Book Contests: Are they worth it?

When I first started getting into photography, I would submit my work to contests now and again. Most of these contests I found through social media platforms. While many of them had reasonable application fees, they were time consuming and I was competing against thousands of very talented photographers. After a while, I wrote off contests.


Fast forward a couple years. . .

I published my debut book, Tattle Tales: Tattoo Stories and Portraits, and now I was trying to gain exposure for my book. As a self-published author, it can be extremely challenging to get your book seen by the right audience. According to Forbes, anywhere between 600,000 to a million titles are published each year. The chances of readers stumbling onto your book on Amazon is pretty small.


In the beginning, I was mostly focused on social media marketing and advertising. By chance, I found out about a contest from the Nonfiction Author’s Association Book Awards program. I entered the contest and received two Gold Awards for Photography and Pop Culture. In addition, to receiving an emblem and title, which I could now use for my marketing materials, I got exposure from their marketing channels from winning the awards.


This made me rethink contests, at least for authors. I started researching other book contests, and I discovered there were quite a few of them out there. Plus, they offered valuable opportunities for author’s to get their books in front of librarians, distributors, and book stores. Amazon is great because a lot of people buy on Amazon, but you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, as the saying goes. Sure, there’s going to be a lot of competition, but writers have a lot to gain if they win. Besides, you never know who will see your book when you submit to these contests.


My conclusion is that book contests are important, and they should be a part of your marketing strategy and budget.


Here are some things to consider when searching book contests

1.) Categories: Many of these contests have a multitude of categories from which to choose. If you can, submit to as many as you can.

2.) Cost: Book contests can be a bit pricey. If you have to limit the categories, focus on the ones where you think your target audience would fit. For example, Tattle Tales is a photography book, so I looked for categories such as “gift books,” “photography books,” and “coffee table books.” The more specific you get with your categories, the more you increase your chances. Also, when you mail your books, make sure you tell the post office that you want the book rate.

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