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How Long Before a Self-published Book Wins a Major Award?

Is it too much to ask that major awards bodies consider self-published titles as well?

By Edward Nawotka

National Book Award medal

In today’s editorial by Patti Thorn, co-founder of BlueInk Reviews — a platform for professional reviews of self-published books — she notes that the company has founded its own award program. “Our first BlueInk Best Book, for example, attracted the attention of three major publishing houses and one very prominent literary agent,” she notes, adding, “Not bad for a little novella that New York would have normally overlooked.”

Day-by-day self-published books are proving their worth in the marketplace. Debates about the quality of the work persist, but as venues like BlueInk reviews prove, there are gems to be mined from the raw overload of self-published titles. How long before they are considered for — and one of them is chosen — for a major award?

Anyone who has ever worked as a judge on a major book award knows the burden of considering the sheer number of titles from the established presses. Is it too much to ask that self-published titles be considered as well?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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12 Comments

  1. Posted July 18, 2011 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    Why do highbrow critical reviews matter? They only matter if the author is seeking fame or prizes.

    In the brave new publishing world, reviews are less important for those who want to turn out a good piece of work and receive some recompense for their time. Online and guerrilla marketing methods can get the sales.

    Sure, reviews are nice to have (even poor ones are useful), but NYT reviews are carrying less weight, arguably, than those of the top Amazon reviewers, IMHO.

  2. Liz
    Posted July 18, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    The Harry Potter books failed to receive any of the most prestigious, well-recognised awards for children’s literature. It was and still is highly criticised for offering a romanticised, overly-nostalgic view of Britain. Yet it’s achieved levels of popularity arguably never seen since the introduction of television. What kind of book receives prestigious literary awards? Take Coram Boy – a story of infanticide, mental illness and death in Victorian Britain. Or ‘Junk’ – covering teenage pregnancy and heroine addiction. I know what I’d rather give children to read, and it’s not the books that so-called experts reward prizes to. Out of touch academics are too quick to discard books that don’t touch on the dark side of humanity. In my opinion, they forget that childhood is a precious time to be nurtured and enjoyed. Fortunately, sales figures communicate what people want to read and it’s a far cry from the major award winners.

  3. Posted July 18, 2011 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Dave Eggers’ novel What Is the What was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle awards and won a Prix Medicis. The novel was published by McSweeney’s, which Dave Eggers founded (and where he’s listed as editor). So it’s basically already happened.

  4. Posted July 18, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Last year, I had reason to look into the requirements for submission to the Man Booker Prize. My impression was that they had “softened” their requirements. As long as the novel was published by a publisher not set up for the sole purpose of publishing that book, it might be possible to have it considered.

  5. Posted July 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I have read quite a few self published books, and there are a few in my opinion that should get more recognition. I have recently read a book called Woman Vs Womaniser ‘This is the Book Men Do Not Want Women to Read’. ( http://www.womanvswomaniser.com ) Now this book is self published, but It is definitely one of the best books I have ever read to date.

    This book deserves an Award on so many different levels, honesty, writing style, emotional roller coaster, originality, and edge. All of my friends and colleagues think the same….but will it ever get an award – probably not?!

  6. Tina Cavanough
    Posted July 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    While it’s not a major, international award, a self published book won the Young Adult category in the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards in Australia last year. The book is called ‘Drink the Air’ by Richard Yaxley. It’s the first time we’ve seen a self-published book win an award like this here in Australia.
    For details, see http://www.premiers.qld.gov.au/awards-and-recognition/literary-awards/2010-winners.aspx#young-adult and http://richardwyaxley.wordpress.com/bio/

  7. John Grace
    Posted July 18, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    What about catherynne valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – it was serialized online (self published) and won the Andre Norton Award (YA Nebula). Granted there are bigger literary prizes that can be won, but this was a self published novel that won a considerable lit award.

  8. Posted July 20, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    This year we are giving the Excellence in Writing award to Donna Carrick at our second annual INDIE BOOK EVENT.

    We recognize her talent and want to reward her for it. Next year we will be doing the same thing. Offering an award to the best self published book we receive.

    The event is taking place on July 30th at The New Yorker Hotel.

  9. Bruce Crabtree
    Posted September 19, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Folks,
    Of course unknown authors are bypassing agents and publishing houses. Getting their attention is virtually impossible. This seems to have little or nothing to do with the quality of the literature. I finally realized this and self-published my five novels, which wasn’t cheap. I did, however, accomplish my goal of making an artistic effort under stringent standards. After all, that is part and parcel of what art is. The rewards are a by-product.

  10. Posted October 20, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    I hope perhaps this new award (www.thewsa.co.uk) for UK books will find the next Harry Potter.

  11. Heather Fitzpatrick
    Posted January 16, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    It really is next to impossible to get published traditionally unless you know someone in the business. I chose to “self publish” my children’s book “The Day I Saw A Dragonfly” in 2009 after years of trying to break into the traditional market. My book has sold well over 1500 copies and still consistently sells on amazon.com and was recently added to amazon kindle. I appeared on “Good Morning New Orleans” to speak about the message it brings to families grieving the loss of a loved one or beloved pet. This also earned my book a video trailer because of the success it has had. I would love to get it into the right hands someday, but for now, I’m pleased with the success I’ve had independently. I feel wonderful knowing my book has touched so many people.
    Heather Fitzpatrick

  12. Posted April 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    2012 Anderbo Self-Published Book Award
    For a Self-Published Book (Fiction or Nonfiction)
    http://www.anderbo.com/anderbo1/anderselfpubbookaward2012.html
    Contest Deadline October 15th, 2012
    One Winner will receive:
    $500 cash
    Announcement on the Anderbo web site
    Publication of a book-excerpt on anderbo.com

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