Awards for Self-Published Books: Best Contests for Prizes 

JD Caron
August 16, 2021

I don’t know if this is still allowed in schools, but when I was young, we used to get a gold star sticker on our foreheads if we did well. It was the most amazing thing that could happen to you. Maybe you did well in a class assignment or drew a delightful picture, or maybe for once, you weren’t a complete nightmare in class. The teacher would then congratulate you for doing something great, take a golden sticker in the shape of a tiny star and stick it on your forehead.

In hindsight, this was probably the petri dish of where my envy started developing. I hated break time during the days when others got stars and I didn’t. As soon as we would go out to the playground, kids from other classes would be so excited about someone else’s golden star. They were all extremely inquisitive and elated whilst the others without stars were standing in the background, staring at the wall while breathing through their mouths, eating playdough or whatever. Or maybe that was just me…

Look at all the stars I wouldn't get

All the stars I wouldn't get

These stars generated a lot of interest, and this star principle applies to most things in life. Give it a ‘golden star’ and the perceived value of the item increases dramatically. The same applies to books.

When you are standing in a bookshop, and two books pique your interest, you would most likely pay more interest to the book that displays some information about awards. Whether it says ‘award-winning author’ or ‘winner of X award’ it immediately creates trust and validation in your subconscious mind.

‘If others believed this book was so good that they gave it an award, then it must be good!’

It is no surprise then that the sales of these books would perform better than the others on the shelf that didn’t receive awards. The kid with the golden star gets all the attention.

Are self-published books eligible for awards?

Yes, and no. 

Times are changing and with the likes of platforms such as Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for example, the number of self-publishing authors has been drastically increasing over the years. Sadly, there are still many literary awards that are closed to a self published author such as yourself.

These snooty organizations turn their noses up to self-published books as if they were presented with a bottle of Merlot with a screw top. A good example would be the Booker Prize for which the entry criteria specifically state: ‘Self-published books are not eligible where the author is the publisher or where a company has been specifically set up to publish that book.’

But times are changing and many of these awards have changed their tunes too. For example, how long can you continue to exclude the works of Violet Duke who is on top of the bestsellers list next to Dan Brown and J. K. Rowling? But apart from these exceptions, there are plenty of organizations out there that aren’t so snobbish.

There are thousands of awards for self-published books available globally and they are available to all genres and in all languages. All you as an indie author need to do is have a cup of patience, switch on your computer and start scouring the internet.

Finding an award that is specific to the genre of your self published book may take some time. Luckily there are trusted automated platforms out there that could source legitimate genre-specific contests for you, like BookAwardPro, but we will talk more about that later.

How do books get nominated for awards?

The first bit of good news I want to share with you is that you don’t even need to have a published book to get an award.

If you are a writer that is sitting with an unpublished book, and you want to become an award winning author before publishing your book. The awesomeness about this is that if you do win an award, you could include that on your cover and description and gain a competitive advantage from the start. Your book would immediately gain more traction right from the start, leaving the other ones without the ‘golden star’ in the dust on the bottom rack.

The downside is that you need time and patience. If you have a deadline and don’t have the option of extending it, you might not be able to wait for an award. Awards for your specific genre, whether it may be science fiction, adult fiction, or a children's book, might not be handed out every day and the odds of you winning one, are not 100% either.

Having to wait until you finally win an award before publishing, could be counter-intuitive and the opportunity cost of forfeiting potential sales for months could be detrimental to your cash flow.

Regardless, whether you have a published book or not, you are still eligible for an award, but you need to enter your book into a book contest or manuscript contest somewhere to be nominated for a self published book award. You just need to go and find a contest first.

If you are a famous author with a publisher, agent, and public relations grunts, then you probably don’t have to worry about entering contests because they will do it for you. But seeing that you are reading this article, we can assume that you don’t have these luxuries and therefore need to enter book award contests yourself.

How do I submit my book for awards?

If your manuscript has not been published, your book must go through the right stage gates before you submit it. I am talking about the beta reader phase, formatting, and editing. The book should be ship-shape as if you were going to publish it.

If your book is not all dressed up and ready to go, don’t expect the judges to read past the first chapter of your book. The odds of your book receiving an award if it has typos and grammar errors are as slim as my chances were of getting a gold star after I tried pouring my juice box into Goldy’s (the class goldfish) bowl.

The majority of contests have entry fees, and these could vary from $5 to $300 but there are a few free ones too. Be careful not to get ripped off. Do more research and make a comparison of fees. If you find an outlier, then omit that contest from your list. Let’s say you discover that on average, entry into competitions for your specific genre is $75, then it would not be worth entering the $300 contest.

WARNING: Sadly, there are also lots of scammers out there and you need to be very wary before paying the fees and submitting your manuscript.

One, it could be a fictitious competition and then they just take your money and run. Two, somewhere in the fine print, which you probably won’t read, could be a clause stating that you freely relinquish all rights to your book. Now, they are in possession of your book and can do with it whatever they please.

It is vital that you do proper research and make sure that you are walking into a trap. Do online research, contact social media communities or expert publishing consultants in the industry to make sure that you are on the right track.

Alternatively, you could also become a member of Alliance of Independent Authors where they keep a complete list of all awards and recommended awards and which ones to use caution with.

What is the best award an author can get?

If you are extremely hopeful, talented, and lucky, then you could be compared to the likes of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela for your work. Yes, I am talking about a Nobel Prize, but the literary award. This prestigious award was first awarded in 1901 and is awarded annually for exceptional work. But let’s step away from the Ferrari for a second and rather have a look at something most of us could realistically aspire to.

We should also walk past the Pulitzer Prize. There are 21 categories for authors to enter in order to win this prestigious award annually but again, this one might be a little too ambitious for now.

Let’s keep it simple and rather just have a look at some top-notch Indie book awards for now. Again, be careful when selecting a competition as some of them could be rogue services that overcharge, over-promise, under-deliver, or in any way exploit authors.

If you are sitting on an unpublished fiction manuscript that comprises about 200- 300 pages, then you might want to consider The Autumn House Prize for Fiction. The entry fee is $30, and a grand prize winner could walk away with a publication contract with an advance of $2,500. The other nominees could also be offered contracts for their manuscripts.

Another option is The Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award. Apart from bragging rights, finalist could win cash prizes of $1500, and the entry fee is also quite reasonable; it is $99 for the first category, $79 for subsequent categories.

The bottom line is that there are 1000s of contests globally and 100s of these could be fit for your book or manuscript. You just need to go and find them. This, unfortunately, could be an extremely tedious and time-consuming task.

But as we mentioned before, there are now automated platforms where you simply submit your manuscript and entry criteria, and the AI will go and source contest that matches your needs and even apply for them. BookAwardPro is an automated platform that scours the internet and researches thousands of awards to provide you with matches that are eligible for your book or manuscript. The AI also filters out untrusted contests for you, eliminating the risk of getting scammed.

In this article, we will do an in-depth review of this platform.

Insert About the Author

About the author 

JD Caron

Meet JD - a natural leader with a talent for coaching. He spent time in the military and as a 911 dispatcher, honing his skills in teaching and guiding others through emergencies.

After struggling to self-publish his first book, he discovered a passion for helping others succeed in their writing endeavors. 

When he's not coaching, JD can be found exploring Europe and soaking up history at every turn.

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