Book and Writing Awards: The Why, Which, and When

Cristen Iris

Many authors don't understand the value of book awards or are hesitant to enter them because they've been told that anything they have to pay for is a scam.

Are Book and Writing Awards Scams?

There are scams out there, which is why you must do your due diligence by researching them before handing over an entry fee. (More about fees below.)

But there are many book and writing awards that are legitimate and high-value.

The Value of Book and Writing Award Wins

Book and writing award wins are a way for you to distinguish yourself in the marketplace.

They give you something to talk about other than "Hey, I wrote this book; go buy it." You'll wear out your welcome quickly if all you have to tell people is "Buy my book." But the more awards and respected third-party validation you and your work receive, the more credibility and traction you'll get with your audience.

  • Your brand will be associated with professionalism and excellence.
  • Your book will be seen as a must-have resource.
  • Your social media feeds and advertising copy will be varied and interesting.
  • Your platform will grow.
  • Your fan base will grow.
  • Your income will grow.
  • Your influence will grow.
  • And, others--including your editor, collaborator, book coach, and other publishing team members--will be thrilled to promote and be associated with you.

But because there are scams and low-quality awards, I've compiled a list to get you started.

Recommended Book Awards*

While many of the awards listed in the section I've added to the bottom of this post only accept submissions from publishers, traditionally and indie-published authors should consider applying for these:

River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Contest

Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Contest

Kay Snow Writing Contest

Living Now Book Awards

Janey Loves 2018 Platinum Awards

Indiereader Discovery Awards

Reader’s Favorite Book Awards

Independent Publisher Book Awards

International Book Awards

Maxy Awards

New England Book Festival Awards

Center for Fiction Awards

First Novel Prize (the UK one)

Faulkner-Wisdom Competition

American Book Festival Awards

The Wishing Shelf Book Awards

Nautilus Book Awards

Foreword INDIES

Body, Mind, Spirit Book Awards

Writer’s Digest Writing Competition

National Indie Excellence Awards

Budget for Book and Writing Award Entry Fees

Think of book awards as advertising because organic reach is great, but it's limited. To be seen and heard, you need to advertise. And advertising costs money.

Website setup and maintenance, advertising, and facilitation of contests cost money. It's reasonable to expect to pay a fee, but I don't recommend paying much over $50 per entry. The higher the prestige and name recognition of the award, the more valuable a win is. In those cases, I'm comfortable recommending spending more.

There are legitimate organizations and professionals I respect whose awards I have not included on my list because while I respect them, I believe their entry fees far exceed the value they provide. As with all things business, do a cost-benefit analysis before handing over money.

And remember, that the ROI is largely dependent on what you do after you receive the award.

Step 1

Enter your book or writing in as many high-quality contests as you can afford.

Step 2

After you've won, leverage those wins! Create graphics, and share them on social media. Mention your awards whenever you talk about your book. And add them to your book's description on Amazon and wherever else your book is available online.

And don't be shy about sending email announcements and mentioning your publishing team members when you post on social media. Make it easy and beneficial for us to promote you!

Good luck!

The list below includes some of the most highly respected literary awards bestowed upon authors.

High Level Literary Book Awards and Prizes

If your work has been published in numerous literary and commercial magazines or your book published by one of the Big 5 or a high-quality independent literary press, I recommend entering as many as your book qualifies for.

The Man Booker Prize

Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction (administered/awarded by the American Library Association)

Christopher Award

Coretta Scott King Award

National Book Award (submissions must come from the author’s publisher)

National Institute of Arts and Letters Rosenthall Award (must be nominated by an Academy member)

National Book Critics Circle Award

PEN Literary Award

Pulitzer Prize

Pushcart Prize (must be nominated by “little magazines and small book press editors … our staff of distinguished Contributing Editors”)

Chautauqua Prize

Drue Heinz Literature Prize (short fiction)

Writer’s Trust Awards (for Canadian writers): Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, Matt Cohen Award: In Celebration of a Writing Life, Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize, Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for Young People, Writers’ Trust Engel Findley Award, RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, Writers’ Trust McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Emerging Writers

Women's Prize for Fiction (for UK-published books, must be nominated by your publisher)

Wellcome Book Prize (must be nominated/submitted by your publisher)

*If you've had a negative experience or have reliable information that any of the awards I've listed do not adhere to high ethical and literary standards, please contact me with your concerns.


I'm proud to work with many book award winners. For a list of the awards and recognitions they've received on projects we've worked together on, click here.

If you want to work with an editor, book collaborator, or book coach who knows what it takes to get noticed and will celebrate with and promote you when you do, let's connect.

Image:, CO0

Cristen Iris

CI Communication Strategies


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