Book awards possess a slight edge over book reviews, which can range from top field professionals’ analyses to casual, peer-based conversations. That edge? Recognition. A permanent stamp that says This is a quality piece of writing. Recognition leads to exposure; exposure leads to sales; sales lead to revenue (and the satisfaction of knowing your work is reaching others) and increasing your publishers’ confidence in you; confidence leads to contracts for more books; and so on.
If you’ve read our article on The Value of Book Reviews, you know there are thousands of outlets — between professional, print, online and social critics — for your book to be evaluated. The fact that awards are considerably scarcer than the ample amount of feedback the internet hosts, makes the winners, runners up, and even honorable mentions stand out that much more. Such attention is more readily noticed by the press — and not just local papers, but also major publications and lists, depending on the scale of the honor.
That sticker emblazoned on the cover or that enlarged blurb printed on the back immediately catches readers’ attention, and likely intrigues them. An award-winning book will often be carried by more bookstores, used in library displays and picked up by book clubs, reading circles and classrooms. It also becomes a unique marketing tool that you can use to your advantage for the rest of your writing career.
Vying for the Right Awards
You’ve likely heard of the most distinguished honors: the Pulitzer, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and the National Book Award. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t enter the running. But there are many other opportunities to shine. Be aware that though springtime is generally regarded as award season, different groups have different deadlines and submission procedures.
You will find that some groups require an entry fee while others do not, depending on factors such as funding availability and other costs. Many contests, including some of the most prestigious aforementioned, have online submission features. The Independent Publisher Book Awards are open to all walks of little-known authors—including university students and small press productions— and honor recipients with medals, certificates, publicity across the country and more. The Writer’s Digest conducts many annual contests and offers cash prizes and national promotions. These are but two examples. Conduct your own searches to find those that interest you.
Other contests are nomination or recommendation-based; think variations of the Nobel Prize. Essentially, on a smaller scale, people who read books on their own form committees, discuss what they’ve read, compare their results and choose a winner. Barnes & Noble conducts a New Writers Program from publishers’ recommendations on the works of their up-and-coming writers. Selected authors will receive the stores’ front window and other displays, online promotion and consideration for store events.
It’s true only so many books will be Pulitzer or Booker winners, but that should not discourage you, as any exposure in association with should be regarded as positive. Quite simply, there is too much material centralized too many themes for any one expert or group of expert to decide Okay, this one is the absolute best book out there. Just because a book doesn’t win doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of accolades. To that end, many newspapers and other networks also release their own annual lists of notable reads which are easily accessible online.