What Is the Value of Entering Contests for Book Awards and Prizes?

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Many awards come with attractive symbols that can be displayed with your work to spark readers’ interest. Throughout his career, Front Edge Publishing Editor David Crumm has won six of these stained-glass Wilbur Awards from the Religion Communicators Council.

Book awards heighten the authority of a book. Readers are impressed that independent judges have concluded your book has special value.

Consider what we do, as readers, while browsing for books in a particular genre. We narrow down our choices based on persuasive evidence we find in online bookstores. We read a short sample. We consider the reader reviews. We check out the book’s endorsements. As we are closing in on the book we will purchase, that bright award logo on the cover—proclaiming honors showered on this book—may be the telling factor.

That’s not to mention all the other benefits that flow from winning an award:

  • If a book is given a prize, that book is featured permanently on the website of the sponsoring organization. Those are valuable Internet links.
  • Online bookstores offer lists of award winners and generally lift the relative display of prize-winning books.
  • Depending on a book’s genre and central theme, an award can be a brilliant beacon summoning like-minded readers to your new title. Your award might be a genre-related beacon. Mystery lovers pay attention to the Edgar Awards. Or, the award might serve as a beacon to readers through the newsletters of the sponsoring organization. If a new book about world peace wins honors from a peacemaking organization—that group’s members are likely to become customers.
  • Depending on the notability of the award program, news about your book may cascade through other Internet links from powerful citations about some honorees on Wikipedia to a host of journalistic and literary websites that cover such news.

How many book contests are there? The number is countless, because regional contests come and go with each passing year across the U.S.—and, of course, book awards are given around the world and lists of prizes by nation and continent continually change. More than 6,000 American contests are listed online at sites such as Goodreads and Wikipedia. That’s why our staff here at Front Edge Publishing plans to post several columns this summer covering this vast range of book-related activity. Sorting out the best contests to enter can be a bewildering challenge for an author.

What are the deadlines for entering book contests? They vary widely, so authors should begin researching competitions even before publication. Most contests focus on an entire year of publishing, based on the official release dates of new books. However, some contests focus on the copyright year, which can be different than a release date. The peak period for submissions is in the early months of each year—but the rules are different for each sponsoring organization. Bottom line: Start your research before publication and keep track of the various deadlines you choose.

How much does it cost to enter a contest? Some competitions charge no entry fee. A majority charge less than $100. However, some charge far more than $100. So, carefully read the rules for submission as you are planning your entries. Remember that the cost of submitting a book for consideration in an award program also includes a requirement to send in a number of review copies.

Why are entry fees so high? As awards programs have flourished nationwide, many well-intentioned nonprofits now are including such programs as part of their annual fund-raising strategies. That means the entire effort of evaluating submissions and presenting prizes is often wrapped up in an organization’s marketing plan. Often, the final awards are presented at a fund-raising banquet and honoring prize winners from the podium is a compelling way to sell tickets to the event. Another reason that some groups have made the entry process daunting for authors is a practical matter—simply to weed out the sheer number of entries to be judged. Finally, some organizations provide an honorarium to contest judges and the entry fees are set to cover all administrative costs of the award program.

Who pays? At most independent publishing houses, the author pays the entry fees. The publishing house usually helps by providing timely information about some of these contests to authors—and may also provide at-cost copies of the book for the submissions authors want to pursue.

This current information about contests comes from the latest discussion of awards programs at the summer 2018 national independent publishers conference in Nashville.

So, if you are the author of a recently published book, consider investing in the entry fees of a number of contests. Even if your book’s release date is on the distant horizon, you are wise to start your contest research now. 

LEARN MORE …

PART 2: Marketing expert Susan Stitt urges authors to start by looking locally for regional book awards. She includes our list of the Top 5 Regional Book Awards.

About David Crumm

David Crumm is founding Editor of Front Edge Publishing. Nationally, he is known as a veteran journalist—a top writer and editor—with experience both in the U.S. and overseas. He is based in Canton, Michigan, where he also serves as Editor of Read the Spirit online magazine. His columns on trends in media appear twice a month on our Front Edge Publishing website.