There was an email that went around a few days ago congratulating various authors for being nominated for an award. It looked like this:
I (obviously) got it, as did many of my author friends. I won’t spend time here dissecting it or telling you why some aspects of it are definite red flags… Foz Meadows did a great job of that over on her twitter, and in a follow up post on her own site. What I will do, however, is point to it as an example. Go read Foz’s write ups, then come back here.
There. Did you parse all that? Regardless of whether or not you believe the NY Literary Magazine debacle was actually a scam, or if it really was nothing more than a marketing blunder, there’s a reason it incited rage in some people.
Awards are awesome. Recognition is awesome. From peers, from readers, from almost anyone, really. Being called out for being excellent at something is a great feeling… just like publication itself.
The award itself DOES matter. Some awards really will help your career. Others won’t, and are more interested in taking your money than judging the merits of your writing.
Whenever you decide to submit work for an award (or you get notification that you’ve been nominated for one, heh) there are a few things you should consider.
First and foremost, have you actually heard of the award before? For myself and some of the other authors I’ve spoken to, our first ever awareness of the New York Literary Magazine came in the form of that… unfortunate… email. That alone tells me that their award probably wouldn’t do much for me. If my peers haven’t heard of it, it won’t carry any sort of weight with them… and chances are fairly good that if it carried weight with (informed) readers or publishers, that someone in my social circle would have some awareness of them. If you’re going to put effort (or money in the form of entrance or reading fees) into an award, make sure that it can actually DO something for you. Sure, seeing “award nominated” or even “award winning” hovering in the proximity of your name is thrilling… but just like I said regarding seeing your name in print in an earlier post, make sure that it’s worthy. Years down the line, you don’t want that silly mark hanging over your head for anyone with a Google search box to find.
Secondly, have you heard of, and do you respect, the previous winners of said award? If you haven’t heard of them… honestly, I’d stop right there, but if you insist on continuing forward, google them. How are their careers? How many reviews do they have on Amazon? If an award, ANY award, only has winners that are at or below your current career level, it probably means the award didn’t do much for them… Unless Peter Straub or Stephen King reads this site… in which case, Hello!
Third and lastly, google the award itself. Before you get too involved, do a simple google search just to see what comes up. Are there complaints? Blogs, message boards, forums, and twitter users questioning their validity? Are there books you can buy on Amazon that feature the award seal? Who are the judges? Do you recognize/respect them? These are good things to know, and to consider before submitting your work.
As sort of a quasi related ending to this post, I’d just like to mention that my novella, The Warblers, is eligible for the Bram Stoker Award in the Long Fiction category! If any HWA members/voters would like a copy for consideration, please contact me!