Showing posts with label book contests. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book contests. Show all posts

Writers: Awards are Worth Pursuing

By Linda Wilson  @LinWilsonauthor

Recently, as a self-published author I set two goals for myself: publish multiple books, and become an award-winning author. Gladly, I have reached both goals. After publishing my first chapter book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, for 7-10-year-olds, the writing was on the wall. And I was right—it’s taken over two years to write the second in the series—Secret in the Mist: An Abi Wunder Mystery—and it’s still not finished! The answer? Write a bunch of picture books!

Goal #1: Write multiple books

Luckily, picture books are faster to self-publish than they are to go the the traditional publishing route. Three stories emerged from my files and blossomed into the picture books I have now published on Amazon: A Packrat’s Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift, Tall Boots, and Waddles the Duck: Hey, Wait for Me! My fourth picture book, Cradle in the Wild, will be available soon. All done while plugging away at the second Abi Wunder mystery.

Goal #2: Become an Award-Winning Author

I have become a multi-award-winning author. But this didn’t come about by magic. I applied for each and every award my books have won. There is a cost to apply, and often it takes months for the award to be announced. But the effort is well worth it. Here’s why:

As in the case of the National Federation of Press Women’s Communication Contest, first place winners are invited to attend the organization’s award ceremony, held this year in Fargo, North Dakota.

Stickers announcing each award can be placed on book covers. Other goodies include ribbons and plaques to show off at book fairs.

You earn the distinction of being an award winner among your readers and peers.

Your office wall fills up with certificates for you to admire and gaze at while writing your next book.

Awards my books have won, and yours can, too! -- Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, illustrated by Tiffany Tutti, is a Kirkus Review Recommended Book. -- A Packrat’s Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift, illustrated by Nancy Batra won first place in the 2022 New Mexico Press women’s Communications Contest. First place winners are automatically included in the national contest. Thistletoe won first place in the 2022 National Federal of Press Women’s Communication Contest as well! --Tall Boots, illustrated by 1000 Storybooks, is a Silver Award Recipient for the Mom’s Choice Awards Honoring Excellence. Mom’s Choice offers a deep discount to authors.  -- Story Monsters is such a fun organization. The cost to apply for an award is low, and SM offers several types of awards. Tall Boots won two SM awards: 2021 Certificate of Excellence in Literature, Picture Book: Fiction (3-8), and Honorable Mention for the 2022 Purple Dragonfly Book Award, Animals/Pets.

Other Contests to Shoot For—Check Them Out! 

Cradle in the Wild will be available soon!

Linda Wilson writes stories for young children. Visit Linda at Click the links for free coloring pages and a puppet show starring Thistletoe Q. Packrat. While you’re there, get all the latest news by signing up for Linda’s newsletter. 

Find Linda’s books at  Amazon Author Page.

Connect with Linda: FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram  

Writers: Believe in Yourself

"If at first you don't succeed
try, try again."
                                    William Edward Hickson
                        British poet, 1857

By Linda Wilson  @LinWilsonauthor

My first picture book, A Packrat’s Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift, won first place in children’s fiction in the 2022 New Mexico Press Women’s Communications Contest. The book will now go on to compete in the national contest sponsored by the National Federation of Press Women. Also, last year A Packrat’s Holiday was a finalist in the Southwest Writers contest.

It is indeed an honor for this story to be recognized. Why? Because when I first started working on it about five years ago, the early drafts didn’t tickle my critique group’s fancy. Wisely, as we writers learn to do, I tucked the story away for better day. 

Believe in Your Inspiration

Thistletoe became a character for me after my family went on a white-water rafting trip on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. My husband, two daughters and I slept under the stars at night, never bothered by insects due to the arid conditions. But we did have nightly visitors known to us only by their tiny footprints left in the sand by our sleeping bags in the mornings. Our guide told us our visitors were packrats scampering around in search of morsels of food and shiny objects to take back to their dens.

Before that trip, I hadn’t become acquainted with these adorable yet often pesky critters. When I learned about their habits— packrat nests look messy on the outside. But inside, nests are kept neat and tidy. Packrats love to collect anything that catches their fancy, left by picnickers, hikers, and campers. They especially like shiny objects, like pop tops and foil. Packrats are likely to drop an item and leave it for another more exciting find before they make it back to their den.

Off my imagination went.

Believe in Your Project

While rummaging around for a story idea much later, I came across the story. Take heart: I had learned a lot by this time. I recognized its flaws right away, and though the basic story idea didn’t change, I rewrote it using what I had learned. Again, I sent the story through many rounds of critiques, including a critique by a professional editor, a practice I highly recommend.

One of the joys of being a self-published author is getting to choose an illustrator. Karen Cioffi, founder of our blog, Writers on the Move, graciously sent me a list she keeps of illustrators who have been recommended to her. Nancy Batra is on that list, and the rest is history. 

Believe You Will Succeed

Do you love your story? That’s key. Like going to a party where the hostess is having fun then the guests will have fun, if you love your book, your readers will, too. Armed with this knowledge, knowing how much I loved this story, especially how it is enhanced by Nancy’s illustrations, I entered it into contests. VoilĂ ! I got the results I wanted.

Bottom Line: Go After What You Want

At one time winning contests seemed out of reach for me. A pipedream. Distinctions other authors receive. Perhaps experience helps writers realize that if they don’t try—if they don’t finish that book—if they don’t join SCBWI--the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators, a critique group, go to conferences, put themselves out there on social media—that dream may seem impossible to achieve. Take it from me: if you try and keep on trying, you will succeed. I’m living proof.

Here is my constant reminder to keep trying, a needlepoint a friend sewed for me that I had framed and that I keep on my office wall above my desk: 

Aim at a high mark

and you’ll hit it.

No not the first time,

nor the second,

and maybe not the third.

But keep on aiming

and keep on shooting

for only practice

will make you perfect.

Finally, you’ll hit

the bull’s eye of success.

                                                 Annie Oakley

For more information about Karen Cioffi, please visit:

Linda's next picture book,
Waddles the Duck:
Hey, Wait for Me!

will be out soon!
Illustrated by
Nancy Batra

Linda Wilson writes stories for young children. Visit Linda at Sign up for Linda’s quarterly giveaways. Choose your prize! 

Find Linda’s books at

Connect with Linda: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

The Ins-and-Outs of Contests and Your Book

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Awards Set Your Book Apart

But Ya Gotta Enter Contests to Get ‘Em

Excerpted from the new edition of The Frugal Book Promoter, the flagship book in the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

I pity the poor reader these days. Reviews can’t be relied on for unbiased opinions so a reader may have trouble telling which book is most likely to set her heart a’ beating. As she shops, she often turns to the blurbs or endorsements on the back of the book. She may read a few of the first pages of that same book. But a book that has won a contest for book awards from organizations like Jeff Keene’s USA Book News Award or IBPA’s Ben Franklin Award award or the New Millennium award or, yes, from universities like Columbia’s Pulitzer, will probably clinch a sale faster than many others.

Let’s take that one step farther. Authors who have won literary contests (contests run by journals, publishers and the like for poetry, short stories, novellas, novels and other literary entities) also gets bragging rights that might get inserted into their media kits, query letters, and websites. That makes it easier to sell a promotion idea (or a next book!) than someone who is new to writing. Gatekeepers—anyone from acquisition editors to feature editors at newspapers—can be influenced by a contest. Make that a contest win, place, or show. It may be what’s needed to set you apart from the many authors clamoring for attention. In fact on a slow news day, just about any award looks like a nugget of gold to a busy editor.

So why are authors so ready to hate contests? 

Fear of rejection is an easy answer. An article in the revered Poetry & Writers’ magazine mentions that writers often consider contests rigged and resent the fees (usually from free to $25 for literary contests and from free to $125. for book awards.). The magazine article pointed out that publishers and organizations become dependent on the fees they charge for contests and note that rarely does an unknown author win.

I’m not sure the last part isn’t sour grapes; the point of many contests is to find delicious new voices that will keep the not-so-voracious appetite of publishers for new material well fed. If it is the truth, perhaps we should do something to hone our own skills to approximate those of more established authors.

Hint: There are other benefits to contests. Some offer critiques of entries—a value that cannot be overestimated in terms of learning more about the contest-winning process and one’s craft. Some publishers sponsor contests to attract submissions of great new manuscripts. One of my favorites contests that is reasonably priced and offers helpful benefits to those who enter is #NorthStreetBookPrize sponsored by

Regardless of the category (and there are some that don’t seem to fit neatly into either category), a contest win is a contest win is a contest win in terms of marketing.

Some contests only accept nominations from publishers. You may need to prod your publisher a bit if you know of a contest for which you think your book would be suitable.

Here are some guidelines for using contests to gain exposure and expand your credentials:

Choose contests that fit the size of your pocketbook. No-fee contests work well until you refine your contest IQ. Those include following submission guidelines to the nth degree and selecting contests that suit your material and your voice. Pick contests that impose fees at least as carefully as you might select a tomato from the produce department at your market. Sometimes journals that award prizes to the best work submitted for their pages in a given year are a good, frugal way to start. Find lots of these in the Submittable newsletter. (Submittable is the online service that many contests use to handle their online submissions.)

Choose contests based on the kind of writing you do. Read up on past winners. Examine past winners for genre, voice, length.

Find contests from a source that lists less popular contests as well as those that have names attached to them like Hemingway, Faulkner, and Pulitzer. (See resources for finding some later in this chapter and some I like because even beginners have a chance at winning on my website at

Pay attention to the contest’s guidelines, except for the one that calls for no simultaneous submissions. This rule is patently unfair to the author. You know it and they know it. It’s a rule, not a law. It is a courtesy, however, to notify those contests or journals you have submitted to if your entry wins elsewhere.

To increase your chances and to keep you from worrying about each entry, submit work to several contests at a time.

Keep track of entries so you don’t submit the same material to the same contest twice.

Hint: Some journals still don’t accept online entries. Don’t recycle paper copies that have been returned to you. Editors complain about entries that look as if they have spent a night in the rain.

Find suitable contests on the Web, in books, and through organizations. Here are a few leads:

- Use the “Deadlines” section of Poetry & Writers magazine to find reputable contests. Most are very competitive and charge fees. Check them out at
- A fat volume called Writer’s Markets publishes an updated edition each year. It lists contests, publishers, agents, and tons more. Buy the book and get online access to updates.
- Check professional organizations like your local Press Women, the National Federation of Press Women, and the Wisconsin Regional Writers’ Association (WRWA). There is probably one in your state.
- Do a Google search on “writing contests” plus your genre.
- Subscribe to Winning Writers newsletter at

I love this one for finding free contests.

Once you’ve won a contest—finalist or first place—you are newsworthy:

- Add this honor to the Awards page of your media kit. If it’s your first award, center it on a page of its own. Oh! And celebrate!
- Write your media release announcing this coup.
- Post your news on media release distribution sites that allow you to post your release yourself. Find a list of these sites at
- Notify all your professional organizations.
- Notify bookstores where you hope to have a signing and those where you have had a signing.
- Notify your college and high school. Some have press offices. Most publish magazines for alumni and their current students.
- Add this information to the signature feature of your e-mail program.
- Add this honor to the biography template you use in future media releases—the part that gives an editor background information on you.
- Use this information when you pitch TV or radio producers. It sets you apart from other others and defines you as an expert.
- If your book wins an award, order embossed gold labels from a company like You or your distributor can apply them to your books’ covers. If you win an important award, ask your publisher to redesign your bookcover or dustcover to feature it a la the Caldecott medal given for beautifully illustrated children’s books? If you don’t know this medal, visit your local bookstore and ask to see books given this award.
- Be sure your award is front and center on your blog, your website, your Twitter wallpaper, and your social network pages.
- Your award should be evident on everything from your business card to your checks and invoices.

Robert W. Schaefer, one of the readers of the first edition of The Frugal Book Promoter, wrote to tell me that he would appreciate a plan of attack for getting an award for a book:

§ First and foremost, write a great book. One with great content. One that is organized well. A reminder here. It’s almost impossible to do this without some personal guidance, which is why I recommend writers conferences (see the next section of this chapter in The Frugal Book Promoter), and well-vetted writing classes in your genre.

Caveat: When you change genres, take another class. Do it even if you have been supremely successful at writing in another genre. Authors who have achieved stature should be especially cautious about embarrassing themselves by launching into another arena without knowing all the new stuff they need to know. Poetry is not fiction. Writing a romance requires some skills science fiction does not, and vice versa. Journalists have a great start, but they’ll find knowing more about some elements of fiction like dialogue may inform their news stories as well as help them write a better novel.

§ Get your book edited by a professional editor. You’ll have an easier time of selling it if you do this before you begin the submission process, and because many publishers have cut their editing budgets, you’ll be more assured that the job is done well enough to have it qualify for an award. Read my The Frugal Editor ( to know more about editing and how to choose a qualified one.

§ If you are self-publishing, hire an excellent book cover artist. Mind you, I didn’t say a graphic designer or fine artist. People like Chaz DeSimone ( know things about book cover design and marketing pitches that others may not know.

§ If you are self-publishing, hire a good formatter or interior book designer, too, one that knows the intricacies of frontmatter, backmatter, headers, footers, and page numbering.

§ If you write nonfiction, learn the art of indexing. It isn’t as easy as the word processing programs seem to make it, but I think it’s one uphill battle that’s worth fighting on your own because no one will know your book—know what you feel is important for your reader to know—like you do. There are, of course, also excellent professional indexers who will work closely with you. If your publisher provides an index for you, check it to see if important categories or details have been overlooked.

§ Follow the guidelines above for finding the perfect contest, one that is a match for your book.

§ Attack this process with confidence and be willing to make an investment of time and some money.

As you can see, the more you know about publishing, the better equipped you will be to produce a product (and your book is a product!) you can be proud of—perhaps even a prize-winning book. You wouldn’t expect to become a computer programmer without knowing how the hardware worked, now would you?

Carolyn Howard-Johnson promotes her multi award-winning poetry and fiction using contests of all kinds. She also sponsors contests as a way to market her writing career. Learn more about her methods in any one of her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers: and learn dozens of other frugal ways to promote your book in the new second edition of her Frugal Book Promoter (expanded to 416 pages!) and updated.

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