Alright, maybe my title is somewhat flamboyant. Any veteran author will tell you that there are no shortcuts to fame. However, winning a book award or two can definitely put you on the right track to gaining national and even international recognition. It is said that it takes on average 4 to 5 books before an author starts gaining meaningful readership and sees significant book sales. The exception to this rule occurs when an author manages to win a prestigious book award or become a finalist.
When Kate DiCamillo won the John Newberry Award for her book “Flora and Ulysses”, she gained international attention and recognition. Two of her previous books, “Because of Winn-Dixie” and “The Tale of Despereaux” also were honored in 2001 and 2004. Other authors whose fame also shot up are Jacqueline Woodson, James Mcbride and William Alexander, to name a few. They also were awarded the National Book Award, respectively in 2014, 2013 and 2012. Even though all these authors are excellent storytellers, none of them would be a book award recipient had they not submitted their books for consideration in the first place.
The Importance of Book Awards
So why on earth should you care about book awards and literary awards? What is the importance of book awards? Literary awards are to books as Tonys, Grammys and Oscars are to shows and movies. A movie need not be recognized to be a hit with audiences. However, receiving an Oscar can do wonders for a movie. Have you ever decided to give a movie a second look after it won an award? If you did, you’ve just been influenced by the social proof effect. Simply stated, social proof is the perception that if a service or product, say a book, is good enough to be considered for an award, it must be good enough to deserve your attention. Consequently, the more people list and read your book, the more popular it becomes. In a way, social proof brings down the barriers of entry for various readership types that could transcend your intended target audience.
Book awards effectively increase your credibility as a writer. Most book awards are sponsored by one or more organizations – in some cases by cultural grants or public sector sponsors. The participation of these sponsors generally implies a high expectation and level of service relative to the award process. Hence, many of the companies who issue the awards will hire a panel of highly capable judges who will scrutinize all submissions to pick the very best. They look for excellence in writing, originality, substance, design, style, relevancy to contemporary topics and a whole lot more. If your book is short listed, it means that it has been thoroughly vetted by industry professionals and has the potential of being a bestseller. This gives carte blanche to the media, publishers, literary agents and libraries looking to add new content to their catalogs, to approach you.
Additionally, those who issue literary awards tend to market the event through various mediums. To top it all off, you get their award seal to affix to your book cover. This seal is generally highly regarded by the literary community and can help your book’s marketability both online and offline.
Things to Do Before Submitting Your Book
Submit your best work. Write a great story: don’t underestimate the competition, ever! Have your work professionally edited and proofread. Get it through at least one round of reading critique by having advanced readers give you their honest feedback without restraint – take the good, bad and ugly feedback. Writing clubs are ideal for this.
Get Some Reviews Under Your Belt
If at all possible, get readers to review your book. Never try to manipulate the system: get genuine reviews from readers, even if they are not all flattering. Make sure the reviews are from regular readers or book lovers rather than paid reviews. If you must, pay for an editorial review from reputable sources.
Maximize Your Distribution Channels
There is no guarantee you will win an award but that should not stop you from maximizing your distribution channels in anticipation. Produce a hardcover and a soft cover version. Create an ebook version. Hire someone to narrate your book and create a professional audio book. Put the audio book on iTunes and other popular content sharing sites. If you don’t know where to start, consider Amazon’s ACX platform. Check on Fiverr.com for freelancers who can do the work for less. Basically, you need to produce your book in as many formats as you can. The goal is to tap into every market you can. Some people like to hold a book in their hands while others don’t have time to read and prefer listening to the book. Imagine the sales you would lose if you win an award and your book does not have an audio version or is only available in ebook format. The boost one gets from being short listed is ephemeral. Successful entrepreneurial authors know that you have to be prepared, well in advance, to truly maximize your potential reach.
Submitting Your Book to a Literary Award
You could have the best book ever written, but it means nothing if you cannot follow instructions. Be sure to follow the submission guidelines to the letter. Make sure that all required criteria are met. If there are any optional recommendations, go the extra mile and satisfy them. If not explicitly prohibited, follow up to confirm that your submission was received. Many awards are free but a growing number require a submission fee that varies between $30 to $90. The submission fee helps pay for administrative and logistical expenses (judges, award admin costs, and so on). This also helps weed out manuscripts and books of lesser quality. If you can afford it, pay the submission fee. It could be the best money you ever spent! Theoretically, the awards with a submission fee have fewer submissions than those who do not – “fewer” could mean dozens or hundreds of books from other competing authors. It depends on the award.
Now that you are ready to submit your masterpiece for a book award, here is a short list of literary awards you should consider:
Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award
Annual Literary Awards
Axiom Business Book Awards
Benjamin Franklin Awards
Beverly Hills Books Awards
Children’s & Teen Choice Book Awards
Children’s Choice Book Awards
Digital Book Awards
Discover Great New Writers
Eric Hoffer Award
Global Ebook Awards
Independent Publisher Book Awards
Indie Book Awards
International Book Awards
John Newbery Medal
Man Booker Prize
MoonBeam Children’s Book Awards
National Book Awards
National Book Critics Circle Awards
National Indie Book Awards
Nautilus Book Awards
Notable Children’s Books
Randolph Caldecott Medal
Reader’s Favorite Award Contest
The CILIP Carnegie Medal & The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal
Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards
Are you considering submitting your book for an Award? Brag about it in the comments section below!