by Kimberley Woodhouse
Writers ask me all the time about the benefit of entering book award contests. This is a tough one to talk about, because a lot of the contests require the author to enter their own work. And that’s just a bit weird. (Although there are contests that the publishers enter on our behalf.)
Let’s go back to the beginning of my published journey. When I first asked my agent at Alive Communications whether I should enter contests or not, the response was: “Contests are great, but winning doesn’t really do anything about sales.” As a newly published author that was a good moment for me to sit back and pray about it.
Why was I wanting to enter the contests? Because I wanted to find out if I was “good enough”? Because I wanted to get the word out about my book? Because I wanted the title of “award-winning”? These and a hundred other questions skittered through my brain.
I have to admit, I’ve been horrible about entering contests the past ten years of my published journey. Most of the time, it’s because the deadlines zip by me. And since I wasn’t very gung-ho about it, it didn’t really matter. I could shrug my shoulders and move on.
And then, one day I had a wonderful conversation with a brilliant editor. She told me maybe I needed to be more intentional in this area of my writing. That it was a good investment. It wasn’t just for myself either…(in case I was trying to be the humble-martyr and thinking that I didn’t want the accolades for myself), it was for my publishers as well. A lot of people put a ton of work into getting one of my books out there. Frankly, she made me think.
So I became more intentional about paying attention to the contests. (There’s a lot of them out there!) Which also made me think about the pros and cons.
The biggest “con” in a writer’s brain is (most of the time) the financial aspect.
Obviously, we want our books to sell, and we want to invest in things that will help in achieving that—especially when our budgets are small at the beginning! Let’s face it, contests can get pretty pricey. There’s the entry fees, and the potential costs of print books, the mailing of the books (if it’s not digital) etc. Then multiply that by several contests (and potentially multiple books a year) and the cost itself could be prohibitive. So I can understand why some are hesitant about entering.
This past year, I decided to be intentional. I had four books (three novels and a novella collection) release last year, so that was a good amount of entries, but I prayed about it and dove in. I didn’t enter all of them in all of the contests, but I spread them out. I am so thankful that I did. Out of the Ashes finaled in the prestigious Spur Award from Western Writers of America. The Patriot Bride won the Reader’s Choice Award from RWA’s Faith, Hope, and Love chapter. And then, my novella MissTaken Identity won the INCREDIBLE Carol Award from ACFW.
The pros of entering contests are not just the winning or final-ing. Times have changed a lot since my first year of publication a decade ago. Social media is completely different, and I tell you what—it has been amazing to see the word spread about my books because of these awards. It has also connected me to tons of readers. And that, has been worth every penny.
So if you’re thinking and praying about entering contests and weighing the opinions, I would say go ahead and do it. It’s not only a joy if you have the amazing opportunity to receive the recognition, but it’s a precious gift from the Lord.
So give it back to Him.
To God Be the Glory,
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Kimberley Woodhouse is the best-selling and award-winning author of more than twenty books. A lover of history and research, she often gets sucked into the past and then her husband has to lure her out with chocolate. She’s spoken to more than 1,000,000 people at more than 2,000 venues and has taught the craft of writing around the country. Married to the love of her life for almost thirty years, she makes her home in Montana. You can connect with Kimberley at: www.kimberleywoodhouse.com and www.facebook.com/KimberleyWoodhouseAuthor