Indie Book Contests…. To Enter Or Not To Enter… Or More Trouble Than It’s Worth? – Rhonda Rees | Guest Post

photo_awards picGetting an award, receiving accolades, being honored as one of the best in what you do – and giving your reputation a much-needed boost. Now, who wouldn’t want this great type of recognition and acknowledgement? Especially if you are an independent author or self-publisher, and you are actively looking for ways to build up your name and brand.

One of the best methods of doing so is to enter reputable book and e-book competitions. But how do you know which ones are legitimate, well-regarded, or even beneficial? After all, there are a lot of contests out there – and many seem a bit too good to be true. Worse yet, what if you enter one unwittingly, and receive a prize, only to find out that you’ve just given the rights away to your celebrated work? Or, if instead, you inadvertently help to line the pockets of the companies that are sponsoring the competition?

What’s an independent author to do? Well, I can speak for my own experience by letting you know that I too, was faced with this same situation. My self-published book, Profit and Prosper with Public Relations®: Insider Secrets to Make You a Success, had just been out in the market, and I thought that it would be a really good idea to see if it could get recognized.

I began to run some Google searches, looking through the web to see what book contests were offered for Indies. I was amazed at what was listed. There were so many to choose from – and I began to feel a bit overwhelmed. I read a number of articles from marketing specialists, PR people, watchdog organizations, authors, self-publishers, and former contest winners, who certainly had quite a lot to say.

Sifting through article after article, I began to get a consensus as to which competitions tended to show up on similar lists as being reputable, and what people more “in the know” thought about them. I paid close attention, and decided that I would enter about a half-dozen contests and try my luck.

To my surprise, I became a finalist in three competitions – with a fourth one providing me with the judges’ comments and great feedback.

Regrettably, some people are not quite that fortunate. If you don’t chose wisely, you may end up submitting your work – only to find out that you no longer have the rights to your own material, or you could be out a lot of money, with your reputation on the line.

According to Writer Beware blogs, this is a scenario that you need to watch out for. Independent writers with “stars in their eyes,” can get easily taken in. They warn of big contest fees, anonymous judging, vanity publishing scams, and opportunities for prize winners to spend more money on stickers and certificates, thus padding the pockets of the sponsors. Author Victoria Strauss has written quite a lot about the not so nice aspects of book competitions, and how to spot if they are real or fake. She enlightens readers on specifics of what independent authors should be looking out for.

But all is not lost. As part of my research, and in order to get a consensus, I thought that I would informally survey one of my LinkedIn groups pertaining to book awards. A majority of the respondents had mixed feelings about the effectiveness of book competitions, but most agreed that what is important is to actively market your award. Just like with anything else, the prize itself is not enough to boost sales – but it can certainly open doors if you know how to work it.

Lynnda Pollio, a member of the group is one person who has been very successful at winning book contests. She has this to say. “Overall, I’m glad that I participated in book competitions. So far I have won six book awards. Receiving all of these honors gave me something to talk about to stimulate conversation about the book. It elevated me out of the over 450,000 books self-published each year.”

Sales, marketing and PR are great ways to up your visibility and exposure, to increase interest and awareness for your book. Having that recognition with an award can make your job much easier – and also help to open doors.

For example, library shows are always interested in seeing award stickers on books – as this helps them decide whether or not to purchase your work. In addition, showing stickers on your cover can help you get the attention of bookstores, publishers and literary agents, as well as the general public. Also, displaying them at book festivals and trade shows never hurts – as this can certainly serve as an attention getter – or at the very least, be an interesting conversation starter.

Book publicist Scott Lorenz is very enthusiastic about book competitions. He has written an article highlighting many advantages for authors. He strongly believes that book contests matter, with the potential flurry of media interest that they can generate. He has seen producers and reporters take notice of a client’s work which has helped to boost credibility, and ultimately lead to more sales and opportunities.

I tend to agree. Having been in the PR business for many years, and representing several authors, I have seen the direct benefits of good exposure, both with traditional and social media. By sending out press releases, and posting info to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and to websites and blogs, these are all beneficial ways to help get your book noticed.

One client entered a book contest to help gain interest in a possible screenplay of his work. He received a finalist honor in a reputable Indie competition, which I then helped to publicize. In my own case, my book was featured on the news in Los Angeles, and the reporter gave it a close-up, telling the viewers about my awards. Money certainly couldn’t buy that type of publicity.

The best word of advice I can give you is to be careful and cautious. Be sure to survey each contest very thoroughly, and read the requirements and rules’ fine print. Be on the look-out for vanity publishing scams, and also make sure that you don’t sign your rights away. Be wary of high contest fees. Also pay attention to solicitations. Are these competitions pressuring you by sending out multiple emails to enter? Ask around, and notice if the contest you are interested in has been around for a while. A good rule of thumb is at least 10 years or longer. If it’s less time than that, be sure to do your research first.

After careful consideration, and taking expert opinions into account, here are some reputable book contests for independents and self-published authors to consider:


* IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards™

* IPPY Independent Publisher Book Awards

* The Axiom Business Book Awards (sponsored by IPPY)

* Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards (sponsored by IPPY)

* Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

* The Eric Hoffer Award

* Next Generation Indie Book Awards

* Forward Magazine Indie Fab Book of the Year Awards

* USA Best Book Awards

* National Indie Excellence (NIEA) Book Awards


Remember to be smart, be cautious, and most important of all to realize that this isn’t an exact science. Even the professionals can differ widely in their opinions. But whatever you chose to do — I want to wish you the very best of luck with your own personal decision.


Pictures Professional Red 049 fixRhonda Rees is an award-winning author and public relations practitioner. She was named the Publicist of the Year by the Book Publicists of Southern California. Her book, Profit and Prosper with Public Relations®: Insider Secrets to Make You a Success, has received three book awards, and is published by Aseity Press. For more information:,, It is available at You can also find Rhonda’s Facebook page here.

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