Saturday, September 6, 2008

Is That a Statuette in Your Pants, or Are You Just Trying to Impress Me?

I have two related questions. Is there a point in time when an award becomes too old to mention in a query? I won an EdPress Award for children's fiction in 1996, but perhaps that's ancient history.
This is relative to the award's reknown, difficulty in winning, and influence on sales. Having won a Newbery in the 70's isn't jumping-up-and-down exciting, but it's still interesting. Having won your junior high's highest honor two weeks ago for this very manuscript is so unimportant I can't believe you care.
Question two is similar. Are some award nominations too tiny to mention? I assume state award nominations are noteworthy, but would an editor just guffaw if I listed something like the Cochecho Reader's Award nomination or the Gate City Award nomination?
Yes. Worse than guffawing, I would wonder why you're deliberately including material that I, your reader, have no context for and will not understand. It's like introducing one of your characters as a Flxioxan Green Wvbbl and leaving it at that. Just what the hell is a Van Nuys Rotary Club and why would I care that it loved your book?

So what you should do when determining which accolades to include is to consider (1) how many competitors you were up against in the running for this award (actual number), (2) how many judges there were and how close to the publishing or book-buying world the judges were (children's editors, agents, nationally syndicated book reviewers, and members of the ALA committees get 200 points each; published authors, editors and agents outside of children's books, and locally-important librarians get 100 points each; everyone else gets 5 points), and (3) how many sales the honor resulted in (actual number).

Add those three factors up. If you got a number under 2,000, I probably don't care. If you got a number under 1,000, I definitely don't care.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good post, EA. Thanks for discussing this -- I particularly like your award-relevance algorithm.

(Disclaimer: I work in a different territory to EA [as far as I know], so the situation might be slightly different.)

I wanted to add that a nomination for one prize might be equivalent to a shortlisting for another. But these terms aren't normally interchangeable! For some awards, a nomination merely means that someone was willing to pay the entry fee and do the paperwork . . .

As far as I'm concerned, using this kind of inaccurate terminology in a query letter is much more forgiveable than having written a boring manuscript. However, it can undermine the professionalism of the rest of the letter and give the impression that the author is overselling him/herself.

My advice to query writers? Don't tie yourselves in knots over wording; try to stick to the terms used by the award organisers. And make sure your 'nomination' is meaningful before trying to use it as a selling point. (This goes for publicity as well as submissions.)

-- Another anonymous publishing person

ae said...

EA, you have this way of making me laugh...your headline is hysterical...LOL