After I put my novel A Half Life of One up on my companion blog I realised I needed to develop a good promotional gimmick to attract readers to the book.
I came up with the idea of the Blookreader Awards. The twist here was that the award was aimed at readers not writers. Originally I was going to call the scheme The Blooker Prize but a quick search on Google showed that the publisher Lulu had already appropriated the title. It's a fairly obvious pun on the Booker Prize but at the time I thought I might have been able to squeeze some humourous mileage out of it.
I think, as it transpired, the title was my first big mistake.
I announced the launch of the award on this blog (which was barely read at the time) and sent out a number of e-mails about the award to A-listers in the literary firmament. I've mentioned before my absolute dread of being accused by these people of spamming and so I made it pretty clear in the e-mail that I had a vested interest in the prize inasmuch as I hoped to gain some publicity for my own book via the prize. As usual all the A-listers - with the honourable exception of the GOB who entered completely into the spirit of the thing - ignored my e-mails.
In the A-listers defence I think if I'd entitled the prize The Bookreader Awards, say, and sent out a straightforward promotional e-mail they might have taken the thing more seriously. Blooks is a term that simply hasn't caught on and somehow trivialises the idea. If the award is to run next year I would definitely re-brand it in this way to attract their interest. On the other hand, it may be that anything pertaining to e-books is beneath them.
A couple of people did pick up on the idea. First Carla Nayland told some of her friends about it. Then, amazingly, the writer Octavia Randolph also took it up and began to promote it first on her own website and then by vigorously urging others to promote it too. Hence, it's no coincidence that her book figures so prominently amongst the entries.
I have to say, though, that despite these efforts, the numbers of entries was disappointing. I accept entirely the blame for this. Once the A-listers ignored me I kind of lost heart. There were other avenues open which I could have used to promote the book but I just gave up. In particular, I should have contacted everyone who has a book published on the web and encouraged them to get their readers to submit a review. If nothing else they would have garnered some free publicity for themselves. Next time - if there is one - they will be the prime target market.
To be honest, I can't help but think that if someone with real promotional flair and enthusiasm - like the Publishing Contrarian for example - had come up with the idea they could have made it a resounding success. With that in mind, if anyone wants to take it on for the future, feel free to contact me. I'll consider continuing to sponsor the awards financially and in any other way I can to help.
The excercise hasn't been a complete waste of time however. In particular, I was really heartened to receive this e-mail from Cliffdweller, one of the winners:
My Dear Mr. Liversidge,
The motive for your e-book review contest was to cultivate interest in e-novels. I myself am an e-novelist. If you go to http://www.booksunbound.com and tap on “Our Authors” and search under “P” for Panzer, you’ll find “Vampire Seductress,” an erotic love story of the Undead. Attached thereto you’ll find assorted reviews of my novel. I more than identify with your enthusiasm for the e-novel medium.
In keeping with the spirit of your contest, I intend to use my prize money to either buy some CD-Rom copies of my novel to distribute for promotional purposes, or to purchase an advertisement in the U.S. magazine http://gothicbeauty.com
So, if nothing else, in a small way I'm helping at least one fellow writer to fulfil his dream. And that has to be worth doing, doesn't it? Can't wait to read his book either.