How to Enter (and Win!) Book Awards

Fallen Medicine is a nurse’s dark journey through PTSD, drug abuse and sexual addiction written by D.F. Thompson with Mark Graham Communications.

The holiday season may be fast approaching, but if you’re an author—or if you’re considering becoming one by having a book ghostwritten—this is also the time of year to start thinking about book awards. This is because many book awards are open only to books published during a calendar year, and entries are often accepted only through the first few months of the subsequent year.

If you published a book this year (and if you didn’t, you can bookmark this blog post for next year!), here are a few things to consider as you think about entering your book in award contests:

  • Understand that not all book awards are created equal. While you’ll find numerous book award contests online, some awards carry more clout than others. Many readers are familiar with prestigious awards such as the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Obviously, these awards are wonderful to win, but they aren’t accessible to every author (for example, some awards do not accept self-published books), and competition is stiff. Most authors have a better chance with regional awards (in Colorado, a well-known one is the Colorado Book Award); awards specific to their genre (such as the Edgar Awards for mystery); and/or awards geared to their publishing type (for example, the IPPY Awards for excellence in independent publishing).
  • Vet the award and its sponsors. Most award websites explain how they receive their funding, how long the organization has been running the contest, what benefits the organization provides to winners, and who the judges will be. It won’t do you much good to win an award that no one has heard of and that is, in essence, a money-making scam for its organizers. Look for reputable, established contests. If a contest is new, find out as much as you can about its operations before you enter.
  • Read the guidelines. Then read them again. Read guidelines carefully once—then read them again a few more times. Make sure you understand what’s required. Ensure your book is eligible for the award, that you enter it in the appropriate category, and that you follow all submission guidelines exactly as stated.
  • Check costs. Most contests have an entry fee. Many also require hard copies of your book. Before entering any contest, consider if winning is worth the entry costs. You might want to create an “awards budget,” to help you determine where best to spend your money.
  • Enter a professional book. Only enter a book that has been professionally written, edited, and produced. If you need help getting your book into a polished state, please contact Mark Graham Communications—we can help!
  • When you win, expect to do most of your own promotion. Winning an award will not automatically launch your book into the spotlight. While the contest organizers will do some promotion, it’s up to you, the author, to do the heavy lifting. Some organizations will set up readings at a local bookstore for finalists. When such opportunities arise, make time to attend. If you’re a finalist, go to the awards ceremony and take pictures (make sure you’re in some of them) to be used on your website and/or social media. Once winners have been announced, virtually all contest websites list those winners (and often the finalists). Some organizations also send out press releases to local and/or national media. Many contests provide stickers or seals that you can place on your book’s cover, which draws attention to it on a bookstore shelf. As a winner, make sure to update your website and other online information to mention the award.

What if you’re dreaming of winning a book award, but you can’t quite finish that book? If you’d like to explore the possibility of working with a professional ghostwriter or editor, please get in touch. We’d love to talk!