For years book awards and book contests have drawn in authors from a variety of book topics. I’ve judged several of them, including the Benjamin Franklin Awards from IBPA, Writer’s Digest, and several others. Book awards, in their most basic form, are designed to shed light and praise on the best books in a particular genre, and most book awards offer categories for just about any major genre – even poetry (which always tends to be tougher to market). But what does a book award really do for you? Well, as it turns out, a lot. From helping to build your platform, to pulling in more readers (book awards are eye-candy!), entering these competitions can really offer indie authors a boost. So let’s dig in and discover some ins and outs of finding the right book contests to submit to, as well as a few things to avoid!
Different Types of Book Contests
It’s good to mention that book contests and book awards often vary by the types of books and authors invited to participate. Some are focused on book contests for indie authors, while others are specifically book contests for new authors. By the same token, book awards are sometimes split into fiction vs. non-fiction. Within this article I’ll link to a piece from the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi) which looks at all book contests out there – regardless of how you publish, or what your genre is.
Why Contests Matter
First off, if you’re really serious about being a successful author, you probably appreciate the feedback. If nothing else, book contests that allow judges to offer specific book feedback are a terrific way to gain new insight and ideas to make your book even better. Beyond that, of course, is the all-important goal of actually winning a book contest and getting that coveted book award. These awards aren’t easy to get. Most contests are fiercely competitive. So a win is not only a super way to get confirmation that your book is, indeed, award-worthy, but it’s also a great way to build your platform. And, let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like adding the term “award-winning” to your book cover and/or Amazon book description.
Do Awards Sell Books?
The answer to this is yes and no. Book buyers for bookstores, or big box stores aren’t always swayed by awards, however it can make a big difference to readers and media. It’s been my experience that book awards should be front and center because it does bring an element of “eye-candy” that can help pull in new readers. It’s also a nice addition to your bio “Award-winning author of…”
The right kind of book awards can offer great leverage to bigger things (and we’ll look at this more in the next section).
How to Use Your Book Award
You’ve won a book award, congratulations! Now what do you do with it? Well first and foremost, if it’s feasible to add it to the cover, then please do so. It should also be added to your Amazon book page as well as your bio (remember, you are now an “award-winning author”). Once you win, it could be a great opportunity to reach out to your local book stores for an event (especially if they’ve turned you down previously). Let them know you were just honored with a book award, and if there’s space to do a book event in the future, you’d love to be considered. (Learn more about planning and hosting successful events here.)
If you’re a speaker, be sure to add this to your speaker packet, too. Here are some other ways to announce your book award, and make the most of this fantastic opportunity:
- If you’ve got a newsletter, let them know you won this award!
- Announce it on social media.
- Change up your social media banners to announce this award!
- Host a fun book giveaway or contest to celebrate this award.
You will want to keep track of this on your monthly planner. If you haven’t downloaded my free planner yet, you can get it here!
Not All Contests are Created Equal
I’m always discouraged when I see contests that are nothing more than profit centers, which, sadly, some are. So you’ll want to vet the book contest carefully before you submit your book. But a fee shouldn’t dissuade you from entering because every contest has an entry fee. Some fees are steep (but worth it) and others charge a smaller fee to cover basic book contest costs.
So how do you vet book contests? Well, first, check to see how long they’ve been running them. I mentioned earlier about the Benjamin Franklin Awards which IBPA has been running almost as long as I’ve been in business. You can ask trusted sources, and as I mentioned earlier, there’s a link later on in this piece that looks at a variety of national and international book awards.
I also recommend getting to know the website, Writer Beware, run by Victoria Strauss. It’s a fantastic resource and covers everything from complaints about indie publishing services, publishers, and book awards that are nothing more than profit centers.
Before you submit your book to any award, I recommend that you look through some of the books that have won previously and make sure your book is really ready for the big time and, that it’s right for that particular competition. One of the biggest challenges I had as a book contest judge was giving feedback to authors who didn’t have books that were well-suited to the competition, or they weren’t really contest-ready. What I mean here is that that the author had not done the due diligence on their market, the cover wasn’t great, etc. I think, in some cases, authors think the book contests work for “all types of books” and to some degree that’s true, but your book really must be able to stand alongside any of the winning titles you see– even in the case of honorary mentions.
Be sure to follow the guidelines to the letter, and take the time to fill out the required information such as marketing of the book, book description, etc. This will really help the judges when they’re making their assessments. Keep in mind that the judges getting these books have probably never heard of you or your book – so at a very basic level you should cover as much ground as you can by submitting all the requested information. In some cases, you may see some items that aren’t “required” per se and marked as optional. My suggestion would be to fill out all of it, unless it just does not pertain to you or your book.
Book awards and book contests can be a fabulous way to drive more attention to your book, gain more momentum for your platform, and help build your tribe, too. Winning a book award can also lead to bigger things if, let’s say, you want to find a traditional publisher for your next book. Having a book award to your credit can go a long way to possibly impressing an agent or publisher.
Check out this ALLi list to help find the exact right book contest for you!