A Writer’s Guide to Book Award Contests and Competitions

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Participating in a book award contest offers significant benefits beyond pursuing financial gain or notoriety; it also helps you gain exposure for your work, which is a great marketing tool. It’s crucial to consider the costs and benefits of writing contests before entering one, much like you would with an advertisement to market your book.


Challenges for great books give a significant profit from the venture. You can contact a bigger crowd and conceivable scholarly offices or distributors by presenting your work. Honors from decent rivalries, for example, the Jane Austen Society or the Bridport Prize give your work validity and certainty support. If you are honored with a literary award, all your advertising can be enhanced with an impressive seal of achievement and the label “award-winning book.” Plus, you will forever hold the title of “award-winning author.”


Of course, the more valuable the grand prize, the larger the contest and the stiffer the competition. Winning Bob’s Best Book of the Month doesn’t quite compare with a Newbery or Pulitzer. However, there are many credible writing contests in between these extremes. The trick is picking the right ones.

What Should I Look for in a Book Award Contest?

First, look for contests that align with your genre, whether it’s short fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry. Consider the submission requirements, ensuring they align with your goals as a writer. Target both established contests and those specifically designed for emerging writers to multiply your chances of success. The Young Lions Fiction Award and the John Locke Essay Competition cater to emerging fiction writers and essayists, offering an excellent platform for recognition. Keep an eye out for contests that grant honorable mentions; even if you don’t secure the top spot, the exposure can significantly impact your writing career.


Aside from identifying an appropriate niche, authors can evaluate the reputability of any writing competition by considering them from the reader’s perspective. Most readers have only heard of a few prominent literary awards, typically the ones with loftier budgets.


For all other writing awards, prospective readers will judge their merit based on the appearance of the seal on your book or marketing materials. If the seal looks amateurish, they will generally assume it is an amateur award. The same applies to the company’s website. Does it look professional? Do they have respectable affiliations within their industry?


Next, look at what the competition offers to its first, second, and third place winners. If the fee is worth what you could win, and it is within your budget, then you should consider submitting your work to the contest.
Image is Everything.


Remember to think like a reader. You’re browsing through books in your favorite genre and spot one with an award seal on it. Have you heard of this award? If not, how does the seal look? Does it look professional? What is the name of the award?


The name of the award can be as important as the appearance of the seal. For instance, you would not want your award seal to say DISCOUNT AWARDS as the company name, or BOB’S PICKS, unless Bob is a reputable figure in the literary industry. Many awards have good names, and some are downright great. One of my favorites is the Mom’s Choice Award, a name that outweighs the lack of a cash prize.

Should Book Award Contests Charge an Entry Fee?

The great debate among authors about book contests is whether or not they should charge an entry fee. To clarify this, let’s define the two main types of writing contests.


The first—and generally most renowned—type of contest operates with a budget. These contests are typically funded by an outside source, such as an endowment, foundation, or large company, where the contest is considered a means of advertising rather than a source of revenue. Generally, these types of contests have little or no entrance fee and strict entry guidelines but often provide wonderful benefits to the winners. Authors should enter as many of these as they qualify for.


The second type of writing contest comes from companies without such financial backing. These companies still want to offer a writing award but must charge money to cover the expenses of running the contest. Authors should consider each of these contests based on the balance between the entry fee and the value of winning. In other words, is what you could potentially earn worth the cost of submission?


How much is too much to pay for a book award contest?

This really depends on your budget. For example, if there was a contest that would feature my book in The New York Times, but it cost $1,000 to enter, I would consider it. I would seek a hundred reviews for my book to make sure everyone loved it, hire a great editor to make sure it was flawless, and read any articles on past award winners to ensure my story had a good chance. And if it did, I would do everything I could to enter.


Book award contests are just like book reviews.


You should be trying to get a book review from as many people and companies as you can, and the same goes for contests. You should be entering as many valuable writing contests as you can afford.

How do I win a writing competition and earn a book award?

So you found a credible contest and are ready to win big, right? Well, first, you’ll want to make sure your book has a clean format and has been thoroughly proofread.

Nothing insults a reader more than a lazy author. You are asking someone to not only read your book, but to say it is worthy of an award. Before even considering submission, proofread, proofread again, and proofread your proofreading. Whether entering a short story contest, a poetry competition, or any other writing contest, the quality of your writing not only reflects your storytelling abilities, but it also demonstrates your dedication to the craft.

Hire a professional editor, someone who can pick apart your book and tell you what characters you should lose, what sections make no sense, where you screwed up your POV, or why the ending fell flat. After you have fixed all the problems, then hire a proofreader to find the grammatical errors.


Next, make sure you use headers and footers to put in page numbers and the title of your book, and consider a table of contents. Use a standard font and font size (for most books). Get creative with your story, not your fonts. Now, when you enter your book, you know the reader will be able to enjoy your story and give it the ranking it deserves. Good luck!

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