Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Querying and Book Awards

As I have been writing about, I am currently in the process of querying my work in progress. Last week I wrote about one of the things we can all do to become a better querier, and that is to learn more about the publishing business. My approach was to go with an indie press which pretty much leaves all of the marketing up to the author. While we would all like the full weight of Penguin behind us, it is still important to understand the process of selling and a good primer on the topic is to actually go out and try to sell your book. But I warn you, it is a lot like drinking from a firehose so you better be thirsty.

If you've done any marketing at all you already know that saying your own book is good is the sign of a true amateur. Sure you've got to believe in your product, but books are like babies and momma always thinks her kid is cute. Using subjective terms that praise your own work in a query is a shortcut to the trashcan.

What you are looking for then, is for someone else to say your book is good. And I don't mean your mother or your best friend from college. Someone who the people you are querying might consider objective. Reviews are one way to do that but getting reviews from reputable people is pretty tough. There are SO many books out there and few well-known reviewers take the time to read indie novels. What is an author to do?

Okay, so I didn't win this one. Yet.
One route to objective reviews are book contests. Yes you have to pay for most of them, and there are a bajillion of them out there. It seems like every other blogger is running a book contest these days. Send in $75 and a copy of your book and you too can become an award winning author! Sadly, despite what may be some very sincere intentions, a lot of these do come off as scams. So how can you tell the difference?

While I'm no authority on book contests, my criteria for deciding what was legit and what was... we'll say, wannabe, was how long it's been around. One of the contests for independently published books that's been around the longest is the Eric Hoffer Awards. The award is named after an uneducated and self-trained American philosopher who wrote about the "nature of mass movements and the essence of humankind." Since The Silla Project is a novel that very much explores the human condition and borders on literary, I thought it might be worth giving it a shot. Or rather, my brilliant writing partner, Terri-Lynne Smiles, suggested I give it a go.

Well the winners were finally announced this week and I was thrilled to see that not only had The Silla Project been chosen as a finalist for the Montaigne Medal, but it was also a finalist in the Commercial Fiction category, one of the categories that receives the most entries. Naturally I would have preferred to be the winner, but to be chosen as one of the top thrillers out of hundreds submitted is quite an honor considering it was the first book I wrote.

Can't you just feel it about to go?
But beyond the momentary endorphine rush of being formally recognized, and much more importantly, it gives me a credential. Two of them in fact - finalist for the Montaigne Medal and finalist in the Eric Hoffer Award. And as I send out this latest round of queries, the first that I've been able to cite a credential in, it will be interesting to see if it has any effect on the agents and editors I have chosen. I'll keep you posted on how this goes, however, as you know, hearing back from literary professionals is like studying glaciers. Things don't appear to change at all until a piece the size of Delaware suddenly cracks off and raises the global sea level a half-inch!

John C. Brewer is the author of Multiplayer an MMOG YA SF novel, and The Silla Project, a North Korean nuclear romance that was a finalist for the 2013 Eric Hoffer Awards and the 2013 Montaigne Medal. You can learn more about him and what he is doing at his website,

1 comment:

  1. I think book awards can have an effect on the query process, especially if you are a winner or finalist in a contest that has been around or holds special merit.