Despite changes in consumer behavior, book awards remain a powerful tool in the publishing industry—especially for Christian presses. The benefits of winning a book contest today can mean even greater sales for a title, increased visibility, and front-of-mind placement for potential buyers. As a result, more and more Christian houses are submitting their books to religious as well as secular awards programs.
“We strive to introduce new voices to the fiction world by various means, including nominating our titles for national and state awards,” says Karen Steele, senior publicist for Revell.
Two Revell fiction titles, All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner and We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels, recently won Michigan Notable Book awards. The win garnered special recognition for the authors, including a feature story in the Detroit Free Press, and the authors will participate in a tour of Michigan libraries. Michigan Notable Books named 20 titles to the 2020 list from a variety of publishers, with Revell the only Christian publisher.
Bethany House routinely enters its titles into Christian awards programs as well as general, genre-based contests. This includes the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense (won by Bethany authors in 2013, 2014, 2018 in the Inspirational category) and regional programs such as the Midwest Book Award, won by novelist Julie Klassen in 2011 for The Girl in the Gatehouse. In recent years, however, wins have generated a stronger response online, according to Bethany publicist Amy Green.
“With the rise of social media, authors are able to celebrate award wins with readers more widely,” she says. “Where only the highly dedicated super-fans would follow awards in the past, now even casual readers can hear about the latest award winner and update their TBR piles.”
In addition to media coverage and heightened social media engagement, “a win can really make a difference in sales, especially if there’s a particularly good media machine behind it,” Justin Paul Lawrence, senior director of sales and marketing for IVP, tells PW.
IVP won several Christianity Today Book Awards this year, plus two Awards of Merit. Lawrence says awards and resulting media coverage is useful “given the ease of ordering for customers with mobile commerce,” but that contests are just one component of having a successful title.
Ultimately, winning awards for literature has always invited new opportunities while also offering encouragement to those across the entire books business, and those values remain undiminished.
“Every industry has its own award distinctions,” Andrea Doering, editorial director at Revell, tells PW. “When you love what you do and the industry you are in, you want to know that your work is meeting the standards of the industry.”
Cindy Bunch, associate publisher and director of editorial at IVP, notes: “Authors love winning, of course, and it gives us a reason to re-promote the book and remind readers of it.”