By Barbara Falconer Newhall
Want to win some book contests? If you’re famous and your book is hitting the best-seller lists and it has the support of one of the Big Five publishers, you probably don’t have to lift a finger. But if you are among the legions of self-published authors and authors published by small, independent presses — you’ll need a list of book contests so you can get cracking. Contest deadlines for books published in 2016 start in the fall and continue on through early next year.
Some contests will even let you enter a book published in 2015. So don’t despair if you are just now finally getting around to thinking about contests.
I submitted “Wrestling with God” to a dozen or so contests, most of them contests for indie books. The effort and cost paid off: My book won a first prize in one contest and was a finalist in three others.
Most of these contests cost money — anywhere from $25 to a couple hundred dollars. You can spend hundreds entering these contests!
For me, the most wrenching aspect of the submission process was simply locating the contests to enter. I could not find a comprehensive list of contests anywhere. As a result I spent a lot of time hunting all over the place. Sadly, even then I missed entering some important contests.
Sooooo, to help you out, here’s a — very rough — starter list. These are contests that I know about (but don’t necessarily endorse). You can go on line for contest details,
that’s easy. It’s knowing that there even is such a contest out there that is the challenge. Especially if you don’t have a big publishing house publicity department to help you out.
My list includes religion book contests, since “Wrestling with God” is a religion and spirituality book. You can hunt around for contests that apply for your topic or region.
To flesh out your list, go to Poets and Writers magazine. It’s the best single source I know for announcements of deadlines for awards, contests, residencies and conferences. Also, recently I’ve discovered a couple of websites with their own lists.Some are mostly for self-published authors.
When you go to the various contests’ websites, take note of the winners’ publishers. Some awards seem to go mostly to books published by the Big Five. Some, on the other hand, won’t consider books published by those publishers.
Some contests don’t permit ebooks and/or PODs. Some don’t let authors or publishers submit. The book has to be nominated. Some let you enter a book published more than a year ago. Some require getting reviewed in their trade mag first. Some are downright tacky; I didn’t enter those. So, check out all these contests, their past winners and their rules carefully before submitting.
And don’t forget — there are contests for book cover design. I’ve listed a couple below.
Here’s my rough list of book contests (titles not exact). Additions and corrections heartily welcomed.
General Book Contests
American Book Awards – Before Columbus
Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
Books for a Better Life – MS Society
Chautauqua Prize (residency)
Christopher Awards (inspirational)
Dayton Literary Peace Prize
Devil’s Kitchen – Southern Illinois University
Friends of American Writers Chicago (Midwestern writers and topics)
Independent Book Publishers Association – Benjamin Franklin
Indie Excellence Awards
Kirkus Prize (get your book reviewed early to qualify)
The Lukas Book Prize (journalism)
Nancy Pear Book Award (Pacific Northwest)
Nautilus Book Awards
Next Generation Indie Book Awards
Rona Jaffe Foundation
The San Francisco Foundation
Stanford Saroyan Prize
USA Best Book Awards
California and Western Book Contests
California Book Awards – Commonwealth Club
Spur Award (western)
Religion – Spirituality – Inspiration Awards
The Independent Spiritual Book Awards
Religion Newswriters Association
Contests for Book Cover Design
AIGA – 50 books 50 covers (My book’s cover appears on this site — even though it was only “nominated” and not a winner.)
These Are Biggies. But We Can Dream
Booklist Editors Choice
LA Times Book Prize
Man Booker Prize
National Book Award
National Book Critics Circle Award
Notable Books, American Library Association
PEN Center USA
More stories for writers at “Write Another Book? I Dunno.” Also, “Splitting the Infinitive — How to Boldly Go There.” And, “What’s Rhetoric? Let My Two-Year-Old Enlighten You.”