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.

Copyright Protection for Books

Good news, author. Your work is under copyright protection from virtually the moment it is created. From the moment you put your words to word processor automatic copyright is applied.

So if protection is automatic, then why would you want to file and pay money for an official copyright certificate?

Here are three reasons why you might want to file a copyright certificate in the US:

Number one, filing is required for a copyright infringement case.

If registration occurs within five years of publication, it’s considered a prima facie. In less legal terms, it means that it’s accepted as true unless concretely proven otherwise.

Also, there are 20 countries in the world that require you to file copyright because they don’t recognize automatic copyrights. Which means, in those countries, someone could republish your work and you have no defense in their courts unless you file for copyrights.

Number two, if you want your book considered for inclusion in the library of Congress, part of the process for submission is to file official copyrights.

I covered that topic in this right here:

Number three, you may just wish to have the facts of your copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration.

It makes the whole thing very official. If you file for copyright, timeline and ownership become very clear.

Registration is voluntary but could be useful. It’s totally up to you. Your work is protected by copyright but your ideas are not.

In the Unites States, the United States copyright office accepts registrations.

Copyright for Canadian Authors:

For Canadian authors, basically it’s the same for you. It’s totally voluntary and only really necessary in an infringement case. If you want to file, it’s through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office for a fee.

You may also like to read ‘Should you use a pen name when you write a book?‘.

7 Keys to Creating Your Amazon Book Page

If you’re self publishing a book, Amazon matters a lot. 69% of adult nonfiction books are bought online. Amazon isn’t the only place readers look for books, but it’s probably the most important.

That makes the most crucial sales page for your book … your Amazon book page!

Here are the 7 essential elements you need for creating your Amazon book page:

Number one, your book title and subtitle are essential to the success on Amazon.

I’ve talked about what makes a great non-fiction book title here.

But one thing we didn’t cover there is the importance of your subtitle. Ideally your subtitle includes one or two of your keywords and hooks your readers by answering this simple question:

What’s in it for me?

Always be thinking about how will your reader benefit. Will your book make them more beautiful? Richer? Fitter? More successful? And bonus points if you tell them how long it will take to alleviate their biggest concerns en route to the thing they want.

A couple of my favorite subtitles:

  • The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape nine to five, live anywhere and join the new rich.
  • The Perennial Seller: The art of making and marketing work that lasts.
  • The Dip: a little book that teaches you when to quit and when to stick.

Those are great titles with fantastic subtitles

Number two is your cover.

Think in thumbnails. Of course you want a cover that looks good in print, but the most important thing for selling your book is a cover that  creates visual curiosity in a small image. You also need to be able to read the title when it’s in the thumbnail version too.

It’s the number one reason templates for book covers are a terrible idea. You must stand out. To do that, you can’t look like other people’s books. We are visual creatures so a colorful, explosive, and in your face cover is a perfect way to capture your reader’s visual curiosity.

Number three, make your book available in more than one format.

In an informal survey on my Facebook page I asked whether people felt a hard cover book was more professional than a soft cover book.

The answer was interesting. Many people said that it was the number of formats, not hard cover vs soft cover that mattered.

When people see a book is available in an eBook, a softcover, a hardcover and an audiobook, it looks professional produced.

This is a really important thing if you’re self-publishing. You want it to look professional. And if it’s only available in Kindle, you could be losing readers because they will not think it’s professional.

Number four, keywords.

What do your competitor’s books have for keywords? What keywords do you know people are using to search for solutions you help solve? Figure out which keywords are important for your book and write a fantastic description that will utilize those keywords. Amazon does give you some good guidance on keywords in its catalog.

What’s in its catalog is all it’s going to search for. And it’s going to personalize that to each person. So the best way to get seen is by keeping your words generic and broad, but specific to your book category.

Number five, description.

Your book description has one job … to sell your book.Kick the description off with your hook. Entice the reader with what is in it for them. Include proof of what you’re saying and why you were the only one who could write this book. This is a great opportunity to use those keywords again, by the way.

Number six, endorsements and reviews.

They’re not the same thing, but they’re equally important. Endorsements are those quotes from well-known people, media and other authors. Those should be in your book description area.

Then you need reviews for your book. The most important thing is the stars, then the content. If you can get video reviews that is awesome because those will show up at the top. The most liked review and most recent will be the most important because those will be shown first. So make sure you have recent reviews and that the average overall stars is four to five or better. If they aren’t, take a look at what reviewers are criticizing and see if you can fix it.

Number seven, categories.

This is a big subject. First, you only have a little bit of control over this, but the strategy is to start in the smallest category possible, and then have Amazon keep moving you up within that overall category. You get moved up by selling well. But here’s the thing that many authors may not realize. Canadian categories aren’t the same as American categories. Amazon print categories are not equal to Kindle. So it takes research and setting yourself up in different categories for different accounts.

Ugh, right? It is a lot of work! That’s what Book Launchers is for. We do a lot of that hard ground work for you. If you want to find out how we help, you can visit this page. If you want to set up a time to speak with us about your book, tell us more about your book idea here.

Like this article? Check out the following posts:

Mastering Media Interviews for Authors

Media interviews are an ideal way to boost visibility and credibility. As an entrepreneur or professional media coverage is incredibly valuable in business and book sales. The good news is that when you’re a book author it’s substantially easier to get media coverage than when you’re not!

It’s just another reason to stop procrastinating and write your book now!

But, the reality is that media interviews are easy to mess up. And, authors make mistakes all the time.

You only have one opportunity to shine in that interview, so here’s 10 tips to master those media interviews .

If you’ve written a nonfiction book, chances are, the media is going to want to talk to you. They’re always looking for content and they’re looking for experts to talk about different things on their show. When the media comes calling, you want to make sure that you are prepared. And these ten tips will help you master the media and make the most of it for your book and your business.

Number one, is to show up for your interview.

It seems obvious, but here’s why it’s included in this list.

If you’re doing podcast interviews or radio interviews, it’s really easy to get time zones mixed up. Double-confirm the time, and make sure you’re showing up for the interview at the right time.

If you’re on a TV show, and you have to start really early in the morning, give yourself extra time. Some of my media interviews required me to be in the the greenroom at six A.M. If you’re driving around at 5:30 in the morning trying to find the location of the TV studio, and you get lost, guess what? You’re going to miss your interview. And on live TV, it’s going to run without you.

Make sure you know where you’re going and leave extra time so you don’t miss that interview.

Number two, is prepare in advance.

If it’s a TV show, watch it before you go on it. If it’s a radio or podcast interview, listen to a few shows, make some notes about what they like to talk about. Most importantly make a note of the host’s name and the show name and have it on a cue card. It’s easy when you’re under pressure to forget important details, like who you’re talking to. So, have it on a cheat sheet, and then you’ll always know.

Number three is have water handy.

It seems obvious again, but you can get rushed onto a set and you suddenly get this dry cotton mouth that happens when you’re nervous. Have water handy so you can take a quick sip and carry on. Don’t worry about bringing it onto the TV set with you. They will tell you where you can put it, or ask you to pour it into one of their sponsor mugs to drink from.

Number four, read your book as a refresher.

Sounds funny, ’cause you wrote the book, right? But by the time media interviews are happening, it may be three to nine months after you’ve been deep in the trenches of your book and you forget what you wrote.

Picture this … you’re live on TV and the host of the show is opening up to page 123 and saying, “Now here you say … Tell me what you were thinking when you wrote that.”

Do you remember your book well enough to be able to explain a random passage from your book? If not, refresh yourself fast!

While most hosts do not read your book and will use the questions you submit to the show producer, the odd one will pull from your book. Avoid any awkwardness or missed opportunities by knowing your material.

Number five, stay up to date on the news, especially news specific in your industry.

Knowing what is happening in your industry is critical for creating relevant pitches for your media outreach. It also gives you something trending and topical to talk about when you’re on the show, which the show will always appreciate. If you do this well, you could become a regular guest of your local show.

Number six, think of this as a speed date.

Typically you only have a couple of minutes and they go fast, so you want to have quick tips. No long stories. Prepare short antidotes and little soundbites. Hit ’em fast and hit ’em hard. The time will be gone before you know it.

Number seven, prep your talking points in advance.

Every show producer will ask you for questions or talking points. Create questions that lead into the answers that you most want to talk about. And write those questions word for word, because a lot of hosts will actually ask them word for word.

But, here’s the trick. You don’t have one question and one answer. Have multiple ways to answer each of those questions, so not only will you keep your interviews fresh, but you could go a slightly different direction if that show needs it. You want to be prepared so you can be flexible.

Number eight, invest in the right equipment to do home interviews.

I’ve been on shows where you Skype in, so you don’t have to travel. Here’s one example here:

It’s great because you don’t have to travel. However, you will not look like a pro if you don’t have good lighting, great audio, and a good backdrop.

I’ve seen shows where you can see people’s closet and see the clothes in them. It’s even worse when you see their messy office! It decreases the credibility of the guest. It’s really distracting as an audience viewer. And the show won’t like it either. If you were a great guest, a lot of times these shows will have you back again and again and again. So, spend a few hundred dollars and get great equipment and you’ll look like a pro and probably get invited back. The above interview was in my office. But, I’ve done them at home in my messy bedroom. I just put up a bluescreen background. It’s not as nice as my office but it works too!

Number nine, send people to a specific page with a specific offer.

You can have them go to your website but you’re more likely to get a response to a specific offer.  Go to where you’re going to find a fantastic resource on eight ways to sell a thousand books for under a hundred dollars.

Now they’ve got a reason to go to that page, sign up for your newsletter, and you can build a relationship with them.

Number ten, don’t be freakin’ boring!

Let your personality come out. Have some fun with it. The shows are really looking for character and personality. They want great interviews. And that only happens if your character comes out and you have a little fun with it. If you’re too nervous or you try too hard to be perfect you won’t shine!

Alright, when you’re a book author the media is going to call you. These ten tips will have you so much more prepared!

Should You Use a Pen Name to Write Your Non-Fiction Book?

Writing under a pen name is tricky business. There are good reasons to do it, but more and more, I think it’s better to write under your real name. Let me explain …

Do you have a favorite thought leader or writer? You know, that person whose content you consume hungrily no matter what they are talking about?

Before I quit my job and joined the ranks of entrepreneurship, my go to author and virtual mentor was a man named Michael Masterson. I read everything he wrote online and bought all his books. When he his company hosted a conference in Florida, I put money I was planning to use for a vacation into a ticket, got on a plane and attended that conference.

I wanted to learn everything he had to teach. And, I owe a lot of my early business-building success to what I learned from him.

But, when I had the opportunity to meet him, I got a bit of a shock.

His name wasn’t Michael Masterson. That was his pen name.

Now there was this awkward thing. Do I call him Michael, or do I call him Mark? I didn’t know what to call him anymore.

And even though I was deeply grateful for all I’d learned from him, there was this thing in my head now:

Why couldn’t he use his own name? What is he hiding? What else isn’t true?

Again, I’m super grateful for all I learned from him. But the fact that he had a pen name made things uncomfortable and weird for me, a fan and a client.

So with that in mind, let’s talk about whether it makes sense for you.

Good Reasons to Use a Pen Name

Number one, your privacy is important. Let’s say that you have insider information for your industry, and you don’t want people to know it’s coming from you. Or perhaps you’re well-respected in a Corporate America job, and you wanna write about erotica and you don’t want all your colleagues to know about your S&M fetish.

Those are solid reasons.

Perhaps you have a famous parent, or perhaps you’re famous for something else that’s unrelated, and you want to chart your own course without the burden or benefit of that name.

Perhaps you really need to have different brands. This is happening a lot in the traditionally published world. Some agents and book publishers are recommending authors with middle-of-the-road sales, come in and publish under a new name. Traditional publishing houses are looking for that breakout author, or their bread and butter that always sells really well. If you’re in the middle it can be difficult to land a deal.

For most nonfiction authors, I think this doesn’t really apply, and we’ll talk about that in a second. But, if you’re a fiction writer, it’s definitely an issue for some authors.

Finally, you may choose to use a pen name because you want a cooler or more marketable name. If you have a really long name, or it’s hard to pronounce those could be good reasons to use a pen name.

All that said, here’s the three reasons why almost all non-fiction authors should not use a pen name:

Number one is trust and credibility.

You are writing this book to grow your business or build your brand in most cases. That’s very difficult to do if people find out it’s not actually you.

So use your own name to establish that trust, build the credibility, and showcase who you are and what you know.

Number two is confusion.

When somebody knows you as your pen name, but they also know you personally as your real name, who do they introduce you as? What do they call you? It might seem small until you have the problem, but when you go to a conference, what do you put on your name tag? And, who do your friend’s introduce you as to others? They won’t know what to call you, or who to refer people to. It can be really tricky business. You’ll definitely miss out on some readers because some people will opt not to introduce you at all just to avoid the hassle.

Number three is marketability.

Even if you’re writing in different categories, there’s cross-promotion, and there are people who are going to read everything you write, no matter what category it falls into. In fact, here’s a fun fact for you. I am well known in Canada as a real estate investing expert. When I opened Book Launchers, and started helping people write, publish and sell a brand-boosting book, my first ten authors were people who knew me as a real estate expert. Why would they write and publish a book with me when they know me as a real estate expert? Because they know me, they trust me, they believe in me, Julie Broad. As a result, it creates massive credibility and trust, which you’ll lose if you go by a fake name.

It’s fun to be someone else for a minute, but when it comes to writing and publishing a brand-building and business-boosting book, you probably don’t want any confusion over whether somebody’s talking to Julie or Jane. You want them to know who they’re talking to, trust you, have credibility, and of course, be able to tell their friends about their friend, Julie.

Book Pricing Warning: Don’t Sell Your Book Too Cheap

There’s a lot of bad advice in the book publishing market. As I’ve shared before, there are also a lot of self-publishing scams to watch out for. One of the areas where I think there’s a lot of misguided advice is in the area of book pricing.

As a part of our book publishing and support services at Book Launchers, we do in depth research to help you determine the best price points for your book. Even with research, it’s not that straightforward.

Many people suggest that you price your book for .99 cents to $9.99. Generally, that’s being driven by the advantages of being in the KDP Select program (watch this video on the KDP select program and going exclusive with Amazon).

Generally, I don’t like to go exclusive with Amazon unless you have a really good reason. And, I’m certainly not going to give it away for free on Amazon when Amazon’s not telling you who’s ‘buying’ your book. If you’re giving it away for free (or really cheap), you need to be benefiting in some other way. To me, that’s in the form of an opt-in at a minimum.

You may think more downloads is better, but if you need people to read that download to then become a customer, you’re putting a lot of faith in your audience to read your book.

Have you ever downloaded a free book you didn’t read?

Yea, me too! All the time.

Even if you pay a lot for a book, it’s still not a guarantee you’ll read it. But if you download a free book, you’re even less motivated to read it unless there’s an amazing hook or a really killer promise.

When it comes to book pricing, that’s just one of the reasons I won’t sell my books really cheap. Here’s the three main reasons:

Number one is value.

You are putting years of expertise, education and experience into this book. It probably took you tens of thousands of dollars to gain that expertise. You likely invested thousands of hours to learn what you’ve learned.

You invested in something that your reader is going to use to save time or money. So there’s a lot of value in those pages. So why sell them for 99 cents and make nothing?

Number two is perceived value.

Depending on your industry, your clients probably spend a lot of money to work with you. Do you want your services to be perceived as cheap?

If you price a book at 99 cents, what do you think your clients are going to think not only about the book but potentially about your services?

Number three, book stores and wholesale opportunities.

If you want to do a lot more than break even on your book sales, this is really important.

You can move hundreds or thousands of copies of your books with the right kind of deal. If your book is too cheap those deals won’t be there.

For example, if you write a book on fitness, you may be able to strike deals with the distributors of equipment you recommend. This kinda deal can move thousands of copies of books. But, this is contingent on your book having true value to their clients and the people they give copies too.

There are plenty of reasons to price your book appropriately for your goals and your market, the challenge of course, is how to figure that price out.

So now, you might be wondering … how exactly do I price my book? You can find our one part science and one part art approach right here.