The Whitney Awards finalists have been announced. There are five finalists in seven categories making for a total of 35 finalist spots.
It should come as no surprise that Covenant leads all publishers with a total of 16 finalist spots for 11 of its titles. Covenant also had at least one book nominated in each category except for Best Speculative Fiction. Tied for second place with four finalist spots are Bloomsbury, Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain (some could argue for separating these as Shadow Mountain is DB’s “national” imprint, but I have lumped them together) and Zarahemla Books.
I have expressed a bit of concern in the past about the heavy involvement of Covenant authors in the Whitney Awards. However, I would like to publicly back off from that stance. Covenant publishes the lion’s share of Mormon market fiction. I don’t know what percentage of their books received finalist spots, but it probably isn’t higher than Zarahemla Books — which nabbed finalist spots for two out of three books it published in 2007 (and the only two that were really eligible for awards as the third was a memoir). It only makes sense that Covenant authors would be heavily represented both in the Whitney Awards organization (which I should note includes members who are not affiliated with Covenant) and in the ranks of the finalists.
A few more observations before I list the complete tally:
1. It’s a shame that there’s no literary fiction category. Putting On the Road to Heaven in the Best Historical category seems a bit strange to me. On the other hand, I don’t know if you could really find 5 finalists that would fit in that category. Maybe if you extended it to short story collections. And I guess you could say that the late ’60s/early ’70s time frame of the novel is now historical. As strange as that may seem to many of us.
2. I may be completely wrong, but Mystery/Suspense/Thriller seems like the category with the most potential to grow in terms of number of titles published each year, increase in quality of titles in the category as well as overall sales. And I do think that it is a category that has been on the rise the past 5-10 years.
3. Clearly, Mormon authors continue to do well with national publishers of Young Adult/Children’s and Speculative Fiction.
4. I was a bit surprised that Cedar Fort only ended up with one finalist spot. Perhaps it was a weak year for them — and they always are rather inconsistent from year-to-year when it comes to fiction because of their weird status as a sometimes vanity, sometimes standard press. Perhaps someone with more knowledge of them can explain that all to me. I do know that some of my favorite Mormon novels were published by them. Most notably Leaving Moscow.
5. The Whitney Awards committee deserves major credit for being willing to include self-published titles (Hole Shot Press is basically a self-publishing enterprise).
6. Covenant has a 3 out of 5 shot of winning the Best Novel of the Year award.
7. I’m intrigued by the Gunderson novel — The Lights of Mahonri Moriancumer is a fantastic name for a speculative fiction title.
8. I like this idea of publishing a list of finalists. The AML Awards don’t do that. Of course, oftentimes those awards don’t have strong enough entrants in a category to justify a finalist list, but still. This is the sort of list making that helps those of us who have an interest in the Mormon market, but don’t read a lot of genre fiction, think about the various categories and perhaps take a dip in one of them.
9. Out of all the finalists, I have only read The Well of Ascension and On the Road to Heaven. In addition to the Gunderson novel mentioned above, I’m considering Gale Sears’ Upon the Mountains, Willard Gardner’s The Operative, and Jessica Day George’s Dragon Slippers. And, of course, I have a policy of reading all Zarahemla Books titles so I’ll be reading Hunting Gideon soon.
Here are the totals. The numbers inside the parantheses are how many finalist spots a particular publisher or title had. Titles are not listed in any sort of order except the order in which I was able to discover who published them. Publishers are listed in order of how many finalist spots they nabbed and are separated into three main categories.
Covenant Communications (16): Out of Jerusalem, Vol. 4 (2); Spires of Stone (1); Upon the Mountains (2); The Deep End (1); Grave Secrets (1); Counting Stars (2); The Operative (2); Hazardous Duty (1); Desire of Our Hearts (1); Bullies in the Headlights (1); Beyond the Horizon (2).
Zarahemla Books (4): On the Road to Heaven (3); Hunting Gideon (1).
Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain (4): Rise of the Evening Star, Fablehaven II (1); Sheep’s Clothing (1); The Independence Club (1); First Day (1).
Cedar Fort (1): The Lights of Mahonri Moriancumer (1)
Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books (4): Book of a Thousand Days (1); Dragon Slippers (3).
Little, Brown Young Readers (1): Eclipse (1).
Scholastic Press (1): Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians (1).
Tor Books (1): The Well of Ascension (1).
Putnam Juvenila (1): How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend (1).
Hole Shot Press (distributed by Ingram, Baker, & Taylor) (1): Wet Desert (1).
iUniverse (1): Loyalty’s Web (1).
Full disclosure: I’m not a Whitney Awards voter although I probably could have been if I had really wanted to. And Chris Bigelow sends me Zarahemla Books titles. And the ones he doesn’t send, my mom usually buys for birthday or Christmas.