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How to Leverage Book Awards

On the heels of winning my fifth book award for The Joy of Writing Journal—the Silver Benjamin Franklin Award—I thought it would be a good time to share how I’ve leveraged awards into book sales and visibility for my programs and services—and how you can, too.

I’d also love to hear your ideas as I look to leverage this latest award, the Ben Franklin Award, in the “gift book” category! Time to crowdsource ideas! But first, let me share what I did—and learned—that can also help you.

Getting Local PR => Book Sales!

2022 Nautilus Book Award

After winning my first two awards, the prestigious Nautilus Book Award and Independent Publisher Award (IPPY), my colleague and friend Howard Van Es suggested I send press releases to local media in Rhode Island. Howard wrote a press release and a script that we could use to follow up with these media contacts.

"born behind bars" book cover

I hired a talented and entrepreneurial high school student, Julius Pieranunzi, to update our media list and contact info, customize and send out the press releases and follow up by phone. This can be much more affordable than hiring a PR company and doesn’t require a vast or ongoing investment. Plus, it gives you more control over follow-up.

As a result of the press release, last August, HeyRhody Magazine and their online featured The Joy of Writing Journal with a large book cover image. They included a write-up along with five other local authors’ books, including Born Behind Bars, a highly celebrated book by award-winning YA/Middle school author and my friend Padma Venkatraman. Here’s the feature: Rhody Reads: Six Selections to Inspire Your Inner Artist.

Rhode Island Monthly reporter and editorial assistant Edelinda Baptista also responded and interviewed me for what was planned as an online article. But it ended up being a full-page (plus) article—featured both in the magazine and online—called Local Author Encourages You to Spark Your Creativity through Journaling. As a subscriber and avid reader of RI Monthly, it was an honor and joy to see this article in print! I bought extra copies to share with those who helped me, and then a few neighbors sent me their copies!

Almost Doubled my Amazon Book Sales

get it done book cover
start right where you are

The Rhode Island Monthly feature almost doubled my Amazon book sales that month, resulting in my first-ever surge of bookstore sales! Barrington Books saw the article and invited me to lead an evening program at their beautiful store. Not only did I get to reach new readers with my passion for journaling and my journaling methods and tips, but I got to see my beloved colleague and friend, the brilliant Sam Bennett, author of several fabulous books for creative entrepreneurs, including Get it Done and Start Right Where You Are, who had recently moved to the East Coast (thank you Sam!) and my dear friend Diana Donahue who had moved back to Rhode Island a few months earlier.

Reach Out to Companies

I’ve shared the PR I’ve received with colleagues, and as we neared the holidays, I realized that the Joy of Writing Journal could be a great gift for companies that work with writers. I wrote to the CEO of one of my favorite PR firms, Zilker Media. I asked if they’d be interested in purchasing copies of the Journal in bulk at a discount, offering to put beautiful awards stickers on the books and sign them with a personal note, leaving room for her to pen a personalized message.

Paige loved the idea; it was a win-win-win for their clients, the PR agency which sent a lovely personalized and relevant gift to their happy clients, and for me! 🙂

While she may have said yes even if it hadn’t won awards, the awards certainly helped add cachet and credibility—perhaps inspiring recipients to make the time to give it a whirl.

You Don’t Always Know Where the Leads Come From

I recently noticed a slight surge in book sales. Where did it come from? I’m not sure, but today Lori, a reader of The Joy of Writing Journal, commented on my Day 1 video featured in the Journal and accessed through a QR code, “What’s with the Lists?”

“I received your Journal from my employer for Employee Mental Health Month and we are participating in a 28-day challenge. I will keep you posted as we go along.”

Now, how cool is that? An employer using the Journal as a gift without my even knowing!

Opportunities to Market Our Books as Gifts and Sell More Books

The Joy of Writing Journal just won its fifth award: the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Benjamin Franklin Book Award in the category of Gift Book.

This got me thinking. I’ve been chiefly marketing to individuals—writers who could use some inspiration for their writing practice, people who want to write or journal but aren’t sure where to start, and people who want to explore their creativity.

But as a gift book, there are other opportunities, right? Could I interest gift catalogs, especially those that assemble gift baskets or boxes? Howard mentioned that there is an entire gift industry out there. How about hospital gift stores? What other opportunities are there?

How My Clients Are Leveraging Their Books and Awards

james zender book cover

Dr. James Zender’s book, Recovering from Your Car Accident, was featured in Broglie Box, where you can order gift boxes that support mental wellness, from self-care to grief to healing.

In addition to traditional PR, many of my clients have won book awards—from the Nautilus Book Awards to the American Business Awards to the Independent Publisher’s Award, Erma Bombeck Award, Stillwater Press, and more. And many have leveraged those awards for further book sales, to supercharge their careers and more.

book cover raising resilient kids

Rhonda Spencer-Hwang, Ph.D., author of Raising Resilient Kids, recently wrote, “I received a promotion to full professor. I know having published a book, and received awards for it, really helped to make my portfolio a standout.” In another email she wrote, “I heard the vote for my promotion was unanimous and they were so impressed I had a book! I had no idea of the power of publishing in this format.”

Rhonda also shared how she felt that her excellent book contributed to receiving a Faculty of the Year award two years in a row. Now she is applying for a Fulbright Fellowship! Best of luck, Rhonda!

Book by book writing program graduate Anne Burnett
Step Ahead of Autism, written by Bring Your Book to Life Program Graduate Anne Burnett

Years ago, after winning a Mom’s Choice Award for Step Ahead of Autism, Anne Burnett reached out to catalogs and even 1-800-flowers to get her book more visibility. Then she got the idea to team up with an autism website. They loved the book and shared it on their site and with their members. Not every idea will bear fruit, but as Anne showed, keep at it and you’ll find success.

When Hilary Crowley won the Nautilus Book Award for The Power of Energy Medicine, she shared with me, “This acknowledgment from winning a Nautilus Book Award gives me a chance to shout out to the world – look at what’s happening in energy healing! Doctors, surgeons, nurses and patients now can see my book and expand the conversation around all the unseen forces that contribute to health and wellness.” 

Let’s Hear from You

Authors, have you marketed your book as a gift? How and to whom? Please share your success stories of marketing your book as a gift and leveraging book awards.

And if you have any ideas or contacts for me, please let me know! I’m grateful for your thoughts, insights and inspiration!

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

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