Not long ago, I was approached to judge an award contest but declined however, I noticed a few things odd about this particular contest as well as several others that are indie-centric. I saw everything from hidden fees, to flat out pay to play type contests and wondered, why do they need to charge for this kind of thing? I mean can’t these organizations get sponsors?
There are so many ways to raise money these days from starting a Kickstarter campaign to even setting up a Patreon account, so why are these organizations charging indie authors for these awards? They mean absolutely nothing to the industry at large and do zilch but take money from authors.
The Actual Awards Themselves
Some companies are serious and hire a quality graphic designer to design their award. However, there are others who don’t and use stock photos kind of like this one I found on Dreamstime. All you gotta do put some text to it and voila, an instant graphic you can slap on a book!
If it’s this cheap to get a graphic, then how about those hunks of glass that are physical representations of the contest? I went online and found several awards that were eerily similar to some of the ones being given out to indie authors and discovered the prices for these hunks of glass can range anywhere from $10-$150+.
It Only Gets Worse…
There are some companies that hold actual award ceremonies which are held at convention centers or banquet halls where the ticket prices can range anywhere from $75 and up. Now here’s my question, if an author is the guest of honor, then why aren’t they allowed in the building without paying a cover charge?
Why Are Authors Doing This?
It’s called social verification and it’s the oldest marketing trick in the book. You see people (customers) think a product is more special if it has someone else’s seal of approval. However in order for this to actually work, the endorsement has to be from a reputable source.
According to marketing experts awards can serve as a third party endorsement. However, indie authors can also get this by securing reviews by prominent people in their industry and by getting a blurb from an author who’s popular in their genre. And all this can be done for free.
The Harsh Truth
Although it’s been proven that awards can help a career, you need to score the right award. Sadly to this day, many indie authors are excluded from most of the major awards within the publishing industry. Not to say there aren’t any legitimate awards for self-published authors, there are, but many aren’t well known. For example, there is no Nobel Prize or Newbery Medal for indie authors. I believe this will inevitably change as the industry continues to evolve.
How It Really Works
In traditional publishing, a publisher or agent submits a novel to the proper agencies and if there are any fees involved, they pay it, not the author. They do this because it’s in their own best interests if their authors have accolades from the publishing industry. It reflects well on their business.
In self-publishing, it could be said that since you are the publisher that you ought to pay any fees associated with the award. However, that creates a conflict of interest because if you win, your contemporaries can say that you paid for the honor. So as you can see, there is no winning here.
Do Awards Sell More Books?
According to industry sources yes, but again, only if you win the right one. Awards have been known to boost sales, through lengthening the shelf life of a book. For example, winning a Pulitzer Prize can increase sales by 3 fold and keep a book on the charts for an extended period of time.
At The End Of The Day
There’s no doubt that entering award competitions are a personal choice. It’s nice being honored but it’s not necessary, there are plenty of indie books that sold well that haven’t won any awards. If bragging rights are important to you then this money will be well spent. However, if you’re on a shoestring budget like most indies are, then this is just another way for people to separate an author from their money.