How to write an award-winning book

how to write an award-winning book
September 7, 2023
Book Award Pro

As an author, it’s not every day you get the opportunity to take writing advice from a literary professional. Not to mention a book award judge! Book Award Pro chatted with Annie Mydla, judge of the North Street Book Prize at Winning Writers, to gain some insider tips for those pursuing author accolades.

It’s important to remember that every book, award, and judge is unique. And, what makes a book “award worthy” is largely subjective. This advice may be applicable to your book and writing process, but there are many other measures you can take to write an award-winning book.

How to write an award-winning book: tips from a book award judge

You can prepare your book for award-winning success as soon as you begin writing it. Here are some ways you can position your book to win from the very start:

Be clear and bold in your genre

The first piece of advice Annie had to offer was to avoid an unclear or convoluted genre. She said:

“Early-career authors often write from a place of passion and inspiration. They’re writing what they want to read. That’s wonderful, but it doesn’t always result in a book that’s clearly defined in terms of genre focus.”

Adding too many elements from different genres can confuse readers. In an attempt to be more inclusive, authors can inadvertently muddle their books without a well-defined genre identity. Here’s Annie’s advice:

“Instead of trying to include “something for everyone” in your book, make conscientious decisions about what kinds of content do, or don’t, complement the main genre of your current project. After all, if there are other genres you’re dying to explore, you totally can - in your next book!”

Remember your target audience

Next, Annie went on to talk about another common mistake authors should avoid: targeting an inconsistent audience. She said:

“Every judging season, I encounter many self- and hybrid-published books without a strong sense of intended audience. This can mean that conflicting messages are included in the book, making it difficult for any target demographic to become immersed in the narrative.”

Conflicting viewpoints, beliefs, and messaging can alienate your target audience and even pull your readers out of their immersive experience. Annie’s advice? Always keep your reader’s values, interests, and beliefs in mind. She said:

“Many books by emerging authors contain conceptual conflicts that make it hard for readers and literary professionals to get involved. Edit your book with reader values and interests in mind.”

Bring your prose style down to earth

Finally, Annie discussed grounding your prose style and erring on the side of youthful. She said:

“When it comes to prose style, emerging authors are known to swing for the fences. They use unique, intelligent-sounding vocabulary, flowery imagery, and original metaphors. This impulse can backfire, however, as a writing style that’s too “mature” can make readers of commercial fiction feel stuck.

Remember, mainstream readers are often reading for pleasure and a sense of immersion. They may be picking up your book to relax after a long day at work, or, for younger readers, to escape the pressures of school and teen life. Maybe that’s why in the last 60 years, only 25 bestsellers were written at higher than a 9th-grade reading level.

If you’re entering a contest for commercial/mainstream fiction, be it genre or literary, then it might pay to “age down” your prose for maximum reader immersion.”

After you've written your award winner

Now that you’ve written your award worthy book, it’s time to start winning accolades and author recognition. Winning Writers holds annual book contests spanning several genres, including the North Street Book Prize. With this award, your self-published or hybrid-published book can win up to $10,000 plus expert marketing services.

As a proud cosponsor of the North Street Book Prize, Book Award Pro is the simplest, most effective way to become an award-winning author. Even on our Free plan, you’ll receive custom award matches that are perfectly curated for your book’s unique traits.

Start your award-winning journey with Book Award Pro.

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