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Digging for Gold: Researching Awards for Your Book

by Naomi C. Rose

Your book is out! It's in bookstores and on retail websites. But how do you attract readers? How do you make sure your book receives the accolades it deserves?

Submit your book for honors and awards.

Awards come in all shapes and sizes. We'd all love to win a National Book Award or Newbery Medal, but many more opportunities abound.

Small awards may have requirements that narrow the field, giving your book a better chance to win.

Big or small, an award creates buzz about your book, encouraging readers to pick it up.

Many publishers will submit your book for appropriate awards. However, they may not have the resources to find all the awards that suit your book. Provide your publisher with suggestions of award contests. If your publisher doesn't submit your book, or if your book is self-published, you may be able to do it yourself. Many award committees accept book submissions from the author and if applicable, the illustrator.

No matter who submits your book, you'll need to dig to find suitable awards. To avoid missing submission deadlines, do this research several months before your book's publication date.

Step One: Dig for Gold

Many blogs and websites include award information. None of these sites is definitive. None covers every award. Few are totally up-to-date at all times. So check many sites and cross-check the information.

Begin your online search with general keywords, such as "book awards" or "children's book awards." If your book is for children, search for adult awards too - many adult book awards contain children's categories.

Many awards exist for specific characteristics of the book, author/illustrator, or publisher. Use keywords that call out these characteristics.

  • Geographical. Search for sites that list awards for your country, state and region. There are plenty to find. Try these keywords: book awards [name of your state], book awards [your country].

    Don't shy away from global awards. Many international organizations bestow awards for both adult and children's literature. Key words: international literary awards, children book awards international.

  • Author/illustrator experience. Some awards honor first-, second-, or third-time authors and illustrators. Key words: new author awards, new illustrator awards.

  • Author/illustrator race or religion. Many awards honor books by or about a person of a specific race or religion. Key words: book awards Jewish author, book award African American.

  • Subject. Some awards focus on the book's subject, such as social causes (feminism, ecology, gay/lesbian, etc.), multicultural, peace and social justice, religion, race, animals, developmental challenges, environment, and storytelling. Key words: book awards multicultural, book awards Christian, book awards autism.

  • Genre. Some awards focus on the book's genre, such as fiction, nonfiction, anthology, poetry, memoir, biography, short story, science fiction, and children's books. Some awards are broken into age-related genres, such as picture book, middle grade, and young adult. Key words: book award nonfiction, book award young adult.

  • Illustration. Many art and illustration organizations bestow awards for book illustration. Keyword: illustration book awards.

  • Publisher. Awards exist for self-published books and/or books published by independent presses. Key words: independent book awards, self published book awards.

Don't forget to mix and match key words and see what you find. Keywords: book awards new writer science fiction, book awards poetry children.

Another way to find book awards is to peruse books and magazines related to writing, art, and publishing. Many list book awards.

Finally, read the news sections of professional and alumni journals, such as The Author's Guild Bulletin. These sections announce award winners along with the names of the awards. If you see an applicable award, research it online.

Step Two: Sift Through the Nuggets

Gather submission information, such as deadlines, procedures, criteria, and fees from the award websites. Use this information to further determine if your book is a fit.

Step Three: Go for the Gold

Send a list of suitable awards along with the submission information to your publisher. If your publisher doesn't submit your book for an award, you may be able to do it yourself.

A word about fees. Some award organizations charge a fee for submitting a book. This fee may range from $5 to over $100. You and/or your publisher will need to decide if the cost is worth it. There are several considerations when making this decision.

  • Does your book have a good chance of winning? Does the award organization honor 2nd and 3rd place winners, thereby giving your book a greater chance of being honored?

  • What kind of publicity does the award committee provide for their award winning books? In other words, what does this fee potentially buy for you in terms of publicity?

  • How many categories exist in the book award? If there are many categories, your book may get lost in the publicity even if it wins.

  • Is your publisher sending a number of books to the award? If so, you may be able to get a bulk discount.

Step Four: Let the Gold Shine

When your book actually wins an award, first bask in the glow and the buzz. If it's a big award, you'll get plenty of publicity and media attention. If it's a smaller award, you'll need to do more work. Most awards organizations provide some publicity. They announce their award-winning books to the media, on their website, in e-announcements, and so on. Add to this by sending out your own media releases, e-announcements, social networking, blog announcements, and so on. Notify your loyal bookstores and online retailers. They may have a special section in their store and/or website that will call out award-winning books.

Finally, make sure your publisher buys the medallions from the award organization and sticks them on your books. And be sure to put "award-winning" in front of your name.

Researching awards takes time and energy, but it's well worth the effort. Imagine the wonderful feeling when the buzz for your book gets louder.

A shiny medallion on the cover to attract readers doesn't hurt either!

More Information:

American Library Association
http://www.ala.org

The Horn Book
http://www.hbook.com

Society of Illustrators
http://www.societyillustrators.org

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
http://www.scbwi.org

The Authors' Guild
http://www.authorsguild.org

Pen American Centre
http://www.pen.org

Editor's Note: Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests provides information on over 200 awards for published and unpublished books, as well as a section on children's literature awards and awards for published and unpublished romance novels. Available in Print and Kindle editions.

Copyright © 2012 Naomi C. Rose
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.


Naomi C. Rose is an author, illustrator, and storyteller. Her first two books have several shiny medals. Tibetan Tales for Little Buddhas (2004) won the Nautilus Book Award (Gold Winner) and a Storytelling World Honor. Tibetan Tales from the Top of the World (2009) won the Nautilus Book Award (Silver Winner) and an International Book Award honor. Tashi and the Tibetan Flower Cure was released in Fall 2011 and has been submitted for lots of awards. Find out more about her at http://www.naomicrose.com.

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