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How To Win Self-Published Book Awards


If you are a writer, chances are you have written a book. And if you’ve written a book, chances are you have published it. Winning awards for the books you’ve written is a valuable next step to establish yourself as a credible writer.

Today, writer websites are extremely important. Landing pages, the first page of your website, are where potential readers go first when looking you up. It’s crucial to design a standout landing page…and many authors choose to put their best-selling books or awards on their landing pages to establish their credibility. 

Winning a book award not only establishes your credibility, but can help with your book sales. If you had to choose between two similar books on Amazon, both by authors you weren’t familiar with, you would likely choose the book with “award winning writer” on the cover. 

So, how do you win a book award?

In this article we discuss: 

  • Can a self-published author win awards?
  • List of book contests for self-published authors. 
  • Step by step guide to winning self-published book awards.

Before we dive in, remember: Winning or not winning an award does not define your writing. Writing contests, and therefore writing awards, are very subjective. You may be a phenomenal writer, but your particular genre may not resonate with a particular judge. Great writing is great writing regardless of whether it is award-winning. Winning a writing award can help boost your credibility in the eyes of potential readers, but as a writer, you are your own affirmation.

That said, let’s dive in! 

Can a self-published author win awards?

Yes, a self-published author can win awards, it just depends on the writing contest, the judges, and of course, your writing.

While entering a writing contest does not guarantee a writing award, by default, the more writing contests you enter, the higher your chances are of winning. There are many self-publishing contests you can enter (more on that later). 

Before entering, it’s crucial to ask yourself a few questions: 

  • What is my goal in entering? 
  • Is my writing at industry standard? 
  • Have beta readers offered positive feedback? 
  • Will I get discouraged and give up if I don’t win? 

Contests are a valuable way to receive credible feedback on your writing. Whether you win, place second, or don’t place at all, judges often offer feedback on contestants’ writing. 

This is extremely helpful as you learn and grow as a writer. 

Before entering a contest, make sure you have a thick skin. Any feedback received should be viewed through the lens of, “How can this help me?” rather than through the lens of discouragement. 

A self-published writer can win awards just like a traditionally published author can, just be sure to enter the correct contests and enter your best work.

List of book contests for self-published authors.

You may be surprised at the sizable list of contests for self-published writers. Below is a list (not exhaustive) that should help get you started. 

  • Authors Talk About It Book Contest
  • Axiom Business Book Awards
  • BookLife Prize in Fiction
  • Christian Indie Awards
  • CIPA EVVY Awards
  • eLit Book Awards
  • EPIC eBook Competition
  • Global eBook Awards
  • IACP Cookbook Awards
  • Independent Press Award
  • IndieReader Discovery Awards
  • IPPY Awards
  • Kindle Book Awards
  • National Indie Excellence Book Awards
  • Nautilus Book Awards
  • Next Generation Indie Book Awards
  • Readers Favorite Contest
  • Readers Choice Awards by TCK Publishing
  • The Eric Hoffer Award
  • The Firecracker Awards
  • The International Rubery Book Award
  • The Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards

When applying for a specific writing contest, be sure to carefully read and follow the guidelines. While this may seem to go without saying, it’s easy to accidentally miss a guideline and disqualify yourself. 

After all your hard work drafting, writing, and editing, it would be extremely unfortunate to be disqualified over a minor mistake. Before entering a contest, make sure to read all the guidelines and follow them exactly.

Step-by-step guide to winning self-published book awards.

Now that you know you can win a self-published book award and you have a list of contests to enter, it’s important to know exactly how to win the award. Below is a list of steps to help you walk through the process. 

Step 1: Research.

Just as it’s imperative to research your target audience before writing and marketing your book, it’s imperative to research every contest you choose to enter. 

When writing your book, your target audience is primarily potential readers. When trying to win an award for your book, your primary audience is the judges.

Judges will judge your book not just on the writing, but also on how well your submission fits the genre, as well as the overall requirements. 

Some general guidelines to follow would be making sure you enter the right genre in the right category, following the word count requirement exactly (not one word over), and properly formatting your submission. 

Note: Some submissions require your name to be ABSENT from your submission. An easy way to disqualify yourself is by following industry standard formatting (author name in the header) when entering a contest. Be extremely careful when formatting your submission. 

You may also want to research previous winners from the contest you choose to enter. Look at their genre, voice, characterization, overall plot, and story in general. This applies to both fiction and nonfiction. 

Step 2: Edit.

Editing your work prior to submitting is one of the best ways to heighten your chances of winning.

While judges judge based on submission requirements, they also judge based on the writing itself. Before submitting your work, double check to make sure every sentence follows writing rules. If you choose to break a writing rule, make sure it is done with an obvious purpose. This will help the judges. You don’t want to lose points for what may look like a mistake. 

Consider asking a beta reader to look over your work, point out typos, plot holes, or characterization issues. 

Step 3: Don’t research too much.

Just as it’s easy to get lost in research for your book, rather than actually write, at some point, it’s crucial to stop researching contests and actually submit.

You may not find the perfect contest to submit to, but that doesn’t mean another contest won’t be helpful. 

Contests are an invaluable source of feedback. Judges are carefully chosen, submission requirements are thought through, and winners are chosen after careful thought. 

While some contests are better than others, never underestimate the help you may glean from simply entering. 

Step 4: Fee or free?

During your time spent researching contests, you likely came across many that were free, as well as other options you could only enter after paying a fee. 

If you chose to enter a contest with an entrance fee, it may be helpful to think through the possibility that you may not place. Are you willing to pay the fee and enter regardless of whether or not you place? Sometimes paying a fee is worth the feedback you will receive. However, not all contests offer feedback. Look through the guidelines carefully before choosing to commit.

If you are willing to possibly lose your entrance fee for the experience of entering the contest, go for it.

Step 5: Refuse the scarcity mentality. 

The more you invest in the world of writing, the smaller it will seem. Your beta readers may be your competitive authors, and those you want to endorse your book may be the very people taking that bestseller spot you hope to one day attain. 

There is more than enough success to go around.

When choosing to enter a contest, you may choose to keep it quiet and not share your commitment with your writing community. After all, the more people who know that you have entered the contest, the more likely some of them will enter the contest, and therefore the more competition you will have. 

On the contrary, the writing community is a wonderful community made up of amazing people who want to share stories. Contests can help you with your book sales, they can help establish your credibility as a writer, but nothing can establish credibility better than character. 

Resist the urge to go it alone to lessen the competition.

Instead, embrace the help of your writing community. We can all go further with a team surrounding us! 

Step 6: Move on.

If you’re entering a contest for the first time, it can be easy to live by your email notifications, hoping to receive confirmation that you placed.

Much of the publishing industry is a hurry-up-and-wait mentality. Yes, you want to research and submit for the deadline, but no, you should not wait around to see what happens. Instead, research other contests and continue submitting.

You never know when you may place. The more contests you submit to, the higher your chance of becoming an award-winning writer.

Step 7: Celebrate.

If you submit your best work, follow submission guidelines exactly, and don’t give up, chances are at some point you will win. 

When you receive that award, it’s time to celebrate!

Becoming an award-winning writer is no easy task. Don’t forget to celebrate the journey of how far you’ve come.

It takes a certain kind of writer to pursue award-winning excellence. It takes a certain kind of grit to refuse to give up. When you make it to that moment, take the time to celebrate.

As you move forward…

Becoming an award-winning, self-published writer is a huge milestone. As this article has shown, there are concrete steps you can take today to begin your journey.

Just as writing a book is a long road with many ups and downs, becoming an award-winning writer may be a long road as well. 

Commit to the journey and commit to excellence. There is a high likelihood that your efforts will be recognized.

As you pursue your publishing goals, your book sales, your marketing plans, and become an excellent writer, don’t forget the importance of believing in your writing.

Confidence can be seen in writing just as it can be seen in life. Write with the confidence that comes with being a writer, a creative, and a person pursuing excellence.

When it comes to writing contests, judging can be extremely subjective. You, the writer, must be the first person to believe in your work. 

Translate your belief, that confidence, to the page. You may be surprised just how powerful confident writing is. Judges are chosen for a purpose. The chances are high they’ve judged many contests before. 

Submit your best work. Be confident in your submission.

Then as you wait for results, move on. Submit more work. 

When you get the confirmation that you are indeed an award-winning writer, you’ll already know it’s true. You’ll have the confidence to back it up. 

Writer, you’ve got this! 

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Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a commission if you click through to make a purchase.

Sarah Rexford

Sarah Rexford is a Content Specialist and writer. She helps companies around the nation connect with their audiences through branding and copywriting. A communicator at heart, Sarah speaks on personal branding, mentors creatives, and through her website (itssarahrexford.com), shares behind-the-scenes tips on the publishing industry, including interviews with successful creatives. Sarah is represented by the C.Y.L.E Young Agency.

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