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Winning a book award is like becoming a best-seller. It’s a game that authors who know the rules can win and reap rewards from. (However, unlike some best-seller designations, awards require a well-done book.) First and foremost, awards are a powerful form of recognition and elevate your status.  Most important is that after you receive one, you and your book can forever be labeled “award-winning” – even in your obituary!

As a former judge of a popular book award program – and winner of 6 awards of the 8 I submitted my books to in 2022 – I’ll fill you in about the industry’s current lay of the land and what you need to know to win one or more.

Big Picture
A book award program conducts four main activities. It announces that it exists and its rules and details, it collects money with submissions, pays some judges and announces some awards. It’s theoretically an easy business to start for someone who can connect with publishers and book PR professionals.

Anyone can submit a book for an award, but most submitters are a book’s author or publisher.

Programs typically aren’t very transparent. Few ever announce how many books were submitted in a year or their judges’ qualifications or identities. And I’ve never seen any reveal their award scoring system, even in broad terms.

Their reputation in general accrues with longevity, so virtually all of them post prior years’ award winners.

Program Details
• There are 150+ awarding programs for English-language books that collectively recognize over 8,000 books yearly.
• Most announce awards annually.
• Most programs have 50-100 award categories.
• Some award to one book per category; others award to two.
• Approximate cost to submit a book is $100 per book per category.
• Almost all accept self-published books.
• Some require an ISBN on each submitted book.
• Almost all accept PDFs as the submission.
• Some no longer accept printed books.
• Most accept books written in the last 2-3 years.
• Some give awards to older books (these are called legacy awards).
• Some awards include a cash prize or a published book review.
• A very few have in-person award celebrations and photo ops.

Typical Submission Process Elements
• A purpose statement describes the overall awards program.
• Eligibility requirements define characteristics of welcome books.
• There may be special requirements, such as having an ISBN or answering an essay question.
• Fiction and nonfiction categories are listed (most programs welcome submission of a book to multiple categories).
• A shopping cart takes immediate payment.
• Submitted PDFs are instantly uploaded.
• A receipt and confirmation email is sent to the submitter.
• An email link to the award winners list is sent to all submitters on the announcement day.
• Stickers for books and websites can be purchased by winners.

Submission Tips
• Establish a budget that assumes approximate cost of $100 per book per category you submit a book to.
• Choose – and make notes about – a few dozen award programs. Then create a short list, then decide which to submit to.
• Focus on finding the right categories and submission and announcement dates.
• Eliminate programs whose purpose you aren’t aligned with.
• Eliminate awards whose eligibility requirements your book doesn’t meet (e.g., PDF vs print, copyright date, etc.).
• Review program categories, knowing it’s generally easier to win in a narrow one than in a broad one that likely attracts more competition.
• Review past winners in the categories you’re considering, to see where your book might best fit.
• Double-check that the submission deadline works for you.
• Be sure the announcement date works for you.
• Review the submission fee so you aren’t surprised at the last minute by a high fee.

And finally, I’m often asked two questions:
• Is there a way to rank awards by prestige?
Many genres have a few that are considered most prestigious which industry insiders, such as publishers and book PR firms, generally agree about. So ask insiders familiar with your genre.

• Do all submitted books get read by a judge?
In most contests, the winning books have been completely read by more than one judge. The longer a book stays in the running as the scoring progresses, the more likely it is that ever-larger parts of it have been read by at least one judge.

Join our email list in the sidebar to immediately receive a list of 33 programs that recognize over 2,200 books annually, read monthly about specific award programs and learn when our forthcoming online course and service for submitting your book to award programs becomes available.

Best of luck winning an award!


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