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When awards are pay to play

A curious little item surfaced today in The Bookseller in the U.K.

Author Kes Gray, whose company Fizzbomb Books publishes his title Nuddy Ned, wanted to enter the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, but found the requirement for 40 free picture books and a £500 promotional charge, as well as a 60% discount on books ordered thereafter, prohibitive.

Gray’s complaint raises a fair question: is an award really credible if it puts up financial entry barriers? Here in Canada, the Scotiabank Giller Prize demands $1,500 per title from shortlisted publishers. Given the massive publicity boost that comes with a nomination, that doesn’t seem unreasonable to Quillblog, though some tiny presses might disagree.

In any case, the Bookseller story could use a little more context. Is the £500 an entry fee, or does it kick in only if the book is shortlisted? Is there a shortlist? Gray “found” the terms prohibitive, but do other publishers consider them unreasonable when weighed against the expected return? The story does include this bit –

Children’s publishers have seen a steep rise in the number of national and regional children’s book awards which publishers are expected to support in terms of finances, author attendance, and publicity material.

– but provides no further examples or details. Perhaps any British Quillblog readers could enlighten us in the comments.

  • Paul

    The Leacock Award requires 10 books and $100. The Silver Birch and other Ontario readers’ choice awards require short-listed publishers to make an undisclosed “contribution”.

  • Dennis Greig

    The requirement that publishers pay up front, provide large numbers of copies and acquiesce to punitive discounts are simply methods whereby the ‘award’ helps pays for itself. These have nothing to do with the quality of a book in any shape or form, simply a marketing tool.

    The best policy that publishers should take is to avoid ‘awards’, many of which are ‘closed’ contests. But they can’t help falling for the ego-massage.

  • Kathleen Molloy

    The flip side is that you are getting your book into the hands of readers that love books and then in turn will either promote your work to the shortlist or tell other book lovers about your work. Awards are another way to get the word out that you are a contender.

    Kathleen Molloy, author – Dining with Death

  • Cathy Macleod

    I’m a reader who has learned from experience to avoid award-winning books. It remains a mystery why so many bad books are declared winners! I also spurn books that are heavily endorsed by brand-name authors or major reviewers.
    How to choose a good book then? Browse! Nowadays this can be done online, with free samples.

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