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

Monica E. Pierce's Book Cover with book award sealsBook 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.

Heather Sears wins an IP award for her book Mind to Mouth: A Busy Chick's Guide to Mindful Mealtime Moments
Heather Sears wins an Independent Publisher Book Award for her book Mind to Mouth: A Busy Chick's Guide to Modern Mealtime Moments

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 (in no particular order):

Publishers Weekly BookLife Prize

River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Contest

Fourth Genre Steinberg Essay Contest

Kay Snow Writing Contest

Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA) Nancy Pearl Book Award

Living Now Book Awards

Janey Loves Platinum Awards

Indiereader Discovery Awards

Eric Hoffer Book Awards

Reader’s Favorite Book Awards

Independent Publisher Book Awards

International Book Awards

Nonfiction Authors Association Book Awards

TCK Publishing Reader's Choice Award

Maxy Awards

New England Book 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

C&R Book Awards (3, $1,000 prizes: poetry, fiction nonfiction)

Steel Toe Books writing prize for unpublished books (poetry and prose--fiction and nonfiction--includes a publishing contract for winners)

NYC Big Book Awards

Reader Views Reviewer's Choice Awards (indie authors)

The Hugo Award (voted on by members of World Science Fiction Convention)

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 if you have a limited budget or you aren't sure if your book is competitive. The higher the prestige and name recognition of the award, the more valuable a win is. And some award organizers offer a lot of exposure to winners in the form of big announcements across a range of platforms. (The Nonfiction Authors Association book award program is an example of this.**) In those cases, I'm comfortable recommending spending more.

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

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

Step 2: Leverage Your Wins

Linda K. Olson's Book Cover with 4 Book Award Seals
Triple-amputee Linda K. Olson's memoir has won multiple awards and PARADE Magazine listed it as one of the "24 Best Memoirs to Read in 2020."

Among the benefits listed above, I said that winning book awards will help you grow your fan base, income, and influence. But those things almost never happen unless the author and their publicity team leverage those wins.

Take full advantage of your win by updating all your marketing and advertising copy. That includes incorporating the award images into everything associated with your book like Linda K. Olson did for her survivor memoir, Gone. Check out the book page on her website to see how she makes the most of awards and media mentions.

Remember to mention your book awards when pitching yourself to the media or for speaking opportunities.

And don't be shy about sending email announcements and mentioning your publishing team members when you post on social media. Make it easy 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)

Poetry & Writing Contests

The Steinberg Memorial Essay Prize ($1,000 prize and publication in fourth genre literary magazine)

The Loraine Williams Poetry Prize ($1,500 & Publication for a single poem
Submission window: March 1-May 1.)

Narrative Prize ($4,000 awarded annually for the best short story, novel excerpt, poem, one-act play, graphic story, or work of literary nonfiction published by a new or emerging writer in Narrative.)

Crazy Horse Prizes in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry (Submission window: January 1-31. Winners in each genre will receive $2,000 and publication.)

Crazy Horse Crazyshorts! Short-Short Fiction Contest (Submission window: July 1-31; $1,000 and publication)

Witness Literary Award (Winners receive $500, and runners-up receive $250. Contest entry is $10. All entries are considered for publication.)

Idaho Writers Guild Writing Contests

The Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize (poetry, $1,000 prize)

TCK Publishing Poetry Award

Persea Books and Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Project: Lexi Rudnitsky Prize Award

And I highly recommend Poets & Writers vetted list of Writing Awards, Grants, & Awards.


*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.

**Disclosure: I am a past Nonfiction Authors Association National Chapter Director and Chapter Leader and have worked with its founder on several publishing projects. However, I receive no financial compensation for listing them here. I do so because I see value in the NFAA, and it is the best example I know of to demonstrate the cost-benefit analysis authors must do when choosing which awards to enter.

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.


Ready to talk to an experienced and results-oriented ghostwriter/book collaborator, book doctor, and developmental editor? To schedule a free, 30-minute consultation, click here.


Image:, CO0

Cristen Iris

CI Communication Strategies


updated January 5, 2022