Let’s say you’re a business. You have a product that you dedicated a lot of time to. You’re not sure you can properly distribute that product on your own. Sure, you might be able to handsell your product door-to-door, but you realize that, maybe with some help, you can get your product distributed on a wider basis, and maybe even generate some great attention for the product. There are a few companies who specialize in distributing your product, companies who have a stranglehold on distribution, in fact–if you don’t partner with them, chances are you’ll never get that wide distribution.

Already it’s a problem.

Here’s the big question, though; say one of those specialty companies came to you and said they’d help you distribute your product. Would you enter into any business arrangement with them without reading a contract? Would you sign said contract without reading it?

That’s exactly what all the writers entering the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award are doing.

Now, I’d mentioned I considered submitting Meets Girl to the contest. I think it would have a solid shot at winning on merit alone, and that’s not even to mention that I think it would probably be right up the alley of Lev Grossman, who wrote The Magicians and who is one of the major judges of the contest. The Magicians was the first full-length novel I read on my Kindle, and it was solid–if not great–in a genre-bending sort of way that crossed literary with fantasy, which is what I think Meets Girl does.

I mentioned, in passing, there are other, better contests writers could enter. And commenter Sid (the only Sid I know is my graduate writing advisor, Sid Stebel, but I can’t tell by the email address if the commenter and my advisor are the same person) asked after those contests.

So here are the top-five writing contests I’d submit Meets Girl to over the ABNA.

1, with a bullet: The Writer’s Digest self-published book awards. Great contest. In fact, I submitted Entrekin to the contest, and though it didn’t win, I did get a nice note from the judges. It had progressed through the rounds, I think to the final one, and they sent a great letter with some amazing feedback (they’d liked it, and it was well-written; they worried about the cover, and reader’s perceptions. Terrifically canny). I also got a nice MySpace note from one of the judges, who’d taken the time to look me up via the site and send me a note of positive encouragement.

To me, that was almost as good as if I’d won the contest.

Oh, who am I kidding? No it really wasn’t. I’d wanted to win. But it was very cool.

I do hope that Writer’s Digest moves away from the ‘self-published’ appellation, but I’m not sure it will any time soon (possible alternatives: independent books, direct-published books).

2. Forweword Awards. Their website tag is “Good books independently published.” Yes, and yes. Looks like a solid choice. Sadly, the deadline was Friday. Sorry about that. Any consolation, I missed it, too.

3. The Eric Hoffer Award for Short Prose and Independent Books. Seems great. Deadline passed (21st again?) but apparently there’s a ten-day grace period. What’re you waiting for?

4. This DIY book festival looks great. It’s in Los Angeles, and celebrates independent authors.

5. The IPPY Awards (that’s Independent Publishers Book Awards, which I’m glad aren’t called the IPBAs, because it doesn’t roll off the tongue). With Writer’s Digest, these are probably the big two awards independent books can win.


What does winning one of these awards mean? Same thing winning a Hugo or Nebula or Pulitzer means, ultimately; not a whole lot except in terms of marketing and a new descriptor to put on a cover.

Might also be worth mentioning: while independent books are not eligible for most of the major science fiction awards (like the afore-mentioned Hugo and Nebula, which demand books only from publishers the awards committee recognizes), it doesn’t seem like the Pulitzer committee has any such reservation.

Which, I think, is very progressive.

Also, I don’t know about the National Books Critics Circle’s eligibility requirements, but I do know they’ve recognized Dave Eggers What Is the What, which was published by McSweeney’s, which is the company Eggers founded. So that’s a good lead.

It’s interesting–and exciting–that it seems most of the most respected and prestigious awards don’t condescend when it comes to independence. Very promising.

Most of these awards have entry fees–which the ABNA does not–but pretty much every writing contest in the world comes with an entry fee. Entry fees are an entirely different discussion altogether, but I personally think, at least in this case, it’s worth it. I also think that the money you’re saving by not entering the ABNA is ultimately going to bite you on the ass when it comes time to sign that contract you never read granting all rights to your work exclusively to Penguin.

So there you go. Good luck entering. You can find other awards and contest with some Google fu.