you could say that would create a good story for their audience.  

Getting a silver or a bronze, is sort of like coming in second or third place.   So what are media to think when you tell them about it?  Do you ever see sports articles about people who come in second or third place?  Articles are always focused on the top achievers.  Coverage goes to the best, not the second best.

I think the proof is in the pudding when it comes to actually seeing what media do with these types of announcements.  Let’s look at how media uses “book awards” in their actual coverage.

You can do a Google News search on the words “book awards” and study the results to ascertain media coverage of these items.   Sort the results by date then look at the first page.  There are 3 news releases, 2 online only media, 2 university info snippets, and 3 local newspaper articles.  No major media features of note.

If you do the same search only place the words “book awards” in quotes.  You will see similar results and articles that use the words in media like Publishers Weekly, Foreward, and Library Journal, even The New York Sun. 

If you look at the article in the Tallahassee democrat, you’ll see how the media makes use of the award information.

The article titled Tallahassee authors clean up at Florida Book Awards  does laud praise on the winners.   The key thing that I observe is that article focuses on the emotional feelings of the people and explores the human interest and does not focus all that much on the books.   Does this article make you want to grab your credit card or head to the bookstore?

On the next page you can see in the Arizona Central the March 4, 2008 article from the USA Today by Bob Minzesheimer titled World in Oprah’s Classroom.   Note that he writes that Oprah’s Book Club was given a gold award at the National Book Awards back in 1999.   

I also did a Google News search on the words “book award” nomination

Similar slim pickin’s in the results. 

But here’s one worth looking at.  Cape Cod Today wrote an article and brings attention to a book with an award!   There’s even an interview with the author Alexander Theroux The author has received not one but two National Book Award nominations (1981 and 1987), but she laments in the article, “The population of a few small, sleepy dorps on Cape Cod where, by the way, no one knows of my new book. My librarian has not heard of it…”.

I think the bottom line point here is that media coverage of book nominations and even book awards doesn’t come easily and even when it’s acquired, it really doesn’t figure prominantly in the way the articles are written.

Is it worth spending the money to make the announcement?    I wouldn’t recommending it. 

You can add in the marketing facts at the bottom of the news release.  It’s a credential, that helps media feel comfortable that you have a product people will enjoy. 

What I’d rather see authors and publishers do is put their best foot forward and present information that is truly newsworthy and interesting, from either a news, entertainment, or educational standpoint.   Focus on doing what you do best and helping the people you can help the most.

Posted on Thursday, March 6th, 2008 at 3:32 pm In
book publicity, copywriting, news releases, publicity