“Best Of” Lists

“best of” lists

lists that proclaim your book to be the “best of” something

Who puts out “best of” lists?

Bloggers, associations, review journals, libraries, websites. A review journal might include your book on its “Best of 20__” list, or a blog might declare that yours is one of their “Highly Anticipated Books of April,” or a blogger might call your book one the “Best Books with Alien Makeovers.” These lists are designed to keep you feeling alternately inadequate and overrated; prepare yourself by reading this post on envy.

When should I expect these lists?

There are two kinds of “best of” lists: the kind that come out at the end of the year as a look back at the books published that year, and the kind that look ahead to books that are about to be published.

Expect end-of-year “best of” lists to start mostly in November, with some popping up as early as October, and expect them to wane around January. However, expect some of these lists come out, like, a year later!

As for the looking-ahead lists, keep in mind that these lists are usually made after the lister has read your ARC.  So if your book isn’t coming out in the early months of the year, it’s not going to be included on lists like “Books We Are Most Anticipating Next Year,” but it doesn’t mean no one is anticipating your book. Instead, lists closer to your publication date might include your book under the heading “Best Books Coming Out This Summer” or whatever. Likewise, if your book came out in Jan/Feb/March and was prematurely declared a “Best Book of the Coming Year,” brace yourself for the idea that lists at the end of the year might focus more heavily on books with later publication dates instead of on your lovely book.

 

How can I get my book on a “best of” list?

Make sure it’s the best? Haha, just kidding. You probably already know that I’m going to tell you that lists like these are subjective, and therefore it’s totally out of your control as to whether your book appears on one. Sometimes I think books get on these lists just because they appeared on one list to start with and the idea sort of snowballed from there. Unless we’re talking about your book–I’m certain that your book got on a list like this because it truly is the best of… something.

How do I know if my book got on a “best of” list?

You could scour social media for mention of these lists and go see if your book is on them. Just kidding! That’s the worst idea. If you have to scour, your book is probably not on the list.

You can hope that your editor/agent/publicist will find out and forward the info to you. Likewise, you can hope that someone on social media will notice that your book is on a list and will tag you.

Orrrrrr you can make your own best-of list, include your book on it, post it on your bathroom mirror, and forget about whether your book has the somewhat arbitrary elements that list-makers are looking for.

 

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Awards

awards

shiny recognition for your book

How do I make sure my book is considered for awards?

Your publisher should submit your book for awards. But you might want to do some research to find out which awards your book is eligible for and double-check that your publisher has submitted your book for consideration. Some awards are given based on genre, subject matter, or even by the state or region the author lives in. Your publisher probably will NOT submit your book for awards that require an entrance fee; you will need to do that yourself if you want to apply for those awards.

Which awards can MG/YA books win?

There are so many! Here are the most well-known awards (although it’s difficult for a debut novel to win most of these, except the Morris):

(William C.) Morris Award

Given by: YALSA

Criteria: Given to a debut author writing for teens, who has never published any kind of book before, and whose debut is compelling, high quality, and has teen appeal. Eligible formats include any genre including short stories, poetry, graphic novels but not anthologies. Only books published between November 1 of the previous year and October 31 of the current year are considered (so if your book comes out after Oct 31, you have to wait until next year’s Morris Awards to be considered).

Selection: 1 Winner and up to 4 Honors will be chosen by a committee of 9 YALSA members.

Suggestions: Anyone can suggest a title for the award here.

Timeline: A shortlist of up to five titles will be announced before the second Monday of December. The title receiving at least two thirds of the majority vote during committee meeting at Midwinter will be declared the winner. Awards are presented during ALA’s Midwinter Youth Media Awards.

Link: ALA’s page about the Morris Award.

(John) Newbery Award

Given by: American Library Association

Criteria: Given to a distinguished book for children based on literary quality, not popularity. Eligible formats include fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Selection: 1 Winner and up to 5 Honors are chosen by a committee of 15 members.

Suggestions: Members of ALSC can suggest titles for the award, but nominations must be seconded by the committee, and nominations remain confidential.

Timeline: Winner/Honors are chosen during a committee meeting at ALA Midwinter and  are called on Monday morning during ALA Midwinter. Awards are presented during a banquet at ALA Annual.

Link: ALA’s page for the Newbery Award.

(Andre) Norton Award

Given by: SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America)

Criteria: Given to a YA or MG book that falls somewhere within the realm of science fiction or fantasy.

Selection: 1 Winner is chosen. Members of SFWA nominate up to six candidates; a jury may then add one to three more candidates to the list. Active members of SFWA then choose one title to receive the award.

Suggestions: Only SFWA members can nominate titles. Neither you nor your publisher can nominate your book. However, your publisher can send review copies to the jury in the hopes that the jury will decide to add your book to the nomination list.

Timeline: Nominations for the award are announced online in the February after the publication year of the nominated books. The winner is announced at the Nebula Award ceremony in May.

Link: SFWA’s page about the Norton Award.

(Michael L.) Printz Award

Given by: YALSA, sponsored by Booklist

Criteria: Given to a YA novel that displays “literary excellence.” Eligible formats include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, anthology.

Selection: 1 Winner and 4 Honors are chosen by a committee of 9 members

Suggestions: Anyone use the ALA website to suggest titles to the award committee, but these will not necessary be nominated, and the Printz nominations are confidential. Publishers, authors, agents, or editors are not allowed to suggest their own titles.

Timeline: Winner/Honors are chosen during a committee meeting at ALA Midwinter and  are called on Monday morning during ALA Midwinter. Awards are presented during a banquet at ALA.

Link: YALSA’s page about the Printz Award.

Reviews

(trade) reviews

reviews of your book, published in trade magazines

When will trade magazines review my book?

Your publisher will submit review copies of your book to trade magazines, and you can expect reviews to appear online a few months before or after your book is published. Some magazines won’t end up reviewing your book at all because they are too obtuse to appreciate your lovely efforts–try not to take it personally, especially since there are so many MG/YA books published these days and review journals can’t read them all.

What is a starred review?

A starred review is a positive review of your book with a star or other mark placed next to it to distinguish your book as meriting special attention. Generally, the editor of the magazine, or a team of people at the magazine, will decide which reviews will be starred. Sometimes it’s a mystery why they choose to star one review over another–you might get a glowing review from a magazine and be surprised to find it isn’t starred. Starred reviews can help boost your visibility and even increase your sales; they can also help get you considered for awards or other lists.

Which trade magazines might review my book?

Here are the main culprits:

1. BCCB (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

Geared toward: librarians, teachers, parents.

Star looks like: an asterisk next to an “R” near the top of your review.

Link: Accessible online through Project Muse.

2. Booklist

Geared toward: librarians (published by the American Library Association).

Star looks like: a “B” (for Booklist)

Notes: Unlike reviews from other publications, Booklist reviews can be difficult to access online without a subscription.

Link: Booklist’s website.

3. The Horn Book Guide

Geared toward: book people (I don’t know)

Star looks like: a black star

Note: The guide is published twice a year and reviews virtually every hardcover book for young readers. The Horn Book magazine is published more frequently but only includes select reviews. Unlike reviews from other publications, Horn Book reviews can be difficult to access online without a subscription.

Link: The Horn Book’s website.

4. Kirkus

Warning: Known for its particularly cutting reviews.

Geared toward: industry folks.

Star looks like: a blue star in a circle

Prize: Any book that receives a starred review from Kirkus is automatically nominated for the Kirkus prize. (Three judges will choose two YA titles and two MG titles from the given year to be finalists for the Younger Readers category; finalists are announced on September 20th. One winner from the overall category is selected to receive $50,000; the winner is announced on November 3rd.)

Note: Kirkus generally mentions the race of a book’s main characters in its reviews, not always accurately.

Link: Kirkus’ website.

5. Publishers Weekly

Geared toward: publishers, booksellers, and librarians.

Star looks like: a red star.

Note: If PW chooses to highlight your book on their website as a “PW PicK,” a red checkmark will appear next to the review, and your book’s review will also feature at the bottom of PW’s weekly newsletter.

Link: Publishers Weekly website.

6. School Library Journal

Geared toward: school and public librarians.

Star looks like: a red star.

Link: School Library Journal’s website.

7. VOYA

Geared toward: librarians.

Star looks like: VOYA doesn’t technically star their reviews. They give a book 1-5 points based on quality (noted with a Q), and 1-5 points based on how popular they think the book will be with young readers (noted with a P). If your book received either 5Q or 5P, you can generally refer to the review as a “starred review,” as you would with starred reviews from other magazines.

Note: A VOYA review of your book will consist of a review by a librarian as well as one by a teen.

 

Help! I got a bad review!

Don’t worry–that particular review is certainly incorrect. See if you can pull a positive phrase from it for your website? Otherwise, don’t mention it online and hardly anyone will notice. And plenty of librarians will still buy your book when they read about its fascinating topic and disregard the subjective opinion of the reviewer.

Junior Library Guild

Junior Library Guild

a service that helps libraries build up their book collections

Who uses Junior Library Guild?

JLG is like a subscription program for libraries: they send libraries curated books throughout the year and also offer back-list (not-recently-published) books at discount prices. So, having your book chosen by JLG can boost your sales.

How can my book be selected for JLG?

JLG reviews thousands of books a year and chooses the books it thinks will get good reviews and be nominated for awards. Your publisher will submit your book to JLG for review. If your book is selected for JLG’s program, you’ll receive a fancy certificate in the mail. Yay, you!

When will I know if my book is selected by JLG?

About six months before your book’s publication date.

Link to JLG’s website

Indies Introduce/Indie Next

(ABA’s) Indies Introduce/Indie Next

two lists showcasing books that independent booksellers want to promote

Who uses the Indies Introduce and Indies Next lists?

Independent booksellers may choose to highlight the books on these lists in their stores. Participating independent booksellers can get special terms from publishers on these books. ABA’s website also provides downloadable “shelf-talkers,” paper tags placed with books on bookstore shelves that tell customers why they might want to buy that book. If your book is chosen for one of these lists, your sales might go up, and your publisher might give your book more promo.

How does a book get chosen for Indies Introduce?

A panel of booksellers chooses ten debut books to put on the list. These are books they think are compelling and will sell well. The Indies Introduce list comes out twice a year, with ten books on each list, according to the books’ release dates (winter/spring and summer/fall).

How does a book get chosen for Indie Next?

Books are chosen for this list based on bookseller recommendations–they are books that independent booksellers enjoy handselling to readers. Dozens of titles are featured each season (winter, autumn, summer spring), including both debut books and books by established authors.

When do these two lists appear online?

The Indies Introduce winter/spring list goes online in September, before the books go on sale. The Indies Introduce summer/fall list goes online in April, before the books go on sale. The preview of the Indie Next lists go online the month before the date of each list (eg the February list goes up in January so that booksellers can preview it before February).

 

Link to Indie Next List.

Link to ABA’s website.

BFYA

(YALSA’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults

a list of titles recommended for young adults, meant to help librarians with collection development

Who uses the BFYA list?

Librarians and library workers use it to inform their decisions about which books to acquire for their library’s collection. Being on the list can (possibly) boost your book’s sales and buzz.

How is the BFYA list compiled?

Anyone can nominate a title for the list using YALSA’s site (anyone!). But a nomination must be seconded by a member of the BFYA committee (otherwise the title is dropped from consideration). (Seconded) nominations are posted on YALSA’s website periodically. At the ALA Midwinter Meeting, the BFYA committee votes on which titles should make the final list; a title must receive at least nine votes from the committee of fifteen. The final list is then annotated and posted on YALSA’s website, as well as published in the Spring edition of Booklist.

Blurbs

blurbs

quotes from writers praising your book, used for promotional purposes

How are blurbs used?

Your publisher will want to put blurbs on your book jacket. The blurb will say something like, “This book is better than cat emojis!” — Coolbeans Writerface. Blurbs are also shared online; you can use them on your website and post them on social media. Many people claim that blurbs do not help books sell unless they are from a majorly famous writer. But blurbs can help create buzz within your publishing house so that your team is more excited to sell your book. And blurbs can help booksellers understand how to sell your book (“I should sell this book to customers who like books by Coolbeans Writerface.”)

How I do get blurbs for my book?

Sometimes your editor will reach out to writers (or their agents and editors) to ask for blurbs for your book. Sometimes your editor will ask you to reach out to writers yourself. The first thing you need to do is brainstorm a list of writers from whom you would like to get a blurb. These are writers who have written books similar to yours in tone, genre, topic, etc. Include writers on your list who are super successful and probably too busy to blurb you (in case your luck is running high) and writers who are well-regarded but have yet to hit it big (in case they might be more willing to take time the time to read and blurb for you). You or your editor will email these writers asking if they are available to blurb your book and telling them the timeframe within which you need the blurb. If they agree to at least read an early copy of your book, they will probably do so with the understanding that if they don’t end up having time to blurb it (which is sometimes a polite way of saying they didn’t like your book after all) they won’t end up blurbing it.

When do I get blurbs for my book?

As soon as ARCs/galleys (early copies of your book) are available, you’ll want to send them out to possible blurbers. Sometimes your editor will want to send out a copy of your manuscript even earlier than this in order to get blurbs for your ARC, but this seems rare.