Bird Face Wendy

Things relevant to reading, writing, publishing or marketing teen fiction.

The Real Scoop on Book Award Competitions, Part 1

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I struggled for years deciding whether it was worth the time and expense to enter book award competitions. My first publisher had made the decision for me and covered the cost of entering my first book, now out-of-print, in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. That book, the original Bird Face, won the bronze in the category Pre-Teen Fiction Mature Issues.

Fine and dandy, but with a new publisher and new books, entering award competitions was up to me. Which is often the case if an author has a small, indie publisher instead of one of big publishing houses. And really, does winning an award accomplish anything, especially if it’s not a Newbery or Caldecott Medal? Sales are the important thing, right? Shouldn’t an author concentrate on that?

Still, I entered the second book of the Bird Face series in the Moonbeams. (I didn’t know of any other appropriate competitions for my books back then.) Nothing came of that. Someone nominated my third book for the Grace Awards, and I entered it in the Carol Awards. Both of those are Christian book award competitions. It was a finalist in the Grace Awards. It didn’t achieve anything in the Carols, but a wonderful thing happened. One of the judges contacted me after the competition was over and told me that she had loved my book. That was so gratifying!

I was inspired. I started paying attention to awards that other novels written for tweens and teens had won. If I ever had a novel I truly believed could be a winner, I wanted to treat entering competitions like a science instead of taking a hit-or-miss approach.

The next novel published, The Other Side of Freedom, was my favorite. A coming-of-age historical tale set in 1925 Louisiana during Prohibition, it felt special to my husband and to me.

So I researched. I read articles and blog posts by agents, editors, and other authors listing book award competitions they recommended—or didn’t. Disagreement existed, of course. I didn’t take any one person’s word to heart for any particular book award contest, but rather looked for a positive consensus among several opinions. Then I considered not only cost to enter but available categories, prizes given, award presentation events, and previous winning authors I might have read. I noticed the cutoff for entries and compared that to the date for announcement of finalists or winners. Would they really have time to read all the entries and make a sound decision? The appearance of the awarding organizations’ websites played a factor but was not as great as the rest. (Note: Most organizations I researched had categories for nonfiction or separate award competitions for them.)

I spent a lot of time studying the book winners of various contests in categories where I thought my book might fit. Judging by Amazon samples and reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, did those books appear to be well written? Winners included self-published, indie/small-press published, and those with imprints of large publishers.

I made the decision to enter as many book award contests for The Other Side of Freedom as I could afford. Some competitions I found were free, some had very small fees or early-bird specials, and the cost for some made me pause—quite a while. But I figured someone had to win those money prizes, cool medals on ribbons, glamorous trophies, and get their names and book titles in press releases and catalogs. Why not me? And if the competitions placed my book title in front of new eyes (meaning new potential readers), the cost was small compared to most marketing opportunities.

So, here’s the beginning of my list of those competitions I entered over a period of ten months and some details about them. Learn more by following the links.

Independent Publisher Book Awards (Jenkins Group, Inc.)  I entered the “IPPY” awards in one category, Multi-cultural Fiction Juvenile/YA, for which I had to mail one book and pay a fee. I also entered  the Illumination awards for books written with a Christian worldview in the category Juvenile/YA, mailed  two books, and paid a fee (I missed the early bird rate). Results: My book did not win in either competition. Notes: This group also conducts the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. Author friends of mine have won in these at different times!

Next Generation Indie Book Awards (Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group) I entered two categories: Historical and Children’s/Juvenile Fiction. I paid a fee and had to mail three copies of my book. Results: First Place Children’s/Juvenile Fiction and Grand Prize First Place Fiction. Plus an awards gala, medals, trophy, and cash prizes!

Got you interested yet? It’s easy to spend hours, days, even weeks researching book awards.  I hope you’ll look into those mentioned above.  Then be sure to follow this blog to learn about ten more competitions I entered for The Other Side of Freedom. And what happened!

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Can You Predict Your Own Winner?

C-JFWinner The Other Side

If you are an author, artist, or craftsperson, you probably have one project among many that is nearest and dearest to your heart.

For me, that project is my first historical novel, The Other Side of Freedom. I started writing the story while I waited for the first Bird Face book to be published—the very first one, when only one manuscript existed, with no future for a Bird Face series.

TOSOF3d

From the beginning, I had a good feeling about this story (with a different title then) about a boy who was the son of Italian immigrants in 1925 America. The writing of it was easier than that of any of the Bird Face books. The Other Side of Freedom became my favorite among my works, and it was also my husband’s favorite book, too. I thought it stood a better chance of placing in a contest than any of my other novels had (although I had entered each of those in at least one or two contests).

Still, when I received an email announcing The Other Side of Freedom had won first place in the Children’s/Juvenile Fiction category of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, I could hardly believe my eyes. Then a second email announced it had also won first place in the Grand Prize for Fiction.

GRANDPRIZE First FIC The Other Side

A strange sound erupted from my throat—a combination of laughing and crying—and continued until my husband entered my study to see if I was okay. We squeezed each other as I said things like “Is this real?” and “I can’t believe it!”

The next morning when we woke up, he asked with all seriousness, “Did your book win an award last night, or did I dream that?”

I checked my email again to be sure the awards committee had not sent another email telling me they had made a mistake! No, my husband assured me. They would not have sent out emails telling me I had won two awards unless they were absolutely certain.

So, the book I believed was special was also special to others outside my personal sphere. How affirming was that?

The Next Generation Indie Book Awards was attractive in a number of ways: suitable categories, cash prizes, real award medals, and a gala/reception at a luxury hotel. But it was not the only contest I entered for The Other Side of Freedom.

I had researched a lot of book awards programs and had chosen several to enter. I had decided this particular book was worth spending the time and money to enter it into as many book awards contests as seemed reputable and appropriate for it. Some contests were out of my reach, requiring the book to to be nominated by a librarian in the ALA or to have a minimum number of Goodreads reviews.

Because of this win, my next blog post will likely be about all the awards contests I entered for The Other Side of Freedom and why I chose them from among many I learned about.

If you have several published books, fiction or nonfiction, and one in particular seems to stand out as that special book, I recommend you give it every chance to become a winner. It might not need to have been published within the past year. A number of contests include a range of eligible publication years.

Here’s hoping you can predict your own winner!

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