Book Awards–Truth and Myth

We’re in the thick of the book award season. Many authors ask us about the importance of book awards, especially as awards translate into book  sales.

Harry and I ran the awards program for the Midwest Indpendent Publishers Association (MIPA) for three years. The MIPA board asked us to take on the project and make it something to be proud of. It was quite a challenge. Why? After many years of handing out awards, MIPA had missed a year. We needed to regain public confidence.

One of the things that needed improvement was how the judging took place. We heard a horror story about how one of our predecessors invited friends over to the house for a wine and cheese party, laid all the books out, and had everyone vote on the winners. What system does the award program you’re considering use for qualifying judges?

We solicited recommendations from publishers across the country for candidates to judge both design and editorial. We had two judges per category, and we used judges in different states, from coast to coast, to assure no one judged a book he or she worked on. What credentials do the judges bring to the award program you’re considering?

We used a form that assigned a numeric score and allowed for narrative comments. We combined judges’ scores and averaged them for the final score. We also had a tie breaker score that we used only if books ended up with equal final scores. What criteria does the award program you’re considering use to select winners?

Fees collected for the awards covered cost of shipping, administrative costs for mailing and publicity and record keeping, cost of the awards, and costs for the reception and program (emcee, entertainment, etc.).  The award gala was free to attend. Anything remaining went to the organization.

The primary purpose for book awards is to raise money for whoever is running the awards. If you’re considering entering your book into an award program, you need to determine if the entry fee is worth any sales you may receive.

Anyone can give your book an award and you can call it award-winning. If you think about it, few people know what award any given book wins anyway.

The real value (to the author) of winning a book award is in the publicity the awards program offers its winners. We did press releases, web promotion, and stickers for the front of books.  What does the awards program you’re considering do to publicize that your book won their award?

I’m not convinced book sales are tied to book awards, but I am convinced authors like to claim their books are award winning. The question becomes, is it worth $100.00 per entry? $75.00 per entry? $55.00 per entry?  Compound the entry fee by how many categories and/or how many book award contests there are and you could be talking big bucks for little return. How many books would you have to sell to make up that cost? That’s a decision only you can make.

Happy writing!


2 Responses to “Book Awards–Truth and Myth”

  1. 1 The Voice December 19, 2009 at 8:42 am

    This is a great thing to know. I would rather an award for the content of my book than just because of a random toss of the hat.

  2. 2 expertbookpublishing January 11, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Most authors agree with you and prefer award for quality, not chance. That’s why it’s important to know the book awards you pay money to enter use credentialed (publishing professionals) judges. I don’t think the judges’ names should be published because judges should not be influenced by authors or author supporters (the work should stand on its own merit), but I do think their credentials (book designer, book editor, etc.) should be available to anyone who wants to know.

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