If you’ve ever hoped to win a book award, you are in great company. Contests continue to entice authors from a variety of genres and topics. In fact, I’ve judged several of them, including the Benjamin Franklin Awards from IBPA, and Writer’s Digest, among others.
As you know, the goal of these book awards is to shed light and praise on the best books in a particular genre. Most book contests include a wide variety of genres, including poetry (which always tends to be tougher to market). So it’s with good reason that book awards are so highly sought after. They can do a lot for your book marketing efforts, which is particularly important for indie authors. Book awards are a great way for authors to build their platform and they serve as eye-candy to pull in more readers.
Here’s what you need to know about finding the right book contests for your book, as well as what to watch out for!
Different Types of Book Contests
Book contests often vary widely in terms of the types of books and authors invited to participate. Some are focused on indie authors, while others are specific to new authors. They are also often divided by a split into fiction and nonfiction. This piece
from the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi) looks at the majority of book contests regardless of genre or manner of publication (indie vs traditionally published).
Why Awards Matter
First and foremost, they offer valuable feedback, which is important if you want to be successful. Book contests that allow judges to give feedback can be a fantastic way to learn how to make your book even better. Beyond that, of course, is everyone’s goal of actually winning a book award, which doesn’t come easily. Because book competitions are incredibly competitive, winning one is a great way to establish cred as an author. Plus, there’s the added bonus of being able to add “award-winning” to your book cover and any marketing materials.
Do Awards Sell Books?
The answer to this is more complicated than you might think. It may not make a huge difference to store buyers. But, by that token, it can make all the difference to readers and media. I always recommend authors place book awards front and center. It goes back to the importance of “eye-candy,” which can help you convert new readers.
The right kind of book awards can be a great lead-in to greater things (and we’ll look at this more in the next section).
How to Use Your Book Award
Congratulations! You’ve won a book award! That’s huge, but, now what do you do with it? The first thing I recommend to award-winning authors is to add it to their cover if that’s something you have control over. You should also be sure to call this out on your Amazon book page as well as your bio.
Beyond that, you’ll want to share the word with your audience to really make the most of this fantastic opportunity. Here are some of my top suggestions:
- 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.
Not All Awards are Created Equal
The reality is that some contests that are nothing more than profit centers. As a result, you need to vet each book contest carefully before submitting your title. Keep in mind though, almost every contest has an entry fee, so fees shouldn’t stop you from entering. Some fees are steep (but worth it) and others charge a smaller fee to cover basic book contest costs.
When vetting a book contest, first check to see how long they’ve been around. I mentioned earlier about the Benjamin Franklin Awards which IBPA has been running almost as long as I’ve been in business. You can also ask trusted sources, and I recommend checking out the ALLi link here
that reviews a variety of national and international book awards.
Spend some time exploring the website, Writer Beware, run by Victoria Strauss. It’s a fantastic resource that covers complaints about indie publishing services, publishers, and book awards that are nothing more than profit centers.
Tips for Submitting Your Book
Before you submit your book to any award, take a look at previous winners to be sure that your book not only measures up but is right for that competition. One of the biggest challenges I had as a judge was giving feedback to authors whose books weren’t the right fit or weren’t contest-ready, whether it wasn’t appropriate for the market, had a less than stellar cover, etc. Sometimes, authors think a book contest works for “all types of books.” While that’s true to a certain point, ultimately your book must be able to stand up next to the winning titles—even the honorary mentions.
Remember, the guidelines are there for a reason, so follow them to the letter. Take the time to fill out the required information, including your marketing plan and book description. This really helps the judges in their assessments. You and your book are probably unknown quantities to the contest judges, so be thorough when submitting all the requested information, even if it isn’t “required” per se.
The takeaway here is that book awards contests can be a fabulous way to drive more attention to your book. Winning can help you build your platform, and reach new readers. What’s more, winning can be your ticket to bigger things, like booking more author events or speaking gigs. Or, if your goal is 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.
Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and AME, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.