November 16, 2009

Are Book Awards Worth the Cost?

894trophyEvery year, a round of book contest award programs is launched, and every year, on may publishing fora, a battle is waged regarding if the contests are worth it. As with so much we deal with on this blog, the answer is,

It depends.

The Cons

1. There are a lot of companies making a lot of money off contests. Most are “beauty pageants” where every entrant wins a nominal prize just for entering their book(s). Who really wins? Well, the promoter of said prize contest. Figure that at least 2500 people will pony up $50 or more for their book to be considered. Post a website and print 2500 certificates, and you’ve made an 85% profit. And most of the people participating are perfectly happy.

2. Unless it’s the National Book Award or something similar, book awards simply don’t sell books. No book award contest (except the very largest) make enough news to draw attention to your book’s prize.

3. Some contests label you in ways you might not want. For instance, the Writer’s Digest Self-Published award some feel stigmatizes your book, which otherwise couldn’t be identified as being self-published (if you did a good job).

The Pros

1. Not all contests are scams. Investigate each contest you enter. Look at their previous year’s winners. Have you ever heard of this organization? Do they do anything besides awards? It’s not that hard to spot the scammers. But you do have to look with your mind, and not your hope.

2. Winning a contest doesn’t sell any books, but it does create a new marketing platform. We have sold foreign rights to many countries after our books have won awards. Foreign publishers are more interested in a book that has been independently judged for excellence. See my article here.

Marketing can be renewed (what? You thought a book couldn’t be marketed after its first year? Nonsense!). You can do new angles on your topic, but now add, “In her award-winning book….” This has value to the media and your customers.

Book awards can be a useful adjunct to your marketing plans

3. While the bigger, national awards are sexy and cool, don’t disdain the awards specifically aimed at your niche. I know a woman who won a book for “Best Book by a Presbyterian.” Now, at first, that seems like a joke. But she went on to use the book to help sell religious retreats on marriage to Presbyterians. That award was like a magic wand – people took her work very seriously because of it.



Book awards can be a useful adjunct to your marketing plans (you have one, right?). BUT, do your homework and make sure the award contests are legit, or at least suit your niche. Make sure they fit in with your budget, too (some are expensive).

Here are a few book award contests I know to be on the up-and-up that are also open to small presses and selfpublishers:

Writers Digest Sulf-Published Book Award

Independent Book Publishers (IBPA) Association Benjamin Franklin Book Awards

ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards (BOTYA)

Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY)
      Also run by the same people: Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards
                  Axiom Business Book Awards
                 Living Now Book Awards

Reader Views Literary Book Awards

I will entertain (and I mean that in the literal sense, since shills will be sending me their fake awards programs to post) nominations for other awards contests.


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  • Great post JC! You said it like it is. And, thanks for posting Reader Views Literary Awards as being up and up – I truly appreciate it, and I appreciate you having the confidence in us. I also noted you didn’t list some of the programs that give every entry an award, or those that don’t read the books.

    I agree doing an awards program could be a huge money maker, especially if it’s one of those that doesn’t do anything except give a certificate. In our case, I wish it was a money maker but it isn’t. By the time I have the reviews done and posted, and pay Nic to verify, record incoming books, send books out to reviewers and judges, record the scores, etc. any money to be made is gone into the labor to run it. But, you know, I’m so okay with that because I truly do support the self-published or small press author, and a university student has a job.

    • I know Reader View and you work hard at what you do. I honor your inclusiveness for subsidy published books. There ARE wonderful books being produced by these overlooked houses that are lacking attention, and your reviews and awards note that.

  • For e-published authors, New York, indie, self, even subsidy, you might want to check out EPIC authors annual contests.
    The book contest is a two stage judged contest. EPIC members and other professionals in the publishing field are the judges.
    Roughly 10% of entries in each category make the finals. (Finalists have just been announced for this year.

    The cover contest entry period ends November 30th.

    My firm has had at least one finalist for the past four years. Sigh, no winners yet.

    I have noticed, on Fictionwise, that as soon as they add the Finalist info to a book description, sales did increase. Not a tremendous jump, but every added sale helps.

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