After the thrill of the launch, the hard work began. There was a letdown after all the excitement of the launch. After all, what can beat opening that first box of books, adoring “fans” attending openings, the thrill of seeing people walk away with my book under their arms? But the boxes of unsold books kept staring at me where ever I turned.
I held several book club events, but not as many virtual events as I had hoped.
One common way authors gain visibility for their books is through book awards. There are hundreds of them, but even now I am impressed when I see a book in a window with an award sticker on the front cover. It says something powerful about the book.
So after the dust settled, I began the process of applying for book awards. I had no idea how expensive they were, and in fact, I didn’t know how many there were. I could easily have spent as much on awards as on the launch party. But I didn’t. I live in the real world, and I’ve played a lot of games in my life.
As I began going through the list of awards, two things jumped out at me: 1. Many of the awards were not relevant to me or my book, and 2. Because there were so many awards to choose from, I had to approach this as I would a game of odds. Where was I most likely to win?
It reminded me of how kids talk about applying to college. There are the stretch schools that in their dreams they would like to attend, and then there are the reach that are more likely to get in, and then there are the “in the bag” schools that take anyone breathing. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t think there are any of the book awards that are a given. You pay for the award group to read and review your book. You are compared to standards. And then you may or may not make the cut. It’s up to the judges.
Unfortunately, it was hard to tell which awards were “stretch” vs “reach” vs “in the bag.” The more I looked into it, say from a number’s perspective, it was hard to tell how many books I would be competing with, which would have helped determine what the odds were of winning. Some would specify how many entries they had the year before, but then it wouldn’t break it down into categories. And each had categories—some had as many as 55 categories! These ranged from fiction to non-fiction to autobiography to travel.
I ended up narrowing the original list of over 100 book awards down to five. Of those five, four were national, one was regional. One was business specific. I had a total of 10 entries as I submitted in multiple categories per award program. For example, I entered two categories for Axiom Business Book awards—Women/Minorities in Business and Corporate History/Milestones. It would have been easy to enter more categories, but frankly, I ran out of money. I’d have to sell over two boxes of books to cover my costs as it was.
The first program I heard back from was by telephone! I was on the road driving across Nevada or Utah, when the call came and they asked me to check my spam folder. I wondered that they would call me to tell me my rejection letter was caught up in spam. But instead they congratulated me on a silver medal for the Axiom Business Book Award in the Corporate History category. I was thrilled! It was a good thing I was in the middle of nowhere or I might have run off the road. Wow, I thought. This is easy!
The second program I was a “loser by omission” —They announced the finalists, and my name wasn’t on the list. The next one at least thanked me for sending in my money and submission, but maybe try another time because this time—I was a loser. Oh, I thought. Not so easy.
Then the Midwest Book Awards program sent out their finalist list. I figured because I hadn’t heard from them that I was another loser. To my surprise and delight LET ME IN was a finalist in the business book category. They announced up to three finalists per category, and each category winner will be announced at a virtual “gala” June 27.
I have one more program to hear back from and I’d really like to make the cut in one of their categories—Social and Political Change—as that’s the area I really feel the book documents. My life happened in the tumultuous 70s, 80s, and 90s when women and minorities really made inroads in corporate America. We were part of the momentum that changed the face of business.
What have I learned? Well, if I hadn’t won anything, I might have to say I didn’t learn anything. But that wouldn’t be true, either. The top five things I learned from this awards process are:
- It’s expensive
- It takes a significant amount of time
- There are a lot of awards out there that need to be weeded
- It helps to know what category is the best fit for the book
- Now that I have won a couple awards, it’s disappointing not to have the gala event for recognition (due to Covid-19 all awards ceremonies have gone to virtual)
I entered LET ME IN to these award programs for a couple reasons. 1. To validate that the book is well written; and 2. I want to sell more books.
The question begs—how many more books will I sell by getting awards? And I won’t know the answer to that until the play plays itself out.
We shall see…