So your book’s been out for a while—long enough that it’s not technically “new.” You may have gotten reviews, done interviews, book signings, blog tours, and promoted the book far and wide. You may feel like you’ve exhausted your options, as you’ve done everything you can to promote it. You’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into the book and its promotion and you’re not ready to give up, so what should you do? Move on and wait for your next book to come out?
Over more than two decades of working with books and authors, I regularly speak with authors who ask if it’s possible to breathe life into a past book release. The answer is an emphatic yes. One of the best strategies I’ve found for bringing a past release back into the limelight involves book awards.
Awards—win, place, or show—can have a huge impact on an author’s career and can give fresh life to a book that’s been out for a while.
Not only does being an award winner, or even a finalist, create real news about your book, but it can stimulate sales, generate new interest in the book—and give the author license to be known, thereafter, as award-winning author (insert name.) Now that’s hard to beat.
Many publishers submit books to major awards programs, so begin by checking with your publisher to see what their plans are for submitting your book. If you’d like to explore awards options on your own and you’re confounded, don’t know where to begin, or just want help managing the process, speak with an industry professional—a publicist for starters—on how he or she might help you chart your course to becoming an award-winning author. Over the years, I’ve helped dozens of authors navigate the awards process maze and found that to be extremely rewarding work—especially when I get to help an author celebrate his or her first award or major award nomination.
When submitting your book for awards, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Cast a wide net. You’re likely familiar with some of the major book awards programs, but take time to research other possibilities for programs that might be a good fit for you and your book. Keep in mind that there are a number of reputable, worthwhile awards programs designed to honor a specific type of book. For instance, some awards programs cater specifically to genre fiction—the mystery/suspense world, for example, boasts specialized awards honoring such sub-genres as humorous mystery, private eye works, historical mysteries, etc. Other programs focus exclusively on independently-published titles, some are only open to works by authors who live in a certain region or state, and some programs are even more specific.
When you’re ready to start the process of finding programs to enter—beyond the standard Google search, of course—you can find great information about awards programs for authors by checking out such places as:
Omnimystery News has an excellent list of awards for, but not exclusively limited to, crime fiction writers.
Publishers Weekly provides excellent coverage of the major awards programs, as well as other industry news.
John Kremer’s BookMarket.com features an impressive list of awards programs:
Remember that not all awards programs are created equal. Research programs carefully. It’s sad but true: not all awards programs are created equal. In fact, there are a few programs that frankly, seem to lack any merit at all. When you’re researching specific awards, be on the lookout for these red flags:
- Programs that charge exorbitant entry fees
- Programs sponsored by entities or organizations you’ve never heard of—or organizations that don’t seem to have anything to do with writing, writers, or books
- Programs that don’t disclose any specifics about the judging process
- Programs that don’t actively promote past winners
- Programs that are overly aggressive about urging authors to enter
- Programs that try to upsell writers on additional services
Keep your guard up—and if it seems like a scam, or a program that serves no real purpose but to dupe unsuspecting writers out of money, books, and time, then look elsewhere. There are plenty of reputable awards programs to enter.
Make sure you qualify. Before you start the process of submitting your book for an award, make sure your book qualifies. Most programs use release date (copyright date, largely) as a guide for whether or not a book is eligible. If your book doesn’t fall within an award’s published parameters, do not submit your book.
Follow the rules. Understand the process and follow the guidelines carefully. When you winnow down the list and start submitting your book, carefully research each program you’re entering. Make sure you understand exactly what you need to do to submit your book for consideration. Is there any entry form? Instructions on what to submit and where to send it? Take note of any special instructions on how to enter a book in a specific category (or categories) of a program.
Whatever you do, make sure your entry is shipped promptly and arrives in plenty of time to meet the deadline. Don’t run the risk of having your book disqualified by waiting till the last minute to enter.
Spread the word when you have news to share. Were you named a finalist in a program? Did you win? Get an honorable mention? Whatever you do, share the news! Make sure your publicist, publisher, distributors, editor, designer, agent, etc., knows the good news. Share the news across all of your social media networks. Have your publicist send the news to your local media, to your hometown media, alumni publications, organizations you belong to, and to any other group, outlet, town, or area that would be interested in knowing your good news. You might be surprised to learn just how receptive the media is to covering authors who win awards.
Be sure to let your local booksellers and other contacts within the industry know when you win an award.
Share the good news! This is not the time to be shy…
Include the information with marketing materials. Winning an award—and becoming “award-winning author (insert name)”—can carry a lot of weight with booksellers, wholesalers, librarians, and readers. Make sure you update your marketing materials, such as your biography, website, blog, press releases, one sheets, promotional materials, etc., note that you’ve won an award. Spread the word far and wide.
MARYGLENN MCCOMBS, is an independent book publicist who has worked in the book publishing industry for over twenty years.
A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Maryglenn serves on the board of the Nashville Humane Association.
Maryglenn is a native of South Central Kentucky. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, Tim Warnock, and their Old English Sheepdog, Majordomo Billy Bojangles.
A native of South Central Kentucky, Maryglenn currently lives in Nashville with her husband, Tim.
Chris Hayden been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.