Part of the Indie Author Series
Even though the stigma of self-publishing has decreased over the last few years, it can still be difficult for indie authors to find ways to gain recognition and respect for their books.
Book awards are one way to help overcome that hurdle. Some of the best awards give the winners media exposure (leading to more book sales), cash prizes, and opportunities to speak with agents/editors from traditional publishing (if that’s a path the winner wants to consider). Beyond that, having an award win, or even an honorable mention, adds credibility to you and your book.
But not all awards are created equal. Some are scams. Some won’t give a good enough return on investment for your time and entry fees.
Before we enter any contest, we should ask ourselves a few questions about our book and about the potential competition.
1. Does my book have at least a four-star rating on Amazon?
And these should be averaged based on reviews from people you don’t know. I’m not trying to be mean here. I’m trying to be honest. Competition for awards is fierce, especially for the more prestigious among them. We’re only going to be throwing away our money if our book isn’t ready.
2. Do I have a paperback version of my book?
Many award competitions still require entrants to submit a paperback copy of their book rather than an ebook copy, though this is changing.
3. Are my cover and formatting up to professional standards?
Like it or not, many awards have a criteria in their scoring rubric called “professionalism” or “professional appearance.” They want to see that our book can stand next to any traditionally published book and look like it belongs. It would be heart-breaking to enter a competition and lose not because of our content but because of our appearance, especially when it’s within our control to change it.
4. Does this contest have a category for my genre?
If it doesn’t, the chances that our book will be judged by someone unfamiliar with our genre (and therefore less likely to score it appropriately) increase exponentially.
5. How long has the contest/award been in existence?
A new award isn’t necessarily a scam, but it also won’t garner the same respect as an award like the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards that’s been around for two decades.
6. How much will it cost me to enter (including the fee and postage to mail a printed copy)?
We need to weigh the cost against the potential benefits. Are we going to get a better return on our investment by entering this contest or by placing a BookBub ad?
7. What other benefits does the winner receive?
To use the WD Self-Published Book Awards as an example again, the grand prize winner receives a large cash prize, but they also get to attend a WD conference, receive promotion in WD magazine, have copies of their book sent to 10 respected review publications, and the list goes on.
8. Will I receive feedback from the judge(s)?
We may or may not be allowed to use positive feedback from a judge as part of our promotional material (each contest has its own rules), but constructive criticism from the judges can often help us see weaknesses we may have missed. As self-publishers, we have the freedom to correct those mistakes in the current book or to simply put what we’ve learned into use when writing the next one.
9. What are other authors saying about this award?
A Google search can save us a lot of headaches when it comes to deciding whether an award is legit and worth our time or not. If there’s anything shady going on, someone has probably blogged about it. And if we can’t find anything at all about the award online, that’s another red flag. Even if they’re a legitimate award, it means winning it won’t be a significant boost for us or our book. Entering an obscure award won’t help our book become less obscure.
Now that you know what to ask, a couple of great lists to get you started on researching awards can be found at “30 Book Awards for Self-Published Authors” by Joel Freidlander and “32 Book Awards Authors Should Pursue” by Scott Lorenz.
Have you tried entering any of your books into awards competitions? Was the experience positive or negative? What tips would you give for others looking to enter?
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