Monday, February 23, 2015

Do Awards Boost Anything Except Egos?

My editor, the fabulous Terri Bischoff here at Midnight Ink, recently published a blog article in which she wondered out loud if winning an award—be it the Agatha, Lefty, or Edgar—meant anything to readers or to the future sales of an author.

It’s a valid question. We all bemoan poorly written manuscripts that manage to become New York Times bestsellers. I’ve yet to see a positive correlation between number of awards won and number of copies sold. So, other than hoping for an ego boost, why even bother?
The answer, for me, became clear last Sunday night when my first book, Murder Strikes a Pose, won the Maxwell Award for Fiction. Most of you have probably never heard of the Maxwell awards. In the mystery world, they are barely a blip on the radar. But in another writing community—people who write about dogs—the Maxwell Awards are important. They are the Academy Awards, if you will, of the dog writing community.

If you’ve read my work, you know that I’m dog crazy, and that a 100-pound German shepherd plays a prominent role in my series. Still, I’m a crime writer and my primary goal is to entertain readers.
But that’s not my only goal. My second goal is to save lives.

This moment might not have been possible
without the kindness of a stranger.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, the idea was planted nine years ago. I was walking my then-six-month-old puppy, when I met a man with a gorgeous, healthy-looking male German shepherd. The man stopped me to share that his dog—I’ll call him Thor—had an autoimmune disease called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), and that without special medication with each meal, Thor would starve to death. He warned me to watch for the symptoms of EPI in Tasha, as the rare genetic disorder occurs most commonly in adolescent German shepherds.
Fast forward a year and a half. Tasha began losing weight. A lot it. Twenty-five pounds in a month, to be exact. The vet theorized cancer and recommended exploratory surgery. I insisted that he test for EPI first. When the results came back positive, my now-former vet made it sound like a doggie death sentence.

I remembered Thor, switched vets, joined an EPI support group, and began the process of successful lifelong management. Simply put, that five-minute conversation with Thor’s owner saved my dog’s life.
The tragedy of EPI isn’t the disease itself. Tasha has been thriving with EPI for over eight years. The tragedy is that so few people, veterinarians included, know about it. Dogs often go months or longer without a proper diagnosis. Many die before anyone figures out what’s wrong with them. Even worse, about twenty percent of animals who are diagnosed with EPI are needlessly euthanized without any attempt at treatment.

Writing has done so many great things for me. It’s connected me with fabulous authors, brought out my creativity, and helped me to make new friends. I hope it also spreads the word about EPI. EPI is not a death sentence.
What does any of this have to do with awards?

Winning the Maxwell Award for Fiction has put my work in the hands of other dog writers. The award is making dog readers pick up the book. I’m pretty sure the award-related exposure even sold a copy or two, though honestly, not enough to get excited about. Still, each new reader helps spread the message. Maybe someday one of them will have an animal that is wasting away for seemingly no reason. Maybe they’ll remember Bella, the dog in my books. Maybe that memory will help save a life.
I’ll admit, it’s a lofty goal for a piece of metal strung on a ribbon. But even if the award does nothing else, it gives me hope. Hopefully it provides someone else hope, too.

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

About Tracy:

My writing is an expression of the things I love best: yoga, dogs, and murder mysteries. I'm a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, WA. I enjoy sharing my passion for yoga and animals in any form possible.  My husband and I live with our challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha and our bonito flake-loving cat Maggie. When I’m not writing, I spend my time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at my favorite local ale house.

For more information, visit me online at and


Gretchen Archer said...

Wow. Thank you, Tracy. Thanks to Jessie Chandler for posting.

Tracy Weber said...

Thanks for reading it, Gretchen!

Julie said...

What a lovely post. Your dog is lucky to have you and readers are lucky to have your mysteries!

Tracy Weber said...

Thank you, Julie. I am the lucky one. ;-)