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Chris Stevenson

Contests and Awards

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I'm celebrating an unexpected victory at the moment. Trying to grasp what happened. I was just informed that my book Screamcatcher: Web World took first place in the N. N. Light Book Awards contest for best Young Adult novel of 2019. Not a huge event, nor a teeny one either. I must have been auto-entered in this running because I had no idea such a platform was part of their yearly program. I take it that about 1,750 books in 25 categories/genres were considered because of their highest reviews. I wasn't even forewarned as a finalist position. Since this was a no-pay entry contest, it made it all that more significant and relevant to me. I really attribute most of this to luck and timing.

This is the third time I've won or placed in anything literature related in 29 years. I think we all know how impossible the odds can seem. Yet when it happens, you sit there in a stupor and wonder the why of it, rather than the whole "Oh hell yes!" of it. Needless to say, I'm humbled and grateful to be called out for a little book that I thought was nothing more than a little slammer beach read. The heck with me—this is a win for the First Nation’s Tribe, a salute to our North American Indian cultural history.

I would encourage others to adopt the feeling that this could happen to you too when you least expect it. And isn't that always the way it seems to work? Victory always seems to sneak up on you with no pre-warning. I'll have fond memories of this day and time in my life. It felt like somebody wrapped their arms around me after a long period of loneliness. And in the writing world where rejection is 99% of our existence, these are the moments that make it all worth the insufferable effort to accomplish and carry on. On the upside, this contest required no payment or commitment to enter. These types are far, few and in between. Many of them are small and barely register a blip on the “who won what” radar. Yet even the smaller ones can have a huge reader base and attract the curious.


J. A Konrath, the successful Indie guru, is noted for saying that contests “aren’t worth sh.t.” That they have no relevance or significance when it comes to notoriety or impact on sales—particularly sales. He goes on to say that they are a gimmick or scam at best. Nearly all of them. He has a point, to a certain extent, and I don’t and can’t disagree with his logic and opinion. Our senior population is a favorite target of contest campaigns because the contests come in so many venues and guises, covering a multitude of subjects.

Contests and awards can be an enticement, and yet they can be an entrapment. Ergo an addiction. This, by the way, applies to just about every contest or award out there for a multitude of products and services—books, jewelry, appliances, gift cards, cars, vacations, artwork, poems and the like. There’s no end to the array of prizes and circumstances by which you can enter with the possibility of placing, becoming a finalist or winning. Wouldn’t you know that many of them include honorable mentions as kind of an afterthought. The more divisions to win in allows the host to pander and cater to many more participants. First, second and third placements are the most common winning sequences, with sometimes a hats off to the overall grand prize winner of the entire field. Honorable mentions usually bring up the rear, and make no mistake about it, those little wins won’t go unrecognized by participants and can be just as important as the larger award positions. What’s important is that you got ink!

We definitely have some legitimate and noteworthy contests that can pull in lots of interest from industry professional watchdogs. These contests are mostly free but require nominations to be included in their lists. They are considered premium awards and are usually sponsored by huge organizations and companies each year. Among the best known book awards and competitions are: (Including fee entries)

General Book Awards Contests

1. TCK Publishing Readers Choice Contest

Website: Contest details: www.tckpublishing.com2019-readers-choice-awards Fee: Free

2. Benjamin Franklin Awards

Website: Contest details:www.ibpabenjaminfranklinawards.comentry-form Fee: $95

3. Best Book Award (American Book Fest)

Website: Contest details: www.americanbookfest.comamericanfictionawards.html Fee: $69-$89

4. Beverly Hills Book Awards

Website: Contest details: www.beverlyhillsbookawards.comrules-beverlyhills-book-awards.htm Fee: $75

5. Colorado Book Awards Contest details:www.coloradohumanities.orgprograms/colorado-book-awards Fee: unpublished

6. Georgia Author of the Year

Website: Contest details: Fee: $60

7. Hollywood Book Festival

Website: Fee: $75

8. International Book Award Contest

Website: Contest details: Fee: $69 ⁠–$89

9. National Indie Excellence Award

Website: Contest details: www.indieexcellence.comentry-form Fee: $75

10. Nautilus Book Awards

Website: Fee: $165–$185

11. NextGen Indie Book Awards

Website: Fee: $75

12. Reader’s Favorite

Website: Contest details: Fee: $99 – $119, discount on multiple genres/book

13. The National Book Awards

Website: www.nationalbook.orgnational-book-awards/submissions/ Fee: $135

14. The Wishing Shelf Contest details: Fee: $89

15. Woodson Book Award

Website: www.socialstudies.orgawards/woodson/nominations Fee: unpublished

16. Rubery Book Award Fee: unpublished

17. 2019 Foreword Indies

Website: Contest details:www.publishers.forewordreviews.comawards/#why-register Fee: $89

Children’s Book Awards Contests

18. The Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards

Website: Contest details: www.moonbeamawards.com38/guidelines Fee: $55

19. The Royal Dragonfly Book Awards

Website: Contest details: www.dragonflybookawards.compurple-dragonfly Fee: $60

20. The Golden Kite Award Contest details: www.scbwi.orgawards/golden-kite-award/ Fee: unpublished

21. Mom’s Choice Award

Website: Contest details: Fee: unpublished

22. The Purple Dragonfly Book

Website: Contest details: www.dragonflybookawards.compurple-dragonfly/ Fee: unpublished

Christian Book Awards Contests

23. Cascade Contest

Website: Contest details: www.oregonchristianwriters.orgcascade-writing-contest-2019/ Fee: unpublished

24. Illumination Awards Contest details: Fee: $85

25. Christian Indie Awards

Website: Contest details:www.christianaward.comeligibility-guidelines/ Fee: $45

26. Christian Book Award Contest details:www.ecpa.orgpage/cba_1_overview? Fee: unpublished

27. Carol Awards Contest details:www.acfw.comcarol Fee: $45 for members, $115 for non-members

28. The Inspy Awards Contest Fee: Free

29. Christianity Today Book Award Contest details:www.christianitytoday.comct/2019/may-web-only/nomination-instructions-2020-christianity-today-book-awards.html Fee: $40

30. CPA Book Awards Contest details:www.catholicpress.orgpage/CPABookAwards? Fee: $36 for members, $76 for non-members

31. The Christy Awards

Website: Contest details: www.ecpa.orgpage/christy_submissions Fee: $175

Self-Published Book Awards Contests

32. The IndieReader Discovery Awards Contest details: www.indiereader.comproduct/indiereader-discovery-awards-entry-2020/ Fee: $149

33. The Best Indie Book Award

Website: Contest Fee: $50

34. Foreword INDIES Book of the Year

Website: Contest details: Fee: unpublished

35. Indie Reader Discovery Awards Contest details: www. Fee: $150

36. The Independent Publisher Book Awards

Website: Contest details: Fee: $75-$95

37. The Eric Hoffer Award

Website: Fee: $60

38. Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Website: Contest details: Fee: $75

Crime and Mystery Book Awards Contests

39. CWA Daggers

Website: Contest Fee: unpublished

40. The Edgar Awards Contest details: Fee: unpublished

E-book Book Awards Contests

41. ELit Awards Contest details: Fee: $70–$90

42. Global E-Book Awards Contest details: Fee: $4.97

43. Digital Book World Awards

Website: Contest details: Fee: $59

Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Book Awards Contests

44. Bram Stoker Award

Website: Contest details: Fee: unpublished

45. Fanstory Horror Writing Contest Contest Fee: unpublished

46. Hugo Awards Contest details: Fee: unpublished

47. Nebula Awards

Website: Fee: unpublished

Business Book Awards Contests

48. Axiom Business Book Awards

Website: Contest Fee: $75-$95

50. Financial Times

Website: www.ft.comwork-careers/business-book-award Fee: unpublished

Other Book Awards Contests

51. TipTree Award

Website: Contest details: www.tiptree.orgabout-the-award/the-process Fee: unpublished

52. Spur Awards Contest details: Fee: unpublished

53. WILLA Contest details: Fee: $65

54. Royal Dragonfly

Website: Contest details: www.dragonflybookawards.comroyal-dragonfly Fee: $60-65

55. Stonewall Books

Website:www.ala.orgawardsgrants/awards/177/apply Fee: unpublished

56. Living Now Book Awards

Website: Contest details: Fee: $95

57. Green Book Festival

Website: Fee: $50

58. American Fiction Awards (American Book Fest)

Website: Contest details: www.americanbookfest.comamericanfictionawards.html Fee: $69–$89

59. PEN/Faulkner Awards Contest details: www.penfaulkner.orgaward-for-fiction/submission-guidelines/ Fee: unpublished

60. AICP Cookbook Awards

Website: Contest details: www.iacp.comawards/cookbook/ Fee: $150–$200

Among this list are free contests that carry a lot of weight—the Hugo, Nebulae, Booker Prize, Pulitzer, Bram Stoker and other such notables. However, take note of the fees associated with most of them. Name your category or genre and you’ll probably find yourself eligible in one or more of these offerings. Some are for unpublished manuscripts. How deep are your pockets? What are your realistic expectations?


Do you think for one minute those sponsoring agencies are losing money by bestowing huge cash prizes and publication upon you? You would be wrong. They are making money hand over fist. The question you have to ask yourself is…is it worth the expense and nail-biting to anticipate or expect a win of any kind in any of them? With thousands or tens of thousands of applicants, tabulate your odds of picking up a win. It’s worse than a crap shoot in Las Vegas. If you are a contest chaser and think that you can even your odds by entering many or most of these contests, you’ll end up sitting on the curb with your hat in your lap begging for living expenses. If you happen to feel good about your odds in a certain competition, it doesn’t hurt to enter. Just do so with the full knowledge that everyone has the same hopes and dreams and the playing field is level.

I’m sorry, but I can’t see myself as a wunder talent since I might have edged out a runner up because of a dropped run-on sentence or a POV slip. Final decisions could be that close.

How much does talent have to do with copping a win? Fortunately a great book will stand out whether it is picked by a panel of judges or a reader’s poll. It is subjective and a matter of personalized opinion. Yet the wheat will win over the chaff. Every time.

There are and have been instances where an applicant can actually sway the votes by using huge marketing campaigns (more expense) aimed at fans, readers and relatives. This happens a lot with book cover contests. Get somebody to click on you as a favorite and wallah! You start stacking up the votes. This happens. It’s a little desperate, but if the cover really is great, it’s justified. People can go to extreme lengths to win—you’ve heard of those authors who have bought thousands of copies of their own books to hit the NYT, USA Today and Amazon top-seller lists. The same thing happens in the contest and awards arena.

What’s in it for you if you pick up a substantial or even moderate win? Besides publication and a cash prize (if it’s offered), you have bragging rights. Sometimes you get permission to wear the contest badge, usually a star with the logo displayed prominently on your book cover. Does it help? Money and publication is fine. Wearing the badge? That’s up to you. A little gold star might give you a second look. It is NOT a guarantee that your sales and reviews are going to skyrocket. Your win is not an earth-shaking event and, except for the most prestigious awards, don’t expect front page news, radio interviews or TV spots with the major networks. This kind of news goes over with fans, friends and relatives more than other segments of the populace.

So you won something…consider it a personal best. Take pride, include it in your diary and remember it fondly. You certainly did something right and, no, it really wasn’t all luck. It was pluck and you just happened to be there with a beloved book that made an impact on somebody who cared enough to draw you out of the crowd. Good luck with your future entries, and may we all have our 16 minutes of fame!

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