No author I’ve ever spoken to writes because they might win an award. I’ve also never heard a reader admit they choose books to read because of an award its won. Librarians and booksellers say, though, that award stickers on the cover do influence what books people pick up. I don’t know the truth of awards. All I know is my own experience.
When Under the Almond Trees was almost written, I entered it in the 2013 Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing competition, in the Novel-in-Progress category. It made it to the semifinals. In 2014, I entered Under the Almond Trees again, this time in the Novel category. Again, a semifinalist. I began to think everyone who entered was automatically a semifinalist and I wrote off my short award career.
Fast forward many years later. I changed the cover on Under the Almond Trees and loved it so much I entered it in the 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Award for cover design, the DaVinci Eye Award. This time I was a finalist. I’m very proud of that, but it was for the cover, which was not something I did myself (thank you Tamian Wood of Beyond Design).
My most recent novel, The Aloha Spirit, was published by She Writes Press, an award-winning hybrid publisher. She Writes provided a list of potential awards we could apply for. Other authors applied for a lot of them and were winning a lot. I believed in my heart that The Aloha Spirit was worthy of recognition.
Let me take a moment here to point out that authors work alone. Self doubt is their constant companion. I’ve asked beta readers to read my work, and they usually like it. I doubt, though, whether that’s a true sampling of public opinion. Critique groups make suggestions, but they, too, generally like my work. Still, I doubt. I self-published Under the Almond Trees and several other books without trying to submit them to a publisher. Inside, I doubted they would be picked up. The Aloha Spirit was selected by She Writes Press, and that was exciting. An award, though, would be even more validation.
Even if awards don’t sell books, they go a long way to encourage authors and give their work credibility. So I applied to awards. Most of the awards cost $60 – $95 to enter. If you enter in several categories, you pay more. I chose as carefully as I could and applied to seven awards. Then I pretty much forgot about them.
In January of 2021, I learned I had made the long list in the Chanticleer International Book Awards, in their Goethe historical fiction category. Encouraging, but not yet brag-worthy. After all, there are seven levels to the Chanticleer Awards. Award lists kept coming up, but I wasn’t on any of them. My self-confidence suffered. In March, I made the Chanticleer short list, and over the next few weeks semifinalist, then finalist! Finalist in any award is worthy of pride.
In May, the IPPY Awards (Independent Publisher Book Awards) announced their awards, and I won a bronze medal in their West Pacific Regional category. Not only would I receive stickers for my book cover, I’d get an actual medal!
The Chanticleer Award announcements are normally made at their conference, which was virtual this year. I logged into the ceremony on June 5. I was pleased with the finalist designation, but the competition wasn’t over. It was exciting to be announced as a first prize winner in my category! That meant a ribbon as well as a book sticker! I waited another hour for the Grand Prize winners to be announced. Again, I was thrilled with the first prize but the competition wasn’t over. When The Aloha Spirit was chosen as the Grand Prize winner in the Goethe category, I was shocked. Extremely proud, but surprised. Book stickers and a bigger ribbon! Most importantly, validation. And the right to call myself an award-winning author. It may not make me rich, but the award boosts my self confidence enough to begin writing my next book!