Book Award Contests are (Mostly) Scams

I’m Julie Broad, award-winning author and founder of Book Launchers, a fabulous company that will help you write, publish, and sell a non-fiction book to boost your business or grow your brand. Sounds cool to say you’re an award-winning author, doesn’t it? That’s why so many companies offer book award contents … and most of them aren’t worth your money. 

The Guaranteed Book Award – What?!

“Everyone was in black ties and formal wear. They had red carpets and professional photographers. Every author got an award. The pictures were amazing!”

My mastermind colleague was explaining what she got for her $20,000 investment in a book package. She wrote the book, a relatively famous man had a standard template of a book forward he added to her book, and then he showed up to present her with an award. (Of course, it was his company that sold her this book package!)

My colleague thought it was money well spent because everyone in her circle was so impressed she won an award at this fancy looking event. A few clients were impressed she knew the famous guy who wrote the forward.

But, to call yourself an ‘award-winning author’ when anyone who pays gets an award … well, that doesn’t sit well with me.

The whole situation made me take a closer look at the awards I’d won and other book award contests.

There Are No Guarantees when it’s a REAL Award

Any company guaranteeing you best-seller status or that you’ll become an award-winning author if you work with them is using a gimmick of some kind to get you that result. There are no guarantees.

Nobody knows what will ultimately be a big seller. And you certainly can’t guarantee an award will be won.

Seriously, think about it from the perspective of movies. Even when it’s likely a movie will do well, there still are no guarantees. And nobody can say they’ll win an Oscar or an Emmy. It’s impossible to know. There are always surprises. The same thing happens in books.

So how can a publishing course or a company guarantee you will become an award-winning author? Simple, they give you the award.

Authors everywhere are hungry for exposure, validation, and credibility, so the author award business is huge.

My observation isn’t to make you feel bad if you’ve entered your book into book award contests. I spent almost $1,000 entering my two books into contests over a few years. Nobody warned me that so many of these contests were slimy. Winning an award seemed like a great way to gain credibility and exposure.

My first book, More Than Cashflow, won an international book award (it is a Canadian real estate investment book). My second, The New Brand You, won the Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Sales book and was a finalist in another contest. These awards aren’t the same as paying someone to give you an award, but it is a for profit business. You pay to enter – which is pretty normal for all the kinds of book award contests. And, I understand that they charge. There are expenses involved in running contests. Plus, if it were free there would be thousands of submissions, and it would be completely unmanageable.

The Book Award Contest story starts to get gross when you realize:

  • Many of the awards don’t give an actual monetary prize for winning – what does the money really go towards?
  • Very few contests disclose who the judges are. Does anybody even read these books?
  • Some of the contests have more than 100 categories to encourage everyone to submit their books. More books = more money made.
  • Almost none of these contests tell you how many books were in your category. You could be a winner in a category of one.
  • And, the worst part of the contest business … when you win, you win the honor of BUYING paraphernalia to showcase that you won. You have to buy stickers, plaques, or other items to show you won.

Non-prize prizes, press releases, media announcement, database and website listings were all prizes. And some offer little more than the supposed honor of winning the award. Which is truthfully all I got for being the Beverly Hills winner of the Best Sales book.

Personally, for my next book, I’m going to save my money and focus on more marketing efforts. If you’re considering entering an awards contest look for:

  • Awards that honor authors and the community. This probably means they have a low entry fee and aren’t a for profit business.
  • A publicly available list of the judges. Bonus points if they even send comments or feedback on your book after reading it.
  • Actual prizes for the winners. A real prize would be financial compensation or even a physical trophy or plaque sent to you at no charge.

I’m all for opportunities for authors to gain more exposure for their books, but I’ve never met anyone who said: “I saw your book won the award and bought it.” There are better ways to get my book in the hands of the right readers and get the word out about it. That’s probably true for you too!

And, if you want to check out the legitimacy of a book award contest before you enter, the Alliance of Independent Authors association has a great list.

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