Self-publishers … I learned an important lesson in 2007 when, for the first time in 6 years I entered a contest with one of our books. In 1999, I discovered the Independent Publisher Book Awards and entered our first book, Lizzie: Lethal Innocence. In those days, it was a very new contest and didn’t even offer a shortlist. At the time of the award, I spoke to one of the organizers and found out that we had done very well but because it was nothing official I could not use it in our promo.
So the years went by and usually by the time I had the time to think of entering a contest I was either too late or I didn’t think our book would fit the categories (partly because they were all series). I also found myself rationalizing (incorrectly) that the contest was simply too expensive to enter (cost of the copies they wanted + entry fees + shipping). I now believe it was the devil of procrastination that held me back! Then in 2007 after 6 long years, for some reason, I decided to enter the IPPYs again. I think I was feeling a bit more flush and they weren’t asking for as many copies as they had previously … or did I have a premonition … an feeling similar to the one which told me to publish our first book!! No matter what it was, it was another decision that needed making, right then.
When they announced the winners, we were informed we had won a FIRST PRIZE , actually it was a GOLD Medal for my husband, J. Robert Whittle’s novel, Loyalty’s Haven … wow and yippee! No, it wasn’t for the best novel of the year or anything quite that prestigious but it was for a Regional Award and a Gold Medal wins lots of attention, no matter what, especially when you can re-print with their sticker on your cover as we did a few years later (in the interim, we purchased stickers to use).
Loyalty’s Haven was our most recent book at the time being an unplanned 3rd title in the series. Because of its historical content (Spanish Flu Pandemic 1918) I believe this swayed me in my decision to enter it despite being in a series. The regional award was to recognize an author who either lived in the region or writes about the region. In our case, we covered both, so the Canada: West category was a perfect fit for us. [2011 update: We won this award again the following year (see below)].
The IPPYs are a very prestigious award for not only self-published authors but independent presses and university presses as well, giving us a bit more competition. This was the contest’s 11th year and it has helped further the careers of many hundreds of authors and indie publishers (indie publisher description is now replacing the ‘self publisher’ misnomer).
So, a recap on contests, if you can find the time, enter as many as you can, but make sure what you enter is perfectly edited. That means you have to get someone else to edit or proofread it for you (we hire a professional proofreader). When you can say you won, were short-listed, received an Honourable Mention etc., people sit up and pay attention. It’s like getting several critics to positively rate your book all in one fell swoop 🙂 It also rewards YOU, because you suddenly feel it was all worthwhile. So go for it!
Until next time, happy writing and editing … and good luck with your contests!