When Bad Publicity Shines

Once upon a time it was a great honor to have your book named as a finalist for the National Book Award. Right now, I’m sure more than a few authors are grateful that they weren’t caught in the vortex of embarrassment the National Book Foundation found itself in this week.

If you haven’t heard about the confusion surrounding nominations for SHINE by Lauren Myracle and CHIME by Franny Billingsley, you can read about it in Publisher’s Weekly, Vanity Fair or the Los Angeles Times. When I received the email announcement from the NBF, it included both books. Yes, it seemed odd to have two YA books with similar titles. Yes, I wondered why the category had six nominees instead of the usual five. Yesterday, under pressure from the NBF, Lauren Myracle bowed out of the nomination, after it was revealed that her book had been put forward by mistake.

I don’t know about you, but if it was me, I’d have been devastated. To have the thrill of being nominated followed soon after by the knowledge that your book wasn’t supposed to be there? To have the world publicly debating whether your book deserved the honor? We writers are already neurotic. What a nightmare to have to go through.

Lauren Myracle is used to being in the midst of a firestorm. Her books have been regularly banned and I’m sure she’s used to a certain degree of public scrutiny. But no one should have had to endure the week she’s been through. Despite her disappointment, she handled herself with grace, encouraging the NBF to donate to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

To be perfectly honest, this book was not on my radar. I’d seen her earlier novels, ttyl and the others in that series. But after hearing about the whole debacle over the past week, I’m more than curious about SHINE. And I doubt that I’m the only one. All the publicity surrounding the Foundation’s mistake has pushed this book to the forefront, in a way that simply being nominated for the award could not have done.

Maybe in the end, Lauren Myracle will have the last laugh, showing the world that not only is her book deserving of the title, so is she.

21 thoughts on “When Bad Publicity Shines

  1. Libba Bray wrote a fantastic article about the whole debacle, which I read yesterday. She knows Lauren and gave some of her reaction. (Sorry I don't have the link.)

    However, I think this flub by the NBA will only give Lauren that much more attention and entirely more readers, because now, we're all curious. So bad on the NBA, go Lauren.

    Publicity is publicity. Although, I can't imagine this.

  2. This has been heartbreaking for Lauren, but absolutely: It is her book out of the six that is being talked about, bought, etc. That doesn't in any way compensate for what has happened here. It has hurt Lauren. It has hurt the other authors. And it has hurt those of us who believe in the NBA. I chaired that jury years ago. It is impossible, in my mind, to imagine how this happened.

  3. I did follow that. I think she did the right thing. Would we really want an award that was a mistake? I wouldn't. And I hope the renewed publicity brings her more sales. I did read this book and it was well written.

    I just hope this doesn't take away from CHIME, which I absolutely loved!

  4. Yesterday, under pressure from the NBF, Lauren Myracle bowed out of the nomination, I just can't imagine how awful that was.

    I SO hope she has the last laugh. In fact, I'm thinking I need to put that on my TBR, eventhough it's not the kind of thing I normally read.

  5. Anne: I saw Libba Bray's post and I agree, it was fantastic. Here's the link for anyone who wants to read it: libba-bray.livejournal.com/62266.html

    Beth: You're right that Lauren isn't the only one hurt by what has happened. I hope they put in place some safeguards so that something like this doesn't ever happen again.

    Laura: She did do the right thing, by all means. But I'm glad all the talk has given the book more attention because it sounds like the story itself is deserving.

    Janet: She has taken the high road. And I love that she was able to highlight the Matthew Shepard Foundation as well.

    Karen: I've heard it said that there's no such thing as bad publicity. I think for SHINE that may be true. For the Foundation, I'm not so sure.

    Susan: Like you, I read a lot more SF/F than realistic fiction, but the topic of this novel is one that's important to me. So I'm glad this mixup made me aware of it.

  6. Yes, I was thinking that in spite of the disappointment and embarrassment, she might very well do better in sales than the book actually nominated.

    And I'm sorry. It makes the National Book Foundation look pretty un-classy.

  7. It really sucks what happened, and I think Lauren handled it with such class. She turned a mistake into something productive and beneficial. I'd heard about Shine before, but I haven't read it yet.

  8. I cringe just imagining what that would feel like. Nobody deserves that, and any shame is on the NBF not the author. But I am encouraged that money is being given to the Matthew Shephard Foundation–there is some good coming out of this.

  9. Absolutely love how she handled the situation. I will read her book for that alone, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. As you said, some good has come out of this (attention for her book, and a donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation) so there's a silver lining. I imagine it's a small consolation for Lauren, but she's obviously a class act, so I have no doubt she and her career will continue to (pardon my pun) SHINE in the future.

  10. Kelly: I hope she gets a lot of sales, too. I can't imagine how disappointing this had to be.

    Dianne: It does make the NBF look bad. I'm kind of shocked at the way they handled it.

    Krispy: I'm totally impressed with how she turned it into something beneficial. Truly classy.

    Tricia: I cringe every time I think about it, too. But yes, some good has come out of it thanks to her response.

    Kristan: I think the way she handled the situation has won her a lot of new fans, myself included.

  11. I love the catchy title of your post. I have read a few articles about the embarrassing error made by the NBF & it is my opinion that they should have lived with THEIR gross negligence & not compounded THEIR error by announcing the mistake. This should have been handled differently by the NBF. In contrast, Ms. Myracle handled this horrific situation with the grace and class not shown to her by the NBF. I admit that her book was not even on my radar, but I am dying to read it now. Her sales will go up by one from this reader & most assuredly by an enormous amount of other curious readers. The publicity surrounding the NBF's mistake was enough to make me want to purchase SHINE, but the graceful way that the author handled the situation has me wanting to read more of her work.

    I hope that their mistake pays off in a big way for her. The added sales & publicity resulting from the NBF's error is not however, enough to make up for the pain, anxiety & devastation that the NBF caused Lauren Myracle.

  12. It wasn't on my radar either, but I picked it up at the library today, and another of her books caught my attention. If I like Shine, then I'll be buying her other one (which isn't available at the library). (The book is more for research than anything).

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