How to market books using awards (no, you don’t have to win)

how to market a book using book awards
November 17, 2022
Book Award Pro

Awards as the new book marketing

Marketing a book is difficult. Let’s just get that out of the way early. If you are struggling to get traction on your work, that is normal. For most authors, it can take two or three books for them to truly begin generating attention. And that’s only with a concentrated marketing effort. But remember that you’re playing the long game with your book. It will be on sale forever, and it could experience a second (or first!) wave of attention down the line. There are many famous authors who experienced success well after publication.

If the thought of endlessly self-promoting yourself isn’t appealing to you, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to market your story without turning into a walking billboard. After all, people expect an author to promote their work. What you want is for other people to talk about it.

This is the power that a book award can bring to your story marketing. It provides instant validation to a prospective reader that your book has passed some else’s quality check. It also sparks that instant buzz for your book, when others see that it’s being talked about.

Finding awards

If you don’t know a ton about book awards, the first thing to understand is that there are thousands of them, covering hundreds of genres, author backgrounds, and stages of publishing. The trick is to find the best ones for you. Although you can apply for multiple awards at once, sometimes you want to market one process at a time (more on that later).

The easiest way to sort through a potential list of book awards is to just get on the free version of Book Award Pro. After you tell us a bit about your book, we’ll provide you with a list of awards that you’re most likely eligible for. You can view each award and learn a little about its application process.

Alternatively, you could roll up your sleeves and start tracking book awards on something like a spreadsheet. The point is to cast a wide net and then try to find the awards you think you’re best positioned to take a run at.

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Marketing a submission

Once you have a book award that you’re confident in applying for, you want to document the submission process as much as you can. Take pictures or video, even if it’s just you going over what’s needed in the application process. Share parts of your submission package. Heck, make a vlog of yourself going to the post office to mail in your package (yup, some award organizations will ask for that.)

If you want some quick social media ideas, Book Award Pro has a “Connect with Readers” feature in the app that automatically creates some social media posts using your book cover and images. If this feels weird to you. Remember that you're going to market the entire journey, which will be more important than any one piece of content.

Getting considered

This is where the real fun begins. Getting advanced to the next stage of an award nomination. Some awards may use different terminology like finalist, honoree, or short-list to name a few. Whatever they call it, getting to a second or third stage of an award submission is like a mini-award. Think of the film industry: When movies are nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes, they talk about it. Nominations go on the movie's promotional media. They don’t wait to see if they win and they definitely don’t stop touting the nomination if they lose.

So you have our blessing to add your nomination to your book’s online descriptions, book covers, and  to make some custom social media announcements. Don’t worry about how “big” or prestigious you think the award is. The truth is, your average potential reader won’t have any idea. So be bold, and market an award nomination like it’s a big deal. Because it is!

And the winner is . . .

Here’s a fun question: If you’ve marketed your awards journey properly, does winning really matter? Winning an award is certainly better than not winning. It means another round of social media, website updates, and certainly whatever prizes are included in the award. You may be able to leverage an award to be featured in other websites or podcasts. But here’s the real question:

What if you did all those things anyways?

Not winning every contest is simply a reality. There’s a lot of great authors out there. Most people get that, and won’t think any less of your book if it doesn’t win. In fact, they’ll probably be impressed that it got as far as it did in a competition with other noted authors.

So don’t go radio silent if you don’t win a book award. Do the opposite. Thank the organization publicly on social media for considering you. Run a sale on your book to celebrate the journey. Give away signed copies or artwork in a social media contest. If you maximize the visibility of your book during the process, losing could actually be the best thing that’s ever happened to your work.

What’s better than winning a book award?

Of course the answer is winning another one. Before you apply for your next book award, take some time to review strengths and weaknesses from your last submission. Make a list of things you could “tighten up” for next time. Could you have used video? Graphic design? A better synopsis. If you’re a Book Award Pro user on our essentials or pro plan, we’ll keep matching you with new and targeted awards every week, so you’ll always have more awards to apply for. 

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