“Award-winning” Books

I’m starting with a disclaimer here, lest anyone think I’m out to bash contests. I’ve written at least one book that’s won an award, two that have finaled in contests. Even before I was published, I entered contests, finaled and won. I still enter my books in contests when I can.

I think it helps sometimes to hear that affirmation that our book somehow fills a need, touches a heart, resounds with someone. Hearing that affirmation makes those thousands of hours of research, writing, and revising worth it.

I continue this post with a confession: last Friday I kept one eye on my phone and the other on my work throughout the day. I knew that this was likely the day I’d get a phone call if I finaled in a contest. The hours ticked by and the day wound itself down. Then came the weekend and I knew that the phone call wouldn’t come, at least not this year.
Not to negate the importance of contests, but books in contests are measured by a small group of judges, likely a trio or a quartet. Most of the time the book is judged by industry experts, fans, and sometimes library pros.
I find myself going back and forth between loving contests yet not quite believing in their value. I find myself still entering and still waiting for a phone call. There are books that I’ve read and loved that have never won a prize. There are some books that have won prizes that truly deserved the award.
I’ve found myself giddy with delight at an awards banquet, hearing a friend’s name called as they won an award for their book. The year I won, I was speechless and could scarcely breathe as I made it through my speech.
Where do you stand? Does it matter to you if a book has won a particular prize? Does the judgment of a trio or quartet of readers outweigh the rankings of readers in places such as Goodreads? I want to know.

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Lynette Sowell writes fiction for the inspirational market, from contemporary romance to mysteries. She’s always looking for the perfect recipe for a story–or a great dish–and is always up for a Texas road trip. Her next book The Sweetheart of Starlight releases through Heartsong Presents in August and spotlights Texas barbecue.

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4 Responses to “Award-winning” Books

  1. Beth Goddard says:

    “Does the judgment of a trio or quartet of readers outweigh the rankings of readers in places such as Goodreads?” That’s a good question. Honestly, I hope so! Maybe you can do an article on reviews now that anyone can write one–what is their value? At least in the case of judges for contests, for the most part the judges are schooled about how to judge. The same can’t be said for reviewers. 🙂

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  2. Winning a contest may help the publisher promote a book, but often, even when I’ve won an award, myself, I’m certainly not convinced my book should have won over those of my friends. I know we’re supposed to enter for publicity, but I don’t like competing against friends in the business, and after all these years, a majority of CBA writers are friends.

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  3. Maureen Lang says:

    I have really mixed feelings about awards! I know they’re valuable on the way toward publication, because an aspiring writer can catch the eye or attention of both agents and editors, and a win or finalist placement looks great on a proposal (if landing that manuscript on the professional’s desk wasn’t already the prize). Plus, feedback is great from unbiased eyes of unknown judges.

    But for published authors, there is almost never any feedback – and even if there were, it’s too late for that particular book anyway. I’ve found I don’t really like the way I feel when I enter contests: sad not to final, proud when I do. I don’t want to feel better than anyone else, especially with something like entertainment. One person’s favorite book is another’s ho-hum read, so it’s impossible to really define a book’s value.

    That said, I do like to reach new readers through contests. The ones that offer real readers as judges makes sense to me from a marketing point of view – the ones judged by readers, librarians, or booksellers. Even without finaling, I may have found a new reader to follow my work, and if this industry has taught me anything it’s that every reader counts. Building a following often goes on a steady incline rather than a straight shot up, and joining contests is one avenue to do that.

    As a reader, however, I rarely buy a book just because it’s won an award. I have, but most of the time I buy a book because I’m already familiar with the author’s work and I know I’ll like it, or it’s been recommended to me by a friend that I trust.

    And all of this is probably more than you wanted to know . . .

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  4. juliearduini says:

    My crit group recently discussed this. As a reader, awards don’t mean too much to me. I probably pay more attention to Amazon reviews and peer suggestions. As a writer seeking publication, I believe awards can be great confirmation. Yet I know published writers who have yet to final, and yet-to-be published writers who consistently place. I’m at the place that contests and awards are great places for feedback, but they are a piece of a pie, not the whole. Great post.

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