What does a book award do?

What does a book award do
November 15, 2022
Book Award Pro

Book awards have taken on an almost mystical quality for authors. We often hear about famous novelists being propelled to fame and fortune after winning a national or international award of some sort. It begs the question: is winning a book award what launches your career? Or is it a result of success?

It’s not an easy question to answer. While we often think of famous awards like the Pulitzer Prize, there are thousands of book awards. Some of them give next to nothing aside from the award itself. Others can give prizes worth thousands of dollars, or even award cash.

Regardless of reward, every book award has the potential to be career changing.

Before we start

Value is a tricky concept. Authors shouldn’t think of book awards as purely transactional. Think about what you can do with a book award, not what it does for you. If your book gets an award (even if it doesn’t) you should capitalize on the process of applying, being nominated, and even learning about the award itself. Remember that any award, no matter how minor it may seem, puts you in a very small group of authors: Award-winners.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about some prizes that come with winning book awards.

Prizes come in all shapes and sizes

A meeting with a literary agent

Some organizations will give winners a guaranteed meeting with a literary agent. Agents have industry connections to publishers. They often act as a screener, finding those diamonds in the rough and bringing them forward. While authors get published without literary agents quite often, they can be very helpful for getting your book to the right people quickly. And if your book wins an award, they will likely be interested at the very least.

Access to a professional editor

Many book awards are for pre-published works, and will help winners add a final level of polish to a promising story. There are many different kinds of editors besides ones who simply find all your typos. A top editor can take your work from great (you did win a book award after all) to amazing. Editors that specialize in story development may find plot holes, pacing issues, or places where characters can be more fleshed out. They can also help you professionally format your work if it’s just a simple file. Quality editors will charge thousands of dollars, and scoring one for free can be huge.

Professional editorial reviews

Another prize for an award may be assigning a professional reviewer to read, score, and write a lengthy review of your work, free of charge. These editorial reviews can be quoted and linked to everywhere. Depending on the organization, simply publishing a review of your book on their website may attract new readers.

Professional reviews are also an important sign of legitimacy. Unlike reader reviews on a sales page, they are a deep dive into your story, and will probably be well written. Keep in mind that reviews are never guaranteed to be positive, and most will include at least a couple of criticisms. You pay reviewers for their time spent reading and preparing a review, not the actual verdict they give it. Some reviewers will give your work some sort of score, others a simple recommendation. Whether positive or critical, a professional editorial review can be a resource to help you grow your book.

Like editors, being awarded a complimentary review has a dollar value. Organizations like Kirkus Reviews charge a minimum of $400.

Interviews on a website or podcast

While it’s hard to put a price on the value of being a guest on a popular blog or podcast, it often has a big impact. You can take clips or snippets from a blog or episode and post it on your social media or your website.Trying to get featured on other people’s platforms is something story marketers should make a regular habit of. When readers research your author name, you want them to find you, and also see that people are talking about you.

A publishing deal

This is what it’s all about right? Some book awards give you a publishing option if your book is selected as an award winner. Having your work published could be an amazing opportunity. However, as with any business deal, you want to read the fine print very carefully on any publishing deal and make sure it’s right for you. Think about advances, royalties, and ownership rights. Publishing is the dream of many authors. But if someone offers to publish your book, that means you may be able to field other offers as well.

Yes, many book awards give cash

Don’t plan on getting rich from book awards, but you might be surprised how many offer cash prizes. Most commonly, cash rewards are modest. We’re talking less than $500. But some provide significant sums, in excess of $10,000. Many organizations position the prize money as giving an author time to continue writing by paying their living expenses for a period of time.

If you are lucky enough to get some prize money, the smartest thing to do is reinvest it in your book or your writing career. Many authors already do story marketing on a small budget. Think what you could do with a few hundred extra dollars.

Civitella Ranieri castle
“I’m just crashing at a little place in the country while I focus on my writing.” By Civitella Ranieri Foundation

Some awards get a little crazy

If you want to shoot for the moon, some awards give such lavish prizes that they're just fun to dream about. For example, the PEN Open Book Award has a grand prize of  $10,000 and a fully-funded artist residency at Civitella Ranieri, located in a 15th century castle in rural Umbria, Italy. Yes, you read that right. You can go live in a castle.

The Bard Fiction Prize awards $30,000 and an appointment as writer in residence at Bard College for one semester, without the expectation that he or she teach traditional courses. The recipient gives at least one public lecture and meets informally with students.

Every book award can be career changing

No matter how luxurious or modest the prize for winning an award, ultimately every book award can have a meaningful impact on your author career. Leverage every stage of the awards journey to connect with your readers, and make your story marketing easier with book awards.

When it comes to determining which awards to enter, remember, there’s a book award out there for you. Out of thousands of awards, Book Award Pro can help you find the most fitting opportunities for your book. Learn how to become an award winning author.

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