In my previous post titled How to Promote Your Book, in tip #3 I encouraged indie authors to enter book awards as a way to get their book exposed. I also provided links to credible book award contests where you can submit your book and win recognition as well as prizes if you win. However, I didn’t mention how some companies are looking to scam newbie authors into purchasing book award contest and make a profit from them.
I also didn’t mention the guidelines that you should look for when participating in any award that requires you to give money upfront.
We earn our money hard and parting ways with it is very critical, but there’s companies that will tap into a writers emotion and take advantage of our eagerness to get some sort of recognition and sale.
Tips to look for when entering a book contest/award:
1. Know the Rules
The rules for entering should be posted, easy to follow, and written clearly to be understood by a participant of any age. You shouldn’t have to click through the entire website to find the rules. Also on that note the rules shouldn’t be a single paragraph long or too long where the information is redundant and confusing. There should be a contact information, who organized the award, and why.
2. Judge List
The names of judges and how they will judge your book should also be listed. A brief history or explanation about how they became judges would be good to have as well however, not all websites would have this information. Judges should be a combination of authors, editors, librarians, or someone from the reading community.
3. What Award?
What is the award type? Is it a medal, plaque, trophy, or money? Is there a tier level of winners such as first, second, or third place winners or just one grand prize winner? Who are their past winning participants? Are there pictures of the participants with their award? What does the tangible award look like? If it’s a monetary value, then how would I receive the cash prize and when should the winner expect to receive it? Who are they and where do they stand as a business? Make sure that the website gives you some sort of clue or information on how would this award help you as a writer or help your book. Let them know that you’ve searched for their company early if they contact you.
4. Turn Around Time
What’s the turn around time frame for choosing a winner. Most turn around times are 6 months long or longer anything less is a scam. They have to account for the hundreds of books that are being entered and the deadline for submitting books. Specially if there’s three judges who have to read books with over 100k words. If they’re judging your book carefully they will need time to read it and rate it.
5. Winnings and Prizes
Don’t just accept bragging rights as your winning. Bragging rights should be a bonus to the winning. No award contest would be emailing you for you to enter especially if you never expressed any interest in that company. Make sure that the website provides instructions on how would the winning be given to each winner. Is there a meet and greet conference where all finalists attends. Or is the award sent via mail?
Usually there’s a history of why the award was created in the first place. Browse their website and look for their company bio, what other organizations have they worked with, charities they have contributed to if any, do they have a newsletter that they send out to bloggers or the public, and research how well known are they? Conduct a Google search of their company to identify other websites that talks about them as an organization. Be able to read about how have they helped other author’s career.
Look at past years participants and see if you would’ve rated those books the same. Look those books up on Amazon and Goodreads and checkout their reviews.
Basically the company should sell you on taking your business because without writers this contest wouldn’t exist. These steps are just a few of the things that I looked for when I was registering for award contests. These let me filter out the people who just want my money. You need to make sure the company is credible.
I recently got contacted by NYC Big Book Award via email for my book Guilty Photographs. I was feeling important and thrilled that a company wanted to know more about my book. I clicked on the website link provided in the email. I researched the company and red flags were raised the more I scrolled through the vague site. Also there wasn’t any established information for this company. The only information I knew for certain about this company was that they wanted $99 dollars for entering the award. I didn’t see who the judges supposed to be, the detailed method for selecting the books, what the award look like, pictures of past winners with their awards, and credible sources about the company. In addition, the length of time to choose a winner was too short for the number of books they claim they receive. Needless to say, that I will not be participating in this award.
In my opinion, awards are still a great way to get your book exposed to the public and to experts in that field. If you have a list of the judges you can research them. Even if you didn’t win those judges may be looking out for your next book and your name will be recognizable to them. Exposure is the most important factor after you have polished your book. Once your book has been submitted to multiple awards, contests, bloggers, and book reading sites, you will get an influx of people claiming to be publishers, editors, advertisers, and readers. So, are book awards a scam? No, but there are scammers out there ready to scam you out of your money.
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