Many established book awards will not consider submissions from independent presses or self-published authors. My guess is that traditional publishing is still viewed as a quality standard. If the Big-5 publishes a book, there’s a virtual guarantee that it has been vetted, edited, and designed by professionals. While there are many worthy self-published titles, there is so much garbage out there that I don’t blame any organization for not wanting to sort through an abundance of titles that lack basic qualities, such as good grammar!
The Independent Publisher is one organization that permits self-published authors to enter their titles for a book award. The prize is a medal, bragging rights, and publicity. For a self-published author struggling to promote a book, any kind of award can provide a much-needed jolt to a marketing campaign.
However, while Big-5 publishers know how to edit, title, design, and promote a book to achieve sales, they are also familiar with the criteria by which their titles would be judged for traditional book awards. Since newbie authors (like me!) don’t have the same experience, the Independent Publisher openly shares their judging criteria. I greatly appreciate their communication, and view it as extremely informative. They judge all of the books in the following areas:
- First Impression – Front, back and inside – would you pull it from the bookstore or library shelf?
- Design – Cover design, typeface, message, front & back – does the cover make you want to look inside?
- Interior layout, typeface, illustrations – is it easy to read; is it a pleasure to look at?
- Originality – Is it a fresh approach? Has it been done too much?
- Use of language – Grammar, style, voice – does it flow? Does it make you want to keep reading?
- Message delivery – Is the message promised by the cover being delivered, and in a compelling way?
- Relevance – Is the book pertinent to our time? Is this a message that should be heard?
The organization further explains, “Every book entered gets evaluated in each of these areas, and if they score well are assessed further and judged against the other top books in the category. Every year we have a handful of entrants complain that we ‘didn’t read the entire book,’ and no, of course we don’t read every book all the way through. Our expert judges, most of whom have been evaluating books for 10-20 years, are skilled enough to critique a book fairly quickly and efficiently — and you probably can, too. All of us do a version of it every time we scan through a book at a bookstore or library when deciding if we’re going to buy it or borrow it.” I love the practicality of this approach!
Not every author is going to win an IPPY award, but I sure hope that each entrant learns something through the experience.