When the name of the Bony Blithe winner was announced on the evening of Wednesday, May 29, the person whose name is on the stunning shadow box trophy wasn’t the only winner. Everybody who loves the traditional mystery genre – publishers, authors, nominees, book sellers and readers — will all benefit in some way from this new award program.
By shining a national spotlight on a sometimes overlooked, underestimated and underrated genre, the Bony Blithe awards remind publishers that there is a growing market for this kind of gentle crime novel and hopefully, publishers will be encouraged to publish even more of them, giving new, emerging authors the opportunity to see their years of dreams and hard work turned into books.
The award gives all authors who write in this genre something to aspire to. Mainstream mystery awards tend to recognize the darker, deeper thriller or suspense types of books, leaving writers of traditional mysteries out in the cold. (Or mist, rain and fog, depending on where their book is set.) The United States has the Agatha Award and the Bony Blithe is its worthy Canadian cousin. Now, we have a wonderful award all our own, and we’re ready to share it with the world.
For the Bony Blithe nominees, that old cliché of “it’s an honour just to have been nominated,” really is true. I was surprised and absolutely thrilled to learn A Small Hill to Die On had made the Bony Blithe short list. I’m in very good company! My book, the fourth in the Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales, was published in October, 2012, so the nomination announcement in March breathed new life into promotional opportunities for the book and me. Being nominated for an award is great PR. It enhances your reputation as an author and adds credibility to your backlist. Not to mention how much your editor and publisher like having a national award nominee on their list of authors.
Beyond the obvious benefits to being nominated, there are more subtle ones. Being nominated for a major writing award, as chosen by a panel of peers, sends an author a very positive reinforcing message. It tells him or her that a group of accomplished, discerning people who are may also be authors but are definitely readers, like the work. They see something of value in it – whether it’s skilful story telling, strong, evocative writing or maybe it’s simply that the author has come up with an entertaining, enjoyable read. The judges are sending a powerful message. “We like what you’re doing. You’re on the right track. You are doing what you are meant to do. We want more. Keep going.”
An award like the Bony Blithe, presented at a special occasion gala, gives the friends and families of the nominated authors a chance to support their favourite writer as they celebrate his or her special achievement. Families and friends, after all, are the ones who put up with the moaning and whining about deadlines and dilemmas, sometimes surprise us with a much appreciated cup of coffee or glass of wine when we need it most and least expect it, and who share our joy when the writing life is going well and support us when it isn’t. They step back and leave us alone to give us the time we need to write and are often our first readers, offering suggestions and feedback on how we can improve our work in progress. So a nomination for an award like the Bony Blithe is really cause for celebration for the whole circle that surrounds the writer.
Book sellers love awards programs because the publicity helps them sell more books.
And finally, readers benefit from awards programs because they bring at least one or two new authors to the front of the room that some may not have heard of.
And even if you come in second in a contest or competition, you can still do all right out of it. Best selling Canadian authors Louise Penny and Alan Bradley didn’t win the Debut Dagger Award, but second place worked for them.
So from all of us nominees, a huge thank you to Caro Soles and her team for creating, organizing and promoting the Bony Blithe Award.
And a huge thank you to the judges Caro Soles, Elaine Freedman and Madeleine Harris-Callway for choosing me as the winner of the 2013 Bloody Words Light Mystery Award.