Anyone who writes a book will eventually stumble into the 'awards arena'. There are hundreds of book awards that offer validation, prize money, feedback from judges. Most countries and all genres have literary prizes, recognizing excellence in writing.
Some of the biggest literary awards don't allow self-published books or authors. That doesn't mean there isn't a range of contests or awards for self-published authors.
For a self-published author, any recognition is appreciated. I remember when "Little Red Gem" (now titled "One Little Spell") took out 2nd place in the Best Books of 2013 on Paranormal Reads blog I was ecstatic. For a short while, this book stood apart from others.
Literary awards offer authors a 'recognition of excellence in writing'. This type of recognition can open up doors for self-published authors into the traditional publishing world or to new readers. Even for a traditionally published author, being able to add "Award Winning Author" to a book cover is a key ingredient to setting that book apart from the rest. And in a heavily congested industry, anything that sets one book apart has to be good.
Naturally with so many books published each year, the pool of books entered grows bigger and bigger, which incurs costs so fees become a way of compensating judges for their efforts and paying to keep the website operations, and so on.
This leads to the downside to the 'awards arena'. As with any industry, fierce competition leads to desperation which can lead to people selling golden tickets. Indie authors so badly want that gold sticker on the front cover that they're willing to pay, and there seems to be no shortage of authors bringing profits to certain awards and contests. The key is to do research to determine if it's a genuine award or a way for a company to make money off people who are desperate for a golden ticket.
Australia has one very prominent speculative fiction award that has helped many authors raise their platform. The Aurealis Award was established in 1995 by Chimaera Publications, the publishers of Aurealis Magazine. This award gives separate awards for horror, science-fiction, and fantasy in novel length, novella, and short story. It makes the news and the ceremony is held at a major event each April.
I first learned about these awards a few years ago. I didn't know about them when my first books were released, because I would have entered them if I had. Each year, if I have an eligible book, I enter the awards.
So why is this award important to me?
For those who don't know, I'm an Australian author. My target was Australian publishers when I first began submitting my books. But I was not successful in gaining their interest. So I extended my reach and it led me to a US based small-press publisher. They published two of my young adult novels. They didn't take my third YA novel so I self-published it.
The thing about being accepted by a US based publisher is that they use their own style guide. So my books were set up with US language and terminology. We Aussies are pretty open to accepting books written in US language, so I had no issues from any of my local readers.
By this time I had established an audience. Most of my readers came from the US. So when I wrote Welcome to the Apocalypse, it was also written for a US market.
But I have a dystopian series that is suited to the Australian market. And my focus for 2018 will be on the Australian market and Australian publishers. Not just for my dystopian series but for the thriller and romance novels that I plan to put under the punishment of editing.
I've self-published my range of books out of a love of creating, but there's a lot that I'm missing out on. Going to pop culture conventions this year has really highlighted the need to get out and be amongst writers and readers. And my budget only allows for me to do this in Australia.
It'd be great to be able to say "I was an Aurealis Award winner/finalist/honourable mention" to the Australian publishers. So wish me luck!
Winners are announced March/April 2018.