When applying for book awards, you need to use some common sense and caution.
Getting awards is fun (the Good), but you don't want your money to be wasted (the Bad) or even be scammed (the Ugly.)
Here are some things to look at when deciding whether to enter an award contest.
1. What is the cost?
Some think that any cost is too much and won't enter an awards contest that costs anything. My view is that $50 is a good price point. If you do win, where can you get that kind of publicity for $50? In addition, there are some administrative costs to running an awards event and that seems reasonable to me. I won't apply for a contest that costs $150 or more. You have to wonder where that money is going.
2. How often is the book award contest conducted?
If more than once a year, I am a little suspicious. Also if I don't win one year, I am not going to try again. I already have an idea what they think of my book and I don't have to pay more money to find out for sure. If anything, there is more competition the next year.
3. If an award asks for personal information like passport number or drivers license number, run for the hills!
If you read the instructions and see that you have to give personal information, you may be setting yourself up for a scam. Usually you have a choice on how to pay. I like to write a check even though it takes longer to get there. I also like to pay with PayPal. If you are requested to pay before you get instructions, then you know you are being scammed.
4. What is the prize? Don't give away your rights.
If the prize is a publishing contract, be sure to read the rules very carefully. You don't want to give away the rights to your book. Is this really a contest or a way for publisher to get you to pay a fee a book contract or a way to get you to pay a big fee for editing.
5. What is the prize? Be wary of winning an entry in an anthology
There may be legitimate anthologies for poetry or a specific topic, of course. However, if your prize is the opportunity to be in an anthology and you get the right to sell copies of that anthology, you may want to rethink that. Who is going to read this anthology except for the authors?
6. What is the prize? A trophy but you must pay for it.
Now if you are charged $5 or $10 to get a medal, that is reasonable, but if you have to pay $100 or more for a trophy, that seems excessive. You have to ask yourself, who is making the money?
7. What is the prize? Money, judges' comments, website listings, stickers, trip to award ceremonies, book festivals and press releases.
I like book awards because of the Public Relations for my books. The book awards may send an email or press release that can be shared to your friends and contacts. Money is nice, but usually that is only for the grand prize winner. Judges' comments can be useful, but sometimes they can also be annoying. Lately a judge criticized my book on interviewing because it didn't have anything on resumes. Well there are plenty of books on resumes, but mine is about interviewing! It is usually too late to make any changes anyway so I don't ask for judges' comments anymore.
Often the book award will list your book on its website. If you get that opportunity, be sure to do that. Often there will be a link to Amazon or Barnes and Noble to buy your book so that can be another revenue stream. Others will give you stickers or charge a small fee for them. My experience with stickers is that they fall off and can look unseemly. I don't put them on my books anymore, but it is nice to take a photo of the sticker for your website or blog. Often the grand prize winner will get a trip to the awards or a weekend at a writers retreat. This is nice but remember only one person gets this. You will have a better chance getting a prize in your category.
8. Who are the judges?
Read the fine print and see who the judges are. When the books are part of a reviewers' book awards, such as Readers Views and Readers Favorites, the books will be reviewed as well as judged. Be careful if the rules say the judges will read only a certain percentage of the book. We all know it may not take long to tell whether a book is award material, but you want your book to be read.
9. Who are the sponsors and how long has the award existed?
The book awards are usually sponsored by publishers, publisher organizations, reviewers, and book festivals. The Eric Hoffer Book Awards were previously called Writers Notes and a few years ago got permission from the Eric Hoffer Estate to use his name. The Writers Digest has been around for 20 years and the IPPY Awards for 16 years. Just because an award is new does not mean I won't enter it since it is also a way to get on the ground floor for something new. If I like the concept, I will go ahead and enter.
Book Awards have really helped me in my marketing effort. If you follow some of the guidelines above, you will be entering book contests like a pro!
See my previous post for some more tips on book awards.
Mary Greenwood, Author of How to Interview Like a Pro, winner of 13 book awards; How to Mediate Like a Pro, winner of 13 book awards; and How to Negotiate Like a Pro, winner of 10 book awards.