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.

Self-Publishing is Now Mainstream

People still thinking self-publishing has a stigma don’t know about all the money being made by the authors.

The latest Author Earnings report is out, at long last, and the result was interesting. If you don’t know of this list, it is the most comprehensive and detailed analysis of the book market available to the public.

And, after listening to the Sell More Books Show discussing the Top 50 self-published authors list, I was extra excited to check out the latest report.

I was too slow though.

Data Guy, the man behind the report, had to remove the list of the Top 50 authors because half the authors wanted to remain anonymous. They didn’t want everyone knowing they were doing SO well as self-published authors.

Granted, these authors were primarily fiction authors, with multiple book titles. But, the reality is that there is a lot of money in books. And, self-published authors can make a lot more money than you might believe.

That said, it’s not that easy to be an author making the money. It’s easier than ever to self-publish, but the average book will sell less than 250 copies in it’s lifetime. So, just because you can go the easy and cheap route, doesn’t mean you should.

Here’s why most non-fiction books won’t sell that well:

1. The author wrote the book for themselves, and not readers.

Have people told you that you should write a book?

If so, you probably should … but even if it’s about your life, remember that the book is not for you.

This can be really hard to do when you write on your own.

Even after writing two successful books, I am amazed at how useful it is to work with a writing coach. After reading Chapter 1 of my new book he said, “That was a great story about your husband Dave, but what is your reader supposed to get from it?”

That story made me feel good to tell it, but it didn’t fit with the hook of my book. The reader wasn’t really benefiting from the story. That’s ok once in awhile, but if you do too much of that, your book won’t sell because people aren’t interested in you, they are interested in what they can learn from you.

2. The author worried about break even.

Breakeven for a professionally created non-fiction book that sells for at least $9.99 is around 1,500-2,000 copies. Less copies, the higher the price point. And, of course, it depends on how much you spend on marketing.

But, if you focus on break even that is all you’ll get. Instead, think about ways to 10x that investment. How many speaking gigs do you need to land as a result of your book? How many new clients do you need to get 10x of your book investment back?

When you do that, you won’t be afraid to invest in creating an amazing book, hiring a marketing team, and pushing hard to get the word out about your book.

3. Fear of Failure or Fear of Success.

The single greatest thing that holds people back from investing in their book’s success is fear. You’re afraid you are wasting your money. You’re afraid your book won’t be good enough. Or, you’re afraid it will be a great success and change your life.

As an entrepreneur, or professional, you’d never act as your lawyer, accountant, HR consultant, and PR person. So why are you trying to write your book alone?

Authors who are successful hire a great team from day one. They know they can’t do it well on their own.

The author earnings report declares that self-publishing is mainstream now. There’s no stigma. If you create a great book with your ideal reader in mind, focus on massive success, and get over the fear, the money, movie deals, and monstrous opportunities are yours for the taking.

Are Print Books Dead?

“I won’t do print books. Everyone’s just buying the e-book versions anyway, right?”

I was chatting with a potential author client. He was trying to save money on book publishing. Unaware that there are little cost savings, he figured it was cheaper to only do an e-book version of his book. He also figured nobody would buy the print book.

In some fiction genres, you can get away with only doing a digital version of your book. When it comes to non-fiction print books are a must.

Here’s Seven Reasons Why Print Isn’t Dead and You Need Multiple Versions:

Number One: Marketing.

Your print book is the best marketing material you’ll ever create.

Whether you’re selling your services as a speaker, selling a product, or offer some other service, your book should be the most polished version of your message. It should look amazing. It should explain who you are and why they need you. And, most importantly, it should be so amazing that it lives for a really long time.

Number Two: Print Book Longevity

People don’t throw good books out. They’ll toss out your business cards before you leave the room. You’re brochure hits the bin before it’s read.

But, your book sits on someone’s desk, shelf, or coffee table for months. It will rarely be thrown out. It might be given away, but that’s kind of amazing because now somebody is going to learn about you or your product or your service that didn’t know about it before.

Number Three: A physical book has value

If you speak, you can sell copies to the event manager to give to everyone in the room or you can sell them at the back of the room. They may even promote your book as a value-add. Used smartly, a book can be used as currency. Make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel to learn more about how to do just that!

Number Four: You can use it for a thank-you gifts and client gifts

PDFs get forgotten and they get lost. A book is a tangible item and, again, it has value. Even if it only cost you six dollars to print, it still has more value than a digital version.

Number five: Readers still want print books.

According to Author Earnings 2016 sales report, 76 percent of non-fiction book sales are in print. 24 percent to audio and e-book. Non-fiction book-buyers want that printed version.

Number Six: You can’t sign a digital book

Sure, there are services like authorgraph where you can request a signed digital copy of your book, but it’s just not the same for the author or the book holder.

Number seven: Try taking pictures with the Kindle-only version of a book

That’s gonna be awkward. Digital is still important. Links are live. You can send people to view your YouTube video, link to your website, and add resources that aren’t suitable for the print version, so there are great reasons to do a digital version of your book. It’s also pretty cool what you can do from a marketing perspective with an e-book, especially with Whispersync, which will connect your audiobook to your e-book, allowing someone to seamlessly switch from your e-book to your audio book.

That’s a pretty cool feature that can’t do with print books. And, audio is where the real growth is. Audiobooks are blowing up and if you’re a non-fiction author creating credibility, trying to build that know, like, and trust kind of feeling with your readers, there’s nothing better than getting your voice in someone’s head through audio.

Bottom line, digital is wonderful, but print books are still alive and well, especially in non-fiction.