As the end of the year approaches, book lovers everywhere will undoubtedly scour and revisit high-profile award-winner lists in order to choose the perfect holiday gift for fellow readers (and maybe ourselves). With close to a million new books published each year in the U.S. alone, the potency of these lists in showcasing quality books is beyond question, and the effect on book sales can be considerable. Here, we’ve put together our top insights, tips, and advice on submitting your book to awards programs and the many options both authors and publishers have each year to get noticed.
Develop a strategy and choose programs wisely
The process of submitting your book for an award can be a lengthy and sometimes emotionally taxing one. For our interested authors, we often start by making a list of worthwhile programs (culled from hordes), paying attention to their credibility, methods for selection, and channels. As each program is different, we find doing the research well worth the investment of time and energy.
In targeting specific awards programs, Victoria Sutherland, Publisher at Foreword Reviews, host of the respected INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards, cautions diligence on the sponsor. She encourages participants to ask questions such as: Do they provide national attention for the winners and finalists? Will they make a big deal about the winners in their own press releases sent to media? Do they provide seals to help you identify your book as winner? Will they offer links year-round to the winners from a website? Are the winning books in prior years titles you would be proud to be a part of?
It is important to note that, with the number of books published each year, you should consider the chances of winning a globally-renown award such as the National Book Award or the Pulitzer Prize. Targeting awards in your niche market is a wise strategy that we strongly endorse, and it plays to both your book’s strengths and your thought leadership.
On executing the strategy
There are some facets of book awards programs that can seem confusing or rub non-industry people the wrong way, and the most frequently asked questions we get from our authors are in regards to entry fees. As you begin submitting your book for awards, you’ll find the amounts of money required can vary anywhere between $0, $25, and upwards of $250. This is pretty common and, given the benefits of winning an award, not something that should necessarily sway your participation.
“Don’t be suspicious of entry fees,” Sutherland says, “but do be careful about award programs that require membership fees to be paid prior to requesting entry fees. Entry fees contribute to the prizes being offered, as well as offset costs accrued like shipping and handling of books, a celebration event or announcements program, judges reimbursements, overhead for maintaining website, and links to the winners.”
As you begin executing your strategy for awards submissions, we advise keeping a tab on important dates and scheduled announcements. With some programs requiring books as soon as possible the year you publish and others opening submissions the following year, there is no universal deadline in the world of book awards. Furthermore, having a good idea of when you should hear back from an award program can take the pressure off of an already suspenseful process.
Once you’ve filled out the necessary paperwork and sent copies of your book to programs around the country, playing the waiting game is all you will have left to do before more work begins.
What to do if you win
If you win an award (congratulations!), there are important steps you should take quickly to optimize publicity for your book, platform, and thought leadership. The first? “Dovetail your press release and related fanfare with the sponsor’s for maximum exposure,” Sutherland says. “An award is a big deal, and it gives a book additional credibility in the eyes of readers, journalists, librarians, publishers, and distributors.”
Adding to this valuable advice, we encourage our authors to extend their hard-earned “bragging rights” to social media channels. Sharing your win with your audience via a carefully-tuned and courteous tweet or Facebook post can act as gratitude for supporting your work (and perhaps tip them in favor of purchasing your book if they haven’t already). We also suggest adding the award to your bio, website, and Amazon author page.
Submitting your book to awards programs is a great way to summon attention to your platform, honor your work, and get noticed. With this final thought in mind, we hope this post has offered ample fodder if you are considering submitting your book to awards programs. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.