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.
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?