Should You Enter A Book Award Contest?

Is it worth it to enter a book award contest? That's a question many authors ask themselves. Like so many aspects of publishing, there's no yes or no answer.

But here are some additional questions, the answers to which may help you decide:

  • Why do you want to win this award?
  • Do the benefits (including advertising and marketing) match your goals?
  • Will the entry fee strain your budget?
  • How much time will it take to prepare and enter the book award contest?

Why Enter A Book Award Contest?

If you want to win a book award contest, ask yourself why.

  • Prestige

Some writers long for prestige and validation. Winning a respected award can help you feel prouder of your writing career or your book.

  • Increased Sales

It also might increase sales. It puts a seal of approval (sometimes literally) on your book. This approval can help reassure a reader who doesn't know you already that it's worth investing money and time into reading your book.

  • Marketing

Winning or placing in a book award contest also may provide advertising and marketing opportunities. If you have an email list, you can tell them you're entering the award, email again if you are a finalist, and share your excitement when you win or even disappointment if you don't.

Why is that a plus? It's a reason to email that reminds them your book is out there but that doesn't just say, “Hey, buy my book.” It also helps people empathize with you and care about your career. People will be excited for you!

For the same reasons, you can share the stages of the contest on social media and with friends, family, and colleagues.

  • Prizes

Some awards come with prize money, others with certificates or seals, others with award ceremonies.

Wishing Shelf Finalist Book Award Medal Red
The Wishing Shelf provides 3 different medals for finalists – this is red with red background. The silver is on my website.
  • Advertising

As the president of Readers' Favorite said in this article on book awards, “Entering a book contest is like paying to run an ad about your book.”

Your book might be listed on an award website if you are a finalist or a winner. Also, you can add a book award win to your book descriptions. Recently, I added my finalist designation in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards to my descriptions of the second book in my Q.C. Davis mystery series.

  • Critiques or Advice

Some book award contests offer advice, reviews, or critiques to all entrants, or to entrants who reach a certain level.

Do The Benefits Match Your Goals?

Whether a particular book award contest is worth entering depends on what you hope to achieve.

If you're looking for prestige, research the award's history. Ask people who love to read if they've heard of the award and what it means to them. Check reputable authors' associations to see what they think of the award. If it's well-respected and sought after and readers feel winning means a book is a great book, you may want to enter.

On the other hand, if no one's heard of the award or it's brand new, winning it may not give you the prestige you're hoping for.

Advertising, Marketing, and Sales

On the other hand, if advertising, marketing, or sales are your goal, a lesser-known award may provide that.

Research what happens to books that win or place.

If that research shows the award organization displays the books in an attractive way on an award website, publicizes them on social media, hosts award ceremonies with photo ops, or provides seals or medals that can benefit your marketing strategy, you may want to enter.

Also, any award helps signal people that your work has merit or that you've achieved success.

It's part of social proof. Strangers feel better checking out your work now that you've won an award. Friends are more apt to recommend your book now that you're an award-winning author, not “just” someone they know who also happens to write.

If you're looking for prize money, how does it compare to the entry fee (if there is one)? And how does it compare to other ways you could earn the same amount of money?

Finally, you may hope to learn or gain something even if you don't win or earn finalist or runner-up status.

Part of the draw when I entered The Wishing Shelf Book Awards was that I entered a recently-published book that hadn't yet gotten many editorial or other reviews. The contest promised each entrant feedback on the book, an honest Amazon or Goodreads review based on readers' comments, and a “catchy quote” for the book description (or back cover blurb on reprint).

If I didn't win or place, I figured I'd at least benefit from reader feedback and additional marketing copy.

The Costs of Entering A Contest

Some book award contests are free to enter. Those awards usually are funded by some type of grant or organization. Others charge a fee to cover the costs of running the contest. Still others seek to earn a profit from running the award.

Whether a fee is worth it depends both on the benefits above and your budget.

I'll consider a contest if the fee is below $100. But before entering, I look not only at whether the fee fits in my budget but what else I could buy with that money. As a result, I've only entered one contest in the last 3-4 years.

If, for example, I can buy advertising for the same price that I think will be more effective, I'll do that rather than enter a contest. Ditto for critiques and marketing copy.

And cost is about more than money. Your time is valuable.

So be sure to consider how involved the entry process is and how much time it will take you to complete it. Are there long forms to fill out? Do you need to put your book into a particular format you don't already have? Must you submit a hard copy and mail it?

As with money, consider whether there is a better use of your time.

If you decide to enter an award, good luck!

Until next time–

L.M. Lilly