The short answer is – it depends. Contingent on the caliber of the award, winning one can have a tremendous impact on book sales. Major book awards tend to have a large following and many avid bibliophiles plan their entire reading lists exclusively around the winners and runners-up of big prizes. Assuming you’re not up for a The Man Booker Prize for Fiction and are eyeing something a bit smaller or less prestigious though, let’s get into some of the details.
Do people already know about the book?
Winning an award can make a big difference when it introduces the book to a whole slew of potential readers who were previously unfamiliar with the work or hadn’t given it much thought. If a book has already been widely discussed and promoted by book bloggers and other authoritative voices in the genre, the award itself might not lead to a noticeable jump in sales because the book has already infiltrated the target market. In this case, it will still be useful for the author to bolster their marketing credentials for future books – but likely won’t immediately translate to more sales.
Can the award lead to further opportunities?
The award itself might not do much on its own, but it can certainly be used as a starting point to generate more momentum, get more speaking engagements, and ultimately sell more books – assuming those responsible are willing to put in the work. Coming off the confidence boost of winning an award, it will be a lot easier to approach local bookstores, libraries, and even schools or community centers about the possibility of hosting a reading or a workshop. These types of activities have certainly proven to have a positive, albeit modest, impact on sales.
Is the timing right?
Like so many things in life, the timing has to be just right in order for winning an award to really propel a book to stardom. If the award was granted on the basis of the book being relevant or tied to current events, sales are more likely to be affected. Likewise, if the author is a new voice in the genre – the fact of their winning an award will generally receive more notice and help solidify reputation, as opposed to someone who is already established.
Is it worth the effort?
In conclusion, the work of researching, entering, attending, and potentially winning an award can be time and resource consuming. Although the accolades are always a self-esteem boost, it is also important to consider whether or not it is really worth the effort. If you’re a new author and feel that the biggest obstacles standing in your way is a lack of notoriety and reputation, then developing your presence on the award circuit might well be a good idea. On the other hand, if you feel like you’re already pretty well-known and loved by your target audience – your time may be better spent writing.
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