If you’re marketing your own book, you may be focused on getting reviews, booking events, and building a social media following. But have you considered entering literary contests as well? In addition to providing credibility for you and your book, winning a contest can also score you a monetary prize or an opportunity to network with other authors and book industry professionals.
And, because of the wide range of literary awards available, there’s a good match for nearly every book!
Keep reading for tips on how to build an award strategy that works for you, and how to make the most of publicity surrounding a win.
How to be strategic when applying for awards
Make note of your budget.
While many awards are free to submit to, some do charge an entry fee, typically around $75. Determining in advance how much money you’re willing to spend on awards will help you narrow your options later on.
Do your research.
First, look for contests that have a solid reputation and line up with your unique audience and genre. When you’ve found a contest that seems like a match, dig a little deeper. Search what books have won in your category in the past. Do they seem on par with your book? Look up the judges for your category. What’s their realm of expertise? Do their interests overlap with your book’s themes?
As a general rule, always keep your eyes open for possible scams. Some awards don’t have authors’ best interests in mind. If you have a hard time finding basic information about the award’s history, judges and guidelines, that’s a big red flag. Similarly, if the entry fee is high while the prize pot is low, that may be cause for concern.
Think outside the box.
Does your book have unique cover art or interior design elements? There’s an award for that. Have an audiobook? There’s an award for that, too.
You should also look for awards that are specific to authors in your city, state or region. Local awards receive fewer entries than national awards, which will give you a better chance of taking home the gold!
Pay attention to guidelines.
Since guidelines tend to vary greatly from contest to contest, it’s crucial that you read the fine print. I know, I know. That can be tedious. But most awards won’t offer a refund for an incomplete or incorrect submission, so do it for your wallet’s sake.
A few things to make note of when scanning guidelines:
- Can a submission come directly from an author? Or solely a publisher/publicist?
- Does the contest accept ebook or physical mailings? Or both?
- If physical copies are required, how many are needed? And, will you need to include any printed materials in the package as well (e.g., receipt, copy of entry form)?
- Are you able to submit the same book in multiple categories? If so, is an extra fee or book mailing required?
- Are ARC submissions allowed? Or will they only accept final copies?
- How long is the submission period and when is the deadline?
- Are you eligible for more than one year? Some awards have a 2+ year eligibility period. So if you happen to miss the deadline for your publication year, check to see if you’ll be eligible for the following year as well.
What should I do after an award win?
If there’s an in-person award ceremony, try to attend! These events are a great way to network with other authors and book industry professionals.
I would also recommend you:
- Add any wins that you get to your website, email signature, and Amazon book listing
- Share an announcement on social media and congratulate other winners/finalists
- Order award stickers for the cover of your book (if available)
- Update your resume for potential events and speaking gigs to reflect your accolades
- Celebrate being an award-winning author!
Not sure where to start?
As you know, awards offer credibility, and solidifying your position as an award-winning author can benefit you for years to come!
If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are a few excellent literary contests for indie authors. Best of luck!
Next Generation Indie Book Awards
IndieReader Discovery Awards
BookLife Prize (from Publishers Weekly)
Independent Publisher Book Awards (The IPPYs)
IBPA’s Ben Franklin Awards
Jackie Karneth is a publicist with Books Forward is an author publicity and book marketing firm committed to promoting voices from a diverse variety of communities. From book reviews and author events, to social media and digital marketing, we help authors find success and connect with readers.