Posted on August 21, 2023 at 1:00 PM by Guest Author
As an indie author, you stand to gain a lot from having an award-winning book. Get answers to FAQs about self-published book awards, including how to apply.
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If you’re an indie author, you may assume your work isn’t eligible for book awards. Twenty years ago, this was more or less true, as most literary awards didn’t accept nominations for self-published books. However, the industry has changed a lot since then. Today, the answer is yes, books that aren’t traditionally published can receive prizes.
For starters, many mainstream book awards have stopped ignoring or outright excluding self-published books. That said, each has its own unique set of rules and criteria. In some cases, those who opt to self-publish won’t have their work considered.
Here are some of the most popular book awards and their stance on self-published books:
Pulitzer Prizes: According to the Pulitzer FAQs page, self-published books are eligible as long as they’re available in print form.
National Book Awards: National Book Awards submission guidelines state that self-published books are eligible if the author/publisher publishes titles by other authors as well.
Hugo Awards: The Hugo Awards FAQs page states that self-published books, ebooks, and other nontraditionally published books are eligible, but authors can’t submit their own.
Edgar Awards: Edgar Awards guidelines note that self-published work is not eligible for consideration.
Newbery Medal: According to Newbery Medal terms and criteria, any author whose self-published or traditionally published book is intended for children up to 14 is eligible.
Additionally, several self-published book awards have been created over the years. These awards programs are only available to indie authors. So, there’s a more level playing field for entrants.
There’s a lot to gain from being able to say you’ve won a general or self-published book award. As an indie author, you know how difficult it is to get your work noticed. But when your book receives accolades, it can go a long way toward furthering your career.
Here are some of the benefits of winning book awards…
IT INCREASES YOUR CREDIBILITY.
When you win a book award, you gain credibility as an author. Of course, you’re an author regardless of whether you win anything. But the recognition from a panel of judges can go a long way. It’s a testament to your writing skills and helps build trust among readers, fellow authors, and others in the industry.
IT ENHANCES YOUR MARKETING EFFORTS.
General and self-published book awards are great for marketing purposes. They’re a powerful form of social proof that can convince readers to take a chance on your work. Plus, you can use them in countless ways.
Add the award badge to the cover of your book.
Include the award in your author bio.
Highlight it in your ad copy.
Create a press release blog on your site.
Post about the award on social media.
Notify your fans in your author newsletter.
IT CAN BOOST YOUR VISIBILITY.
Another advantage of winning a book award is that it offers increased visibility and exposure. For starters, the organization presenting the award will likely share the results on its website, on social media, and press releases.
In some cases, winners are recognized at a special ceremony. On top of that, you may also enjoy extra publicity from media outlets. Depending on the popularity of the award and the organization’s reach, you could be asked to do interviews.
This kind of visibility is priceless, especially since it can be hard for self-published authors to get noticed.
IT CAN GIVE YOU EDITORIAL REVIEWS.
Often, winning an award includes receiving a professional editorial review of your book. Depending on the organization’s approach, this could be part of the prize package or just an added bonus. Either way, you can use this critique to your advantage.
For instance, you can add an editorial review to your book’s Amazon page to stand out better. This type of professional endorsement can carry more weight than customer reviews.
IT CAN IMPROVE YOUR BOOK SALES.
Receiving a general or self-published book award can also improve your book sales. With the increased visibility and credibility of an award, you can attract more potential readers to your sales page(s).
Essentially, an award serves as proof that your book is a high-quality read. So, readers are more likely to trust it’s worth reading and make a purchase.
IT MAY RESULT IN A CASH PRIZE.
Although not all book awards come with a cash prize, many do. The amount varies from program to program, typically around $100. However, some awards offer the grand prize winner thousands of dollars!
Ultimately, it can be a great way to earn extra money and help fuel your writing career.
IT CAN LEAD TO MORE OPPORTUNITIES.
General and self-published book awards can also lead to additional opportunities for authors. As mentioned previously, winning an award can increase your visibility and give you greater exposure. It can open doors to options that might not be possible otherwise.
Being an award-winning author has the potential to take your career to new heights.
Now that you know what book awards can offer, you’re probably eager to throw your hat into the ring.
However, it’s worth noting there are many programs out there, and not all of them are legitimate. Further, most require an entry fee, so the costs can add up quickly if you apply to several at once.
Here’s a list of 10 self-published book awards you may want to consider checking out…
As you may have guessed, this award is sponsored by Writer’s Digest. It’s the only competition open solely to self-published ebooks.
Who’s eligible: Self-published authors of English-language ebooks; authors who published traditionally in print but retained ebook rights
How much the entry fee is: $100-$125 (depending on entry date) for the first entry and $85-$110 for each additional entry
What prizes are offered: The grand prize winner receives $5,000, an interview in the designated issue of Writer’s Digest magazine, an excerpt of the book on WritersDigest.com, a paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, and a 1-year subscription to the magazine.
Prizes are also offered to category winners and honorable mentions. Finalists are announced on the website.
This is an international book award given to the best books by nontraditionally published authors. Each year, the organization selects expert judges to declare the winners.
Who’s eligible: Authors and publishers; books must be self-published or published by an independent press
How much the entry fee is: Varies by entrant’s location; $70 for U.S. authors and publishers
What prizes are offered: The Book of the Year is awarded £2000 (approximately $2,760). Category winners receive £200 (approximately $276). All winners receive a glass plaque. Additionally, all winners and shortlisted authors receive a write-up.
This awards program was created by UK-based children’s author Billy Bob Buttons. Judging is done by select reading groups rather than a panel of industry experts.
Who’s eligible: Authors of self-published or independently published books predominantly in English
How much the entry fee is: £79 / $99
What prizes are offered: The Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners receive a Wishing Shelf Awards winner medal and promotion on The Fussy Librarian. All winning authors and finalists receive a listing on the website, a personalized certificate, a feature in a press release sent out to various literary magazines, a promotion on Facebook with targeted reader advertising, promotion within Facebook and Goodreads reader groups, a logo to put on book covers, submission to select publishers, a 50% discount for website design from Webreger.com, 10% off exclusive access to Author Marketing Experts’ Amazon Marketing Campaign, and more.
All entrants receive feedback from judging, a Goodreads and Boookbub review based on reader comments, and a quote for the back of their next book.
Presented by the Independent Author Network (IAN), this award is designed to help indie authors stand out in the market. It’s an international contest open to authors with books in 50 fiction and nonfiction categories.
Who’s eligible: Authors and publishers; books must be self-published or published by a small press, mid-size independent publisher, or university press
How much the entry fee is: $49 for the first category and $35 for each additional category; discount for IAN members
What prizes are offered: The winners are eligible to receive a share of a $6,000 cash prize. The recipient of the Grand Prize Book of the Year receives $2,500. All winning books are announced on the IAN’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Next Generation Indie Book Awards is the largest international awards program for independently published books. It is presented by the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group.
Who’s eligible: Authors and publishers; books must be self-published or published by an independent publisher or university press
How much the entry fee is: $75 for the first category and $60 for each additional category
What prizes are offered: First place receives $1,500 and a trophy, second place received $750 and a trophy, third place receives $500 and a trophy, and each winner of the 80+ categories receives $100 and a gold model. Up to five finalists in each of the categories receive a finalist medal.
Additionally, all winners get a listing in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Catalog, exposure on the website and social media, an invitation to attend the Gala Awards Reception, and award stickers for books.
This awards program showcases the talent of university and independent presses, along with self-published authors. The Foreword INDIES Book of the Years Awards was created in 1998.
Who’s eligible: Authors and publishers; books must be self-published or published by an independent or university press
How much the entry fee is: $119-$129 (depending on entry date) for the first category and $99-$109 for each additional category
What prizes are offered: The two winners for fiction and nonfiction receive $1,500. All finalists and winners are featured in Foreword Reviews, on social media, in the Foreword This Week email, in press releases, and more. Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorable Mention winners receive 500 foil seals for their books.
The Best Indie Book Award is an annual international literary award contest open to authors across the globe. Entries are judged by several criteria, including grammar, pacing, hooks, etc.
Who’s eligible: Authors of self-published or independently published books in English
How much the entry fee is: $70 per category
What prizes are offered: The winner of the Book of the Year Award receives $500 and a trophy. All other winners receive a Best Indie Book Award emblem, a trophy, a feature in online promotions, custom promotional images, and more.
The BookLife Prize is an annual writing competition sponsored by BookLife and Publishers Weekly. The goal of this contest is to support independent authors and increase the visibility of great written works in various categories.
Who’s eligible: Authors of unpublished or self-published books in English; only certain genres may be accepted
How much the entry fee is: $99
What prizes are offered: The grand prize winners (Fiction Contest and Nonfiction Contest) each receive $5,000 and a profile in Publishers Weekly. The four finalists in each category also receive a blurb from the guest judge and a mention in Publishers Weekly.
This award was created in honor of American philosopher Eric Hoffer. It highlights salient writing and celebrates independent publishers. The Eric Hoffer Award has become one of the largest international book awards for small, university, and independent presses.
Who’s eligible: Authors and publishers; books must be self-published or published by academic, small, or independent presses
How much the entry fee is: $60-$70 (depending on entry date) for regular category registration and $45 for chapbook registration
What prizes are offered: The grand prize winner receives $2,500. There are also press awards and category prizes.
The North Street Book Prize is presented by Winning Writers. This awards program was created to benefit self-published and hybrid-published authors.
Who’s eligible: Authors of self-published or hybrid-published books in English that are available to the public; only certain genres may be accepted
How much the entry fee is: $75 per book
What prizes are offered: The grand prize winner receives $10,000, each category winner receives $1,000, and the honorable mention in each category receives $300. All winners are given additional prizes as well, including three months of Plus service from Book Award Pro.
All contestants receive a PDF of The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, free guides to successful publishing from BookBaby, a free 3-month subscription to Book Award Pro, and a mini self-publishing course.
If you’re interested in submitting your book for general or self-published awards, remember to be strategic.
You can increase the chances of your entry being accepted (and noticed) if you take a more methodical approach. Plus, you can avoid wasting time and money on competitions that don’t really benefit you.
Here are some basic steps to take…
1. Learn what judges look for.
Before even selecting an award, it’s worth learning what factors book award judges consider. Of course, different awards programs use different judges. However, having a basic understanding of what judges look for can help you stand out from the other entrants. You may discover issues worth fixing in your book before you submit it.
2. Select an award to apply for.
The previous section included several self-published book awards you may want to apply for. But there are plenty more out there. So, take the time to perform additional research so you can select the best option.
The Alliance of Independent Authors has a convenient list of book award and contest ratings you can check out.
3. Review your book.
You should review your book before you submit it to any awards program. Ideally, you want to leave yourself as much time as possible before the entry deadline. Make sure your book is ready to go by asking yourself the following questions:
Is it free of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes?
Is it well formatted?
Did you use an easy-to-read font?
Does the cover fit the genre?
Does the book blurb hook the reader?
Is the story compelling?
Are your characters developed?
If there are any potential issues with your book, address them before entering the competition.
4. Follow the guidelines.
When you’ve settled on an award, make sure to read the guidelines fully. Every program is different, so don’t assume you know what they want. Follow the rules they set for book submission, payment method, etc. Otherwise, you could end up disqualified.
5. Keep moving forward.
Once you’ve submitted your entry, you’re done. The winner(s) will be announced, and you’ll find out whether your book has been chosen. Even if you don’t win this one, you’ll likely gain new insight that will help you in the future. So, keep moving forward.
There’s no rule that says you need to apply for general or self-published book awards. Not at all! But there are a lot of benefits to being an award-winning author. So, if you’re up to the challenge, consider looking into the various awards programs open to indie authors.
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