This isn't, as the name might suggest, a post about authors buying awards. Rather, it's a lament of the state of the current legitimate publishing awards available to independent authors. Not long ago, the lovely Rachel Thompson (@RachelInTheOC) posted on Facebook about a prestigious award available to independent authors. Being an indie myself, I clicked through to see what it was all about.
It was legitimate and looked like the presenters really wanted to find the best of the best out of all independent works on the market today. Problem is, the entry fee was $199 USD. I was shocked.
How is an independent author supposed to afford to submit their book to even one of these awards at this price, let alone all of the awards out there. With entry fees like that, you'd think you'd get some kind of publicity or something just for entering, but not so. If you don't make the cut, your money is gone. $199 for what amounts to a shot in the dark.
I get it. I really do. The people organizing these awards don't have time to sift through the gobs and gobs of slush they would likely get if the award were free to enter. On the other hand, the entry fee for this particular award is so high, it's prohibitive. What you really get, when they choose the winner, is the best book out of those who could afford to enter, and not by any stretch an accurate cross-section of the market.
What this does is narrow the market, but I don't think it narrows it in a good way. If readers knew that the award an author is boasting about on their cover carried an entry fee of $199 or more, do you think they would pay much attention to it?
I've entered a number of awards since I first published The Time Weaver. Some (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, Brag Medallion, KBR Best Books of 2012) I didn't make the cut, and yet I won an indiePENdents Seal of Good Writing for The Time Weaver. The common threads amongst these were: they were free or cheap (<$20) to enter, and the playing field was level.
With a prohibitive price tag, many awards out there appear to cater to the elite: those few lucky authors who caught a break and are selling loads of books, or those who have been at it long enough to build up sales enough to afford it. At what point do we take a step back and realize that the next great novel could already be published out there, and just hasn't had the publicity to get it moving?
I don't for a second believe that a single award will change the fate of a book or author. But I do believe that a prohibitive price tag really diminishes the legitimacy of the award. Are they really trying to find the greatest books in independent publishing? Or are they just trying to make a quick buck by giving people a flashy, meaningless title?
I guess you'll have to decide for yourself.
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