6 Literary Award Competitions

Written by M.J. Moores | April 30, 2014

The big debate ranging right now is whether or not book awards and award contests actually do what they promise – give you added publicity and help you sell your books. The short answer is it depends.

Just like anything else in the writing and publishing industry, if you’re considering submitting your book for a literary award you need to do your homework. But there has to be an easy way to tell the difference between the upstanding award contests and the fakes, right? If you follow writing or publishing bloggers who comment on literary awards, they will do the research for you. There are also eBooks available that list a number of contests, but they often give little to no background about the company or the validity of the awards. And then there are key term searches you can utilize for your internet browser if you have the time to do it yourself.

What you need to know is relatively straightforward.

On the macro-scale: There are a number of renowned literary awards that are offered by publishing houses (usually for their own publications), there are industry professional contests, and there are reader’s choice awards – 6 of which can be found below.

On the micro-scale: There are a ton of local or small company book awards that are offered by libraries, colleges, small publishing houses, and industry related service companies. These are the more difficult contests to trust since there may be no track record for you to judge by.

The importance of entry fees: These are just as wide and varied as the companies who hold the contests. Ranging from 0 – 100 dollars (on average) you need to decide if the contest, and thus the award, is worth the money from your  budget.

Things to watch out for: Some contests charge an exorbitant amount of money but say, “prizes are determined on the number of entrants” and don’t give the ratio breakdown for winnings. Some have hidden clauses in their contracts that bind your work to their company (read the fine print!). Some have too few categories (or no categories at all) and expect to name only a grand prize winner. There are those award contests that claim “industry professional judges” but never give names or offer a way to find out who these professionals are. And still others demand that after winning, you have the opportunity to buy your award and/or certificate (among other promotional services). Be prepared for a solicitation of services if you give your email to any award contest with these features.

All awards are not equal: If you win an award from your local library or a small publishing service you might get a bit of regional recognition and have something fun to write about in your blog. These awards are not likely to draw any extra attention from literary journals or big-time news papers. However, if you win an industry-recognized award, the publicity you garner from this event will more than make up for the entry fee.

When it comes down to it, if you’re wondering whether a contest is legitimate or not, do a general internet search of the award and the company (separately and together) linked with the key term ‘fraud’ or ‘scam’ – that will tell you a lot about your options. If you belong to a writers’ forum online, like Absolute Write Water Cooler, utilize the expertise at your fingertips and ask the forum participants what they know about a particular contest – just don’t go in asking something general like, “What contests have you participated in lately?” That’s being lazy.

So really the answer to the debate lies in your hands since only you know what’s right for your book, your genre, and your wallet. If you’re interested in playing the game and rolling the dice to try your luck, here are 6 legitimate award contests to consider:

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award – www.createspace.com/abna
This is a world-wide competition (although many of the previous winners have been CreateSpace self-publishers) for authors age 13+. Both published and unpublished manuscripts may be entered but Amazon will only accept the first 10,000 submissions in one of the 5 popular genres: General Fiction, Romance, Mystery/Thriller, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, and Young Adult. Only single authors may enter the contest with manuscripts of word counts between 50,000 – 125,000. Authors submit a pitch (up to 300 words), an excerpt (up to 3,000 words), and their complete manuscript.

– Free to enter
– Well-known industry company
– Submit in Jan/Feb annually
– Un-named ‘industry professional’ judges
– Grand prize (one winner) with a $50,000 book advance/publishing contract with Amazon (non-negotiable)
– 1st Place (4 winners) with a $15,000 book advance/publishing contract with Amazon (non-negotiable)
– 2nd Place (up to 500 winners) with a Publishers Weekly Manuscript Review
– 3rd Place (up to 2,000 winners) with an Amazon-select Editors’ Review of the second round entry’s excerpt

Note: Quarter finalists & semi-finalists grant Amazon Publishing exclusive 1st publishing rights to your manuscript in all formats (eBook, audio book, print, etc.). Be sure to read the contest rules carefully.

R.O.N.E. Awards – www.indtale.com
This is a contest held by the online literary magazine InD’Tale who specialize in helping writers navigate the industry: helpful articles, professional reviews, indie author promotional opportunities including interview, author spotlights (both traditional and fun), and manuscript critique services. Magazine subscribers made it known that a credible award for the best books in the self-publishing industry was desired, and the creators of the magazine listened. R.O.N.E. stands for Reward of Novel Excellence.

– Free to enter (only manuscripts previously reviewed by InD’Tale qualify – 4 star rating or higher)
– Reputable online literary magazine
– Judging begins early every new year
– 1st round of judging is done by the magazine subscribers
– 2nd round of judging is done by a panel of industry professionals
– Winners are celebrated at an industry-wide event & receive a physical award (they do not have to pay for)
– Winners & Honorable Mentions are given (do not have to purchase) a unique emblem to use with their books in print or digital format, as well as notoriety on the website/in the magazine

B.R.A.G. Medallion – www.bragmedallion.com
This is a reader’s choice award created to support a generic, world-wide view of indie authors (anyone can enter). B.R.A.G. medallion is owned and operated by indieBRAG, LLC, a privately held organization that has brought together a large group of readers, both individuals and members of book clubs, located throughout the United States and in ten other countries around the globe. Awards of excellence are offered on a monthly basis in order to advise the public of well-written indie books. B.R.A.G. stands for Book Readers Appreciation Group.

– $20 Submission fee (for processing & distribution to readers)
– A reader/reviewer based contest (judges are the collection of reader/reviewers associated with B.R.A.G.)
– Only digital copies of your book are submitted (you nominate your own work)
– Half of all submissions pass the pre-screening
– Of the remaining books, 40% are rejected by the qualified readers
– Only 10% of all submissions receive an award
– A book’s merits are judged on: plot, character, dialogue, writing style, copyedit, cover/interior layout (you are not in direct competition with anyone else; you are compared to the industry standard)
– Winners are spotlighted on the website and receive a free digital medallion for the cover of their book

Readers Favorite Contest – readersfavorite.com/annual-book-awards-contest.htm
This is a book review and award contest site that focuses on authors, readers, publishers & agents. As reviewers, Readers Favorite is highly respected in the publishing industry reviewing for Random House, Penguin Group, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, & Harvest House along with many small and independent authors and publishers.

– $89 USD submission fee ($65 USD for up to 3 additional submissions of the same manuscript in different categories)
– Unnamed professional judges from the writing/publishing industry
– Prefer digital submission copies of your book
– Contestants range from 1st time authors to New York Times bestsellers & celebrities
– Accept published & unpublished manuscripts, ebooks, audio books, comic books & poetry books
– 100 specific categories to choose from to ensure you are competing against others of the same genre
– 4 Award Levels (Gold, Silver, Bronze, Honorable Mention) & a occasionally a Grand Prize award
– They have a special illustration award ($65 entry)
– Winners receive: personalized award certificate & physical award ribbon w/medal (free), a physical role of embossed award stickers & a digital book seal, award ceremony w/media coverage, a high distribution press release, a book review posted on 7 popular book & social networking sites, a mini critique of 5 key areas of your book, your book listed on their website, one of $10,000 in prizes just for entering, and a chance for Wind Dancer Films to look at your book (should you choose this option upon submission)

Writer’s Digest – www.writersdigest.com/competitions/writing-competitions
As one of the leading writer’s magazines in North America you can be sure that Writer’s Digest will fulfill their contest promises. However, there is no limit to the number of entrants for each category and you need to watch for when your particular category is accepting submissions for that year. You can choose from: Sci-Fi, Thriller, Young Adult, romance, Crime, Horror, Poetry, Short Story, their general Writing Competion, or a Self-Published Ebook and Print book contest.

– Submission Fees for the Self-Published Book Awards: Regular $110 & Early Bird $100 with additional entries at $85
– A popular magazine-based contest
– Grand Prize (1 winner): $3000, a trip to WD Conference, promotion in the magazine, endorsements from the editorial team (10 copies of your book sent to magazines, publishers, & review houses), 1 guaranteed review in Midwest Book Review, and $100 worth of books
– First Place (9 winners): $1000, 1 guaranteed review in Midwest Book Review, and $100 worth of books

Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Awards – www.globalebookawards.com
Dan Poynter is a leading eBook specialist. He’s been in the publishing industry since the 60s and has advocated for eBooks since the 90s. With 130 books of his own and a certified speaker on the subject of eBooks and e-publishing he is an icon in the industry. His goal is to help good writers reach their market through proper recognition of their publishing achievements and to help authors publicize their work to its fullest extent. The Independent Publisher Book Awards are similar in scope and style to the Global eBook Awards.

– $79 per entry but if you enter 7 different categories (the max) with the same manuscript you get 15% off your entire purchase
– Renowned industry professional award contest
– 34 genre fiction categories & 58 non-fiction categories
– Specialty categories consist of: best cover, best trailer, best illustration in adult fiction, best illustration in children’s fiction, best illustration in non-fiction, best multi-media in an eBook, best photography, best website, Christian children’s eBook, Christian children’s picture book, & Christian children’s eBook
– all winners receive: a sticker for your eBook cover/pBook, blog, website, Amazon page & other professional materials, a free listing in Poynter Market place which offers review copies of your book for reviewers, are announced in a media news release, a chance at a 1 yrs scholarship for the Dan Poynter’s Para Promotion Program, 6 eBook promotional lessons, discounts on video trailers, and a chance to purchase a winning certificate

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M.J. Moores began her career as a high school English teacher with a passion for creative writing. Recently, she left the teaching profession to work as a freelance writer as she prepares her science fiction novel for publishing. Unimpressed with the lack of straightforward, simple (and free) resources available to new and emerging writers, she started her own online editing company and writers’ blog (Infinite Pathways) to help her fellow compatriots. M.J. is the author of Publicizing Yourself: A Beginner’s Guide to Author Marketing available through Smashwords.

Every good book deserves a chance to be read.

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