And the Award Goes to…

Like many people, I’ve been thinking about awards this weekend. A couple of days ago, SFWA announced this year’s Nebula and Norton Award nominees, and as I write this blog post, the Oscars are happening. Not too long ago, the internet was flooded with “Best of 2014” lists, which can be a fragile time for authors. Lots of authors check out those lists when they’re posted in the hopes that our books are among those being recognized — and sadly, we are often disappointed.

I think awards and best-of lists and sometimes even the NY Times Bestseller list are terrific; they’re some of the places I go for book recommendations, and they’re a good way to see what people are reading and what they’re excited about. I’m happy that people even get that excited by books, and it’s always wonderful to see that people are reading and talking about what they’re reading.

By Nathan Sawaya —

By Nathan Sawaya —

But while being listed or nominated for an award — let alone taking home the prize — can be a high point in a writing career, not winning recognition can contribute to the low points. It’s discouraging when your work is seemingly overlooked or ignored. Sometimes you even feel envy: Why is that terrible book getting all the attention instead of my work of genius? you might muse to yourself or Tweet publicly (not advised).

The harsh reality of publishing is that a lot of books are published every year and it’s incredibly difficult to get noticed by readers, reviewers, awards committees. My best advice for getting through awards season and readers’ polls and best-of lists is to remind yourself that “best” is an entirely subjective opinion.

Consider this weekend’s Academy Awards. I don’t know all the winners yet, but I can already tell you that The LEGO Movie was robbed of a nomination for Best Animated Feature. Think about the movies you saw this year and how few of them were nominated for anything. Then think about those that were nominated and what your pick for each award was. Chances are, some of those Oscars went to different films.

There are lots of reasons why one film might do better than another. It had better distribution or advertising. The director had been slighted for his entire career and it was time to recognize his work. The film covered a timely topic that spoke to people in a meaningful way, or the Academy is trying to make some kind of political statement. Or, maybe it really was “the best,” whatever that means.

Just like your sales numbers, you have little control over awards and recognition. Sure, you can spend enormous time and money promoting your work, but the most important thing is to write the best book you can, a book you’re proud to have published, and hope readers find it. Then write the next one.

What do you think about awards and best-of lists? Do they influence your reading? What are some of the unsung books you would like to see win all the awards?


2 Responses to And the Award Goes to…

  1. Alexia Chantel Feb 23 2015 at 10:49 am #

    A good point. Some of my favorite movies received bad reviews from the critics, and I have read many wonderful books that are not widely known. I will occasionally check out books on the best of lists, they are fun and who doesn’t want to check out something that has won an award, but I rely on fellow readers favorite lists to find new reads.

  2. Rowenna Feb 24 2015 at 2:38 pm #

    Like you, I find that awards (especially genre-specific ones) are a great place to pick up titles I may have missed and get recommendations. But “best” is such a subjective concept–so many elements go into a good book or film, and not everyone ranks them the same way, values each element that I value, or sees the same things in each piece of work. And sometimes I don’t even want the “best” kinds of media–there’s a time when it’s great to watch an Oscar-worthy film and other times when, well, I want to watch Attack of the Leech Creatures from Neptune and there really is no award category for that sort of thing!

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