I’m celebrating an unexpected victory at the moment. Trying to grasp what happened. I was just informed that my book Screamcatcher: Web World took first place in the N. N. Light Book Awards contest for best Young Adult novel of 2019. Not a huge event, nor a teeny one either. I must have been auto-entered in this running because I had no idea such a platform was part of their yearly program. I take it that about 1,750 books in 25 categories/genres were considered because of their highest reviews. I wasn’t even forewarned as a finalist position. Since this was a no-pay entry contest, it made it all that more significant and relevant to me. I really attribute most of this to luck and timing.
This is the third time I’ve won or placed in anything literature related in 29 years. I think we all know how impossible the odds can seem. Yet when it happens, you sit there in a stupor and wonder the why of it, rather than the whole “Oh hell yes!” of it. Needless to say, I’m humbled and grateful to be called out for a little book that I thought was nothing more than a little slammer beach read. The heck with me—this is a win for the First Nation’s Tribe, a salute to our North American Indian cultural history.
I would encourage others to adopt the feeling that this could happen to you too when you least expect it. And isn’t that always the way it seems to work? Victory always seems to sneak up on you with no pre-warning. I’ll have fond memories of this day and time in my life. It felt like somebody wrapped their arms around me after a long period of loneliness. And in the writing world where rejection is 99% of our existence, these are the moments that make it all worth the insufferable effort to accomplish and carry on. On the upside, this contest required no payment or commitment to enter. These types are far, few and in between. Many of them are small and barely register a blip on the “who won what” radar. Yet even the smaller ones can have a huge reader base and attract the curious.
THE DOWNSIDE OF CONTESTS AND AWARDS
J. A Konrath, the successful Indie guru, is noted for saying that contests “aren’t worth sh.t.” That they have no relevance or significance when it comes to notoriety or impact on sales—particularly sales. He goes on to say that they are a gimmick or scam at best. Nearly all of them. He has a point, to a certain extent, and I don’t and can’t disagree with his logic and opinion. Our senior population is a favorite target of contest campaigns because the contests come in so many venues and guises, covering a multitude of subjects.
Contests and awards can be an enticement, and yet they can be an entrapment. Ergo an addiction. This, by the way, applies to just about every contest or award out there for a multitude of products and services—books, jewelry, appliances, gift cards, cars, vacations, artwork, poems and the like. There’s no end to the array of prizes and circumstances by which you can enter with the possibility of placing, becoming a finalist or winning. Wouldn’t you know that many of them include honorable mentions as kind of an afterthought. The more divisions to win in allows the host to pander and cater to many more participants. First, second and third placements are the most common winning sequences, with sometimes a hats off to the overall grand prize winner of the entire field. Honorable mentions usually bring up the rear, and make no mistake about it, those little wins won’t go unrecognized by participants and can be just as important as the larger award positions. What’s important is that you got ink!
We definitely have some legitimate and noteworthy contests that can pull in lots of interest from industry professional watchdogs. These contests are mostly free but require nominations to be included in their lists. They are considered premium awards and are usually sponsored by huge organizations and companies each year. Here are some samples of some of the best known contests and awards:
32. The IndieReader Discovery Awards
Website: www.indiereader.comContest details: www.indiereader.comproduct/indiereader-discovery-awards-entry-2020/Fee: $149
33. The Best Indie Book Award
Website: www.bestindiebookaward.com/live/Contest details:www.bestindiebookaward.com/submit/product/best-indie-book-award-entry/Fee: $50
34. Foreword INDIES Book of the Year
Website: www.forewordreviews.com Contest details: https://publishers.forewordreviews.com/awards/register/Fee: unpublished
35. Indie Reader Discovery Awards
Website: www.indiereader.com/enter-discovery-awardsContest details: www. indiereader.com/product/indiereader-discovery-awards-entry-2020 Fee: $150
36. The Independent Publisher Book Awards
Website: www.ippyawards.comContest details: www.secure.independentpublisher.comcart/?program_id=4Fee: $75-$95
37. The Eric Hoffer Award
Website: www.hofferaward.comFee: $60
38. Next Generation Indie Book Awards
Website: www.indiebookawards.com Contest details: www.indiebookawards.com/enter/guidelinesFee: $75
Crime and Mystery Book Awards Contests
39. CWA Daggers
Website: www.thecwa.co.uk Contest details:www.thecwa.co.uk/the-daggersFee: unpublished
40. The Edgar Awards
Website: www.mysterywriters.org Contest details: www.mysterywriters.org/edgars/edgar-submission-information/Fee: unpublished
E-book Book Awards Contests
41. ELit Awards
Website: www.elitawards.comContest details: www.elitawards.com/entryformFee: $70–$90
42. Global E-Book Awards
Website: www.globalebookawards.comContest details: www.globalebookawards.com/instructions-for-entering/Fee: $4.97
43. Digital Book World Awards
Website: www.digitalbookworld.comContest details: www.digitalbookworld.com/dbw-award-formFee: $59
Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Book Awards Contests
44. Bram Stoker Award
Website: www.thebramstokerawards.comContest details: www.thebramstokerawards.com/submissions/Fee: unpublished
45. Fanstory Horror Writing Contest
Website: www.fanstory.comContest details: www.fanstory.com/contestdetails.jsp?id=105611Fee: unpublished
46. Hugo Awards
Website: www.thehugoawards.orgContest details: www.thehugoawards.org/hugo-categories/Fee: unpublished
47. Nebula Awards
Website: www.nebulas.sfwa.orgFee: unpublished
Business Book Awards Contests
48. Axiom Business Book Awards
Website: www.axiomawards.com Contest details: www.secure.independentpublisher.comcart/?program_id=1Fee: $75-$95
50. Financial Times
Website: www.ft.comwork-careers/business-book-awardFee: unpublished
Among this list are free contests that carry a lot of weight—the Hugo, Nebulae, Booker Prize, Pulitzer, Bram Stoker and other such notables. However, take note of the fees associated with most of them. Name your category or genre and you’ll probably find yourself eligible in one or more of these offerings. Some are for unpublished manuscripts. How deep are your pockets? What are your realistic expectations?
BUT LOOK AT THOSE ENTRY FEES!
Do you think for one minute those sponsoring agencies are losing money by bestowing huge cash prizes and publication upon you? You would be wrong. They are making money hand over fist. The question you have to ask yourself is…is it worth the expense and nail-biting to anticipate or expect a win of any kind in any of them? With thousands or tens of thousands of applicants, tabulate your odds of picking up a win. It’s worse than a crap shoot in Las Vegas. If you are a contest chaser and think that you can even your odds by entering many or most of these contests, you’ll end up sitting on the curb with your hat in your lap begging for living expenses. If you happen to feel good about your odds in a certain competition, it doesn’t hurt to enter. Just do so with the full knowledge that everyone has the same hopes and dreams and the playing field is level.
I’m sorry, but I can’t see myself as a wunder talent since I might have edged out a runner up because of a dropped run-on sentence or a POV slip. Final decisions could be that close.
How much does talent have to do with copping a win? Fortunately a great book will stand out whether it is picked by a panel of judges or a reader’s poll. It is subjective and a matter of personalized opinion. Yet the wheat will win over the chaff. Every time.
There are and have been instances where an applicant can actually sway the votes by using huge marketing campaigns (more expense) aimed at fans, readers and relatives. This happens a lot with book cover contests. Get somebody to click on you as a favorite and wallah! You start stacking up the votes. This happens. It’s a little desperate, but if the cover really is great, it’s justified. People can go to extreme lengths to win—you’ve heard of those authors who have bought thousands of copies of their own books to hit the NYT, USA Today and Amazon top-seller lists. The same thing happens in the contest and awards arena.
What’s in it for you if you pick up a substantial or even moderate win? Besides publication and a cash prize (if it’s offered), you have bragging rights. Sometimes you get permission to wear the contest badge, usually a star with the logo displayed prominently on your book cover. Does it help? Money and publication is fine. Wearing the badge? That’s up to you. A little gold star might give you a second look. It is NOT a guarantee that your sales and reviews are going to skyrocket. Your win is not an earth-shaking event and, except for the most prestigious awards, don’t expect front page news, radio interviews or TV spots with the major networks. This kind of news goes over with fans, friends and relatives more than other segments of the populace.
So you won something…consider it a personal best. Take pride, include it in your diary and remember it fondly. You certainly did something right and, no, it really wasn’t all luck. It was pluck and you just happened to be there with a beloved book that made an impact on somebody who cared enough to draw you out of the crowd. Good luck with your future entries, and may we all have our 16 minutes of fame!
Chris H. Stevenson (Christy J. Breedlove–pen), originally born in California, moved to Sylvania, Alabama in 2009. Her occupations have included newspaper editor/reporter, astronomer, federal police officer, housecleaner and part time surfer girl. She has been writing off and on for 36 years, having officially published books beginning in 1988. Today she writes in her favorite genre, Young Adult, but has published in multiple genres and categories. She was a finalist in the L. Ron. Hubbard Writers of the Future contest, and took the first place grand prize in a YA novel writing contest for The Girl They Sold to the Moon. She writes the popular blog, Guerrilla Warfare for Writers (special weapons and tactics), hoping to inform and educate writers all over the world about the high points and pitfalls of publishing