A book award makes me livid? Disillusioned? Offended? All three maybe

To be recognized for your work feels great, especially when it’s by experts in your field. Right?

Well you’d think it would.

[image from leavinglaw.wordpress.com]

I got a wonderful email from someone representing a (seemingly?) legitimate industry award. They said they found out about me from one of my Twitter posts. When they looked into my books, one stood out among the others, and they felt it was so good it could win one of their awards. They were excited for me to be a part of it all!

Please note they did not actually READ any of my books, just ABOUT them

The emailer stated:

We provide lifetime marketing assistance and low-cost exhibit opportunities among other things. First and foremost, we recognize excellent & positive products.

[image from gametimect.com]

Of course my *WARNING* *WARNING* BEEP BEEP radar went off because the very first thing they mentioned was their marketing assistance (red flag: they want your money). The second thing they referenced was recognition. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? At a minimum add the part about marketing assistance at the very end of the email, as sort of an aside?

But it gets worse.

I had to pay to be considered for this prestigious award from their panel of judges.

As in, pony up $300 per entry. A THREE HUNDRED DOLLAR entry fee. They were happy to tell me they could offer me a discount if I wanted to enter multiple books. !!! I’d eat up a years worth of profit just to enter (mediocre) books that were written in 2006.

[image from lawnchairnaturalist.wordpress.com]

I was and still am LIVID over this.

Is this common? Is this the going rate? Have I been disillusioned by common/standard business practices? I feel like kid that sees Mickey Mouse without his head on and realizes Mickey is just a kid in a costume, that he’s not real and never has been real. (Uh, sorry if that was a spoiler alert to any of you)

Anyone knee deep in the children’s book industry knows how little we authors (and illustrators) make. In fact, I have been paid less than $300 for an entire book/manuscript contract! (No, I don’t say that proudly) If this is what it takes to get a cool WINNER banner or sticker on the cover of my books, well, looks like I’ll stay award-less. I simply cannot afford to win!

Now I have a business degree. I understand operating expenses and all that. But this is like an Over-the-top Elite Country Club fee–overcharging people just so those people can proudly tell others they are members. It’s self serving and offensive.

Another analogy might be a cheezy self-proclaimed agent that has zero contacts and/or real experience that charges you to read your manuscript. This award doesn’t feel as slimy as those dirtbags, but it still feels wrong.

I am purposely not mentioning the name of the award. My goal isn’t to shame them specifically. I just need to hear from others what their experience has been. If you want to name names, please don’t do that here; email me their names and maybe we can start a secret spy detective club uncovering facade book awards. Or maybe we can help each other cry in our soup.

Until then, please be wary of emails out of the blue. Do your research before sending money anywhere (especially foreign kings that need a short term loan).

[image from wikipedia]

Even if Mickey puts his head back on, I’m still scarred.

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8 thoughts on “A book award makes me livid? Disillusioned? Offended? All three maybe

  1. Hi Bitsy, I know that disollusioned feeling, so I wanted to tell you about an award experience I have had that is actually positive. It is a little award called the Wishing Shelf Independent Book awards, and it is run by an author in the UK. The award is only 28 pounds to enter and the unique part of the award is that Edward gives your books to children and they rate it. At the end of the award, he then posts reviews to Amazon and gives you a feedback sheet on your book, compiled from the kids feedback. I was absolutely impressed with Edwards efforts and professionalism and the huge amount of work it to took host the award. Any self published or small press author can enter, from all around the world. I actually ended up winning my category for ages 9-12, which was so wonderful as the feedback that I got from 32 children reading both my books, was incredible…. I have also entered the readers favourite every year and the review they give is considered an editorial review, so you can put it in the editorial section, like Kirkus, etc and School Library Journal do, because they area all considered paid for reviews. I hope that helps, cheers Julie

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  2. Yes, Bitsy, I’ve gotten these emails. Often. Every few months or so they tout a “discount” to enter, and encourage you to do so before the upcoming holiday, whichever one it might be. Yes, I get paid too little to consider this a good investment. This kind of award is disingenuous, bordering on fraud.

    I think they will catch a lot of self-published authors who have slowly realized their sales aren’t what they expected. Authors who have no sway with bookstores. These self-published authors who have already paid thousands to get their story in print may not find $300 an unreasonable number if they think it will get them much-needed publicity. These award companies must be feeding on these people, sucking them dry. It’s very sad.

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    • Great insight, Tara! You are so right on all points. If you ever have the chance to forward me award names or emails of the folks that contact you, pls do. I’m going to start compiling a list. I don’t plan to name names or publicly shame anyone, I just want to see how widespread this whole thing is; I bet it’s bigger than I ever imagined.

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  3. Bitsy – this is happening a lot, especially for independently-published or self-published authors. These “award” companies are charging $50-$300 to enter, and they will give lots of books big fat stickers if they win, place, or get an honorable mention. Also – I have learned that in some cases, many of the judges are people who write the books themselves. There are a lot of people making money off people’s publishing dreams today.

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    • Ack, that makes crazy to hear…but in all honesty that does explain why many books that I’d consider average (or below) have a fancy sticker on them. Kinda depressing all around, for the rest of us authors as well as teachers and readers. I really want to hear from more authors that have been approached by or have gone with these kinds of companies/awards. If you know of anyone with first hand experience, please send them my way.

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