Award Alert: The IndieReader Discovery Awards

Writer BewarePosted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I’ve been getting questions about a new awards program: the IndieReader Discovery Awards for self-published authors.

“What do you get when you cross a bunch of great self-published books with extraordinary publishing industry professionals?” the Discovery Awards website asks. “IndieReader’s first annual ‘Discovery Awards’ (IRDAs), where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference.” Sponsored by IndieReader (which describes itself as “a venue for discriminating book-lovers to find and purchase books published by the people who wrote them”) the IndieReader Discovery Awards are open to self-published authors of print and ebooks with a valid ISBN.

Books can be entered in one or several of 51 different subcategories (there are just two main categories, Fiction and Nonfiction), and will be accepted until February 29, 2012 (here’s the entry form). The large panel of judges includes reputable editors, literary agents, and other book people.

So far so good. But then we get to the entry fee. It’s $150 (no, that is not a typo), with another $50 due for each additional category you want to enter. This is the highest entry fee I’ve seen recently–more than double the fees of some other self-published and small-press book awards programs. The Indie Excellence Awards, for instance, charges $69. Next Generation Indie Awards charges $75, as does the IPPYs. Even the stickertastic Readers Favorite Awards keeps it under $100.

What do you get for your $150, if you win?

The top winners, from each sub-category, and the top three in each main category, will also get the following:

  • A professional IndieReader review
  • Exposure to a panel of judges who can make a difference in your book’s success
  • Inclusion in IR’s “first-look” deal with Book Ends Entertainment, an LA-based boutique literary management and production company
  • Inclusion in IndieReader Selects, the only distribution program created specifically to get indie books into indie bookstores nationwide (you can find more details on IRS here or at
  • An IndieReader “All About the Book” feature
  • A sticker pronouncing your book an “IndieReader Discovery Awards” winner

The first place winner in the Fiction and Non-Fiction categories will also get the following:

  • A review from Kirkus Reviews, a powerful resource for millions of readers, writers, librarians, media executives and the publishing industry.

There are some nice perks in there (though several are somewhat self-referential, since they involve various kinds of presence on IndieReader websites). Even if you aren’t one of the winners, there may be benefits–according to IndieReader, the judges are participating because “they’re interested in finding talented writers who might otherwise be overlooked” (though IndieReader is also quick to note that “there is no guaranteed publishing deal”). Is that worth $150, though, plus two copies of your book? Doesn’t the promise of “exposure” make the entry fee sound awfully like a reading fee? Also, since there is no cash prize, why exactly is the entry fee so high?

I get a lot of questions about contests and awards programs. Many self-published and small press writers are mesmerized by the possibility of prestige and recognition they seem to offer. But even if you avoid the obviously faux or vanity awards (such as this one, or these), you may not get much if you win. Many awards programs are primarily profit-generating operations for their sponsors, and don’t want to cut into the proceeds by spending a lot of money on prizes or ceremonies; this is why they try so hard to sell you on the prestige of winning or placing, on the excitement of being able to say “award-winning author.” But whether winning or placing will really boost your credibility–or your sales–is an open question. Do readers care that you won an award they never heard of? Do agents and publishers, if your goal is to transition to a traditional book contract?

Given how expensive many of these awards are–and remember, you have to send not just the entry fee, but one or more copies of your book for each entry category–it doesn’t strike me as the best way to spend your promotional dollar.

This is the second time I’ve blogged about IndieReader. The first time was in 2009, shortly after it started up. Its focus and goals have changed some since then–as have its prices (it now costs $499 for a review and listing) and services (it now offers self-publishing services).