Are Book Award Contests Worth It?

I see this question a lot in author groups.

The opinions vary widely among authors on whether or not to enter contests. Many say yes, and others say no. I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Now, this is only my opinion. I’m not an expert by any means. In some ways, a book award can give an author credibility, more visibility, and those coveted words “award-winning” to add to their bio. In that way, yes entering a book award contest is definitely worth it. However, if you are entering a contest that makes everyone a winner, than you most likely are just paying for an “I’m a winner” sticker.

I also say DO YOUR HOMEWORK. While there are many legitimate book award contests out there, there are just as many illegitimate ones. I nearly got suckered by one in my first year of publishing my books while looking for book events. I thought, wow, this one doesn’t have a high entry fee and was promising quite a bit of promotion.  But something felt off, so I started digging into Google to see what I could find out. And wow, was that an eye-opener! The reviews were that this contest was bogus, that awards were never given, and so on.

Take the time to ask questions when researching literary contests. Common ones are:

  • How long has the contest been around?
  • Who are the judges?
  • What are the benefits of participating in the contest?
  • Do you know anyone who has participated in the contest?
  • Does it cost anything to enter?
  • Are all the rules and judging criteria posted?

Have I entered a literary contest? Most of you probably know the answer to this is yes. But, I have reasons for doing each of the ones I’ve chosen.

I entered my first literary contest in 2019. I entered the Equus Film & Arts Fest specifically because it was within my genre and at the time, had a seven-year history. I also met several authors who had participated in the past and I trusted them. The outcome of that 2019 entry was a win for one of my books. Has it helped me sell books? Simply put. Yes. But more importantly, this literary contest has connected me to authors, artists, and filmmakers all over the world. That in and of itself made the entry fee well worth it. The added bonus was I finally got to see Churchill Downs!

I have also entered a literary contest hosted by an association I belong to, the Northern California Publishers and Authors Association. While I did not win, I received valuable feedback from one of the members involved in the contest and have made additional connections to authors in my area.

The last one that I entered, Purple Dragonfly via Story Monsters, has been around for quite a while and has a really great reputation. I entered because I wanted to see what a non-horse festival award contest thought of my book. Cowgirl and the Ghost Horse received an Honorable Mention. For me, this was additional validation for me to continue writing. And yes, I think it’s helped sell some books.

The moral of all this is two things. One – do your homework on the contest and Two – follow your heart. If you want to enter a legitimate literary contest – do it.

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