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  • Writer's pictureFlorence Osmund

Contests and Awards

Awards can be the catalyst your book needs to bring it out of obscurity and into the spotlight. They can create interest in your book, which may lead to more sales and other opportunities including media, agent, and publisher interest. Recognition from a prominent panel of judges can increase a book’s credibility, visibility, and marketability, especially if the contest is open to both traditionally and self-published books.

The best vetted list of awards and contests that I can recommend is put out by the Alliance of Independent Authors, who rate each one after appraising them using multiple criteria, including pricing and value, quality of service, contract terms and rights, transparency, accountability, and customer satisfaction. They use three ratings:

· Recommended

· Mixed—those which are mostly positive but present some issues of minor concern.

Caution—those with serious concerns, such as excessive entry fees, exploitative contracts, conflicts of interest, or high-pressure sales.

Are literary awards worthwhile for authors? Here are the pros and cons of writing contests.


· MONEY The cash prize can range anywhere from less than a hundred dollars to many thousands.

· PRESTIGE The exposure may help with sales and being noticed by the right people.

· PUBLICATION Publication in a well-known magazine, website, or other venue results in recognition and potential sales.

· LONG LIST/SHORT LIST CREDIT Even an honorable mention can help to get exposure for your book.

· TIME AWAY FROM YOUR WORK Deadlines can work in your favor. Sometimes just having to work under a deadline helps to get projects moving and off your desk.


· ENTRY FEES Many times the cash prize isn’t enough to cover the cost to enter and effort you put into the project.

· EXCLUSIVE SUBMISSIONS Some contests require exclusive submissions, tying up your manuscript for a period of time.

· RISK FACTOR There is the risk of your entry having no benefit at all and is a waste of your time and money since winning is a long shot.

Probably the best thing that comes from winning an award is a boost to the author’s ego and recognition to all others involved in the project for doing a good job. Whether winning an award will result in increased sales is questionable, but it does mean that the author’s name and title of the book will get exposure, which is never a bad thing. And people do take notice that a book has won an award—authors can display medals and stickers on their books, website, e-mail signature, and anywhere else that may make a difference to a potential book purchaser.

Don’t expect much of a payday if you win. There is usually very little, if any, prize money awarded, and the amount may not be much more than the entry fee.

Before you enter a writing contest, consider these words of advice:

· Double-check your eligibility before you go any further.

· Be aware of word-count restrictions, formatting preferences, and what you should and should not include with your submission.

· Take note of the deadline and give yourself plenty of time to prepare a perfect manuscript. Hire an editor or at least a proofreader to make your submission as strong as possible.

· Review the works of the contest’s aestheticprevious winners to determine what the judges deem award-winning material.

· If you are a first-time entrant, start with smaller contests, then work your way up.

Scam Alert: Like every other aspect of publishing, there are many unethical people out there who are making a living from scamming authors with phony contests. Beware of the following: · Contest organizers who lure you in with the promise of a publishing contract. · Contests with high entry fees and very little payout. · Contests hosted by an unknown sponsor with little or no track record.

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