New Cozy Mystery Award

MWA has announced the Lilian Jackson Braun Award for contemporary cozy mysteries. It’s gratifying that the cozy subgenre has finally been recognized by Mystery Writers of America. Ever since I’ve been a member, the Edgars have leaned toward serious crime fiction. Conferences such as Malice Domestic, Killer Nashville, and Left Coast Crime offered cozy writers a chance to win their own awards.

Books submitted for the Lilian Jackson Braun Award must be at least 65,000 words and be published by a traditional MWA-approved publisher in the year prior to the award. The story must feature an amateur sleuth in a setting with a sense of community, a lighthearted tone, and a crime to solve. Historical mysteries are not eligible.

While I applaud this recognition for the cozy mystery genre by our national organization, I yearn for the day that MWA also accepts indie published books into their contest. Fortunately, there are other competitions that indie authors can enter. Usually, these require an ISBN number and may ask for a publisher name, but they don’t distinguish between trad published and self-published titles. The Alliance of Independent Authors puts out a good list.

Do readers look for the publisher’s name when considering which book to buy? Or are peer reviews, the storyline, writing style, and price more important? How about contest wins? The well-known awards naturally garner more attention and respect, but how about first place wins at other sites? Do these influence readers in any way? What do you think?

Also see my previous post on Writing Contests for Published Authors.

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Contests for Published Authors

Is it worthwhile for published authors to enter writing contests? Yes, it is. Here are the pros and cons for you to consider before entering your book in a contest.

PROS
Gain exposure for your work to new readers
Have a chance at calling yourself an Award-Winning Author
Adds prestige to your credentials if you win
Ego boost and sense of validation if you at least final in a contest

CONS
It’s expensive when you add up the contest fees, cost of books, and postage
Entering contests can be time-consuming
Winning awards won’t help you sell books to either fans or your publisher
Low scores can be demoralizing

Why would you want to enter a contest at all? In the mystery/thriller field, we have MWA’s Edgars® and the International Thriller Writers contest, the Thriller Awards Competition. These you can enter yourself. Mystery conferences like Left Coast Crime and Malice Domestic have contests, but your book has to be nominated and voted on by attendees. Those don’t count in our discussion since you can’t enter them yourself and the books are not evaluated by objective judges.

States have writing awards you can enter, and so do smaller regional or chapter conferences. For example, I entered Shear Murder, my tenth Bad Hair Day mystery, in the Florida Book Awards competition. This applies to all fiction genres, as does the Florida Publishers Association contest. Why didn’t I enter that one? The cost was too high. Both require four print books, but the Florida Book Awards costs $50 to enter and the latter one costs $60. That’s too expensive, in my opinion, despite the exposure my book would get.

And this brings up another matter. How do you decide which contests to enter? Consider these factors:

CRITERIA

Sponsoring Organization: Will anyone besides other genre authors recognize this award?
Judges: Are they readers, booksellers, librarians, or other authors?
Prize: Is it worth the entry fee and effort merely to get a certificate if you win? What types of publicity come along with the award? Will you get a plaque, medallion, lapel pin, website logo, or trophy?
Cost in Entry Fee and Number of Books

If you write in the romance genre, you have a much broader range of contests to enter. True, most readers have probably never heard of them. But winning may gain you publicity, new fans, and the chance to call yourself an award-winning author. Use the criteria above to determine if the contest is worthwhile for you to enter. RWA’s Romance Writers Report lists contests, plus you’ll find mention of them on many chapter listserves.

Keep track of which contests you enter, because the costs will add up. I entered a lot with Warrior Prince because this is the first book in my Drift Lords series, and I’m aiming to gain exposure. Judges are readers, too, even if they’re booksellers and librarians. But I’ve spent close to $164 on entry fees and nearly $200 in the cost of books alone. I can’t afford to do this for the second book in my series.

Following is a listing of writing contests for published authors that I have gathered. These are specifically ones you can enter yourself, minus the contests particular to Florida. If you spot one that needs correction, please let me know. Also share with us contests in the SciFi/Fantasy or YA genres as those are not included here. And good luck! Even if it’s an obscure contest, being a finalist or winning still means the judges liked your work, and that alone brings a warm glow of satisfaction. It’s hard to win, so consider it a well-earned reward if you do place in the top tier.

CONTESTS FOR PUBLISHED AUTHORS

ASPEN GOLD (Heart of Denver Romance Writers)
AWARD OF EXCELLENCE (Colorado Romance Writers)
BEACON (First Coast Romance Writers)–Discontinued; see comment below.
BOOK BUYERS BEST (Orange County RWA)
BOOKSELLERS BEST (Greater Detroit RWA)
DAPHNE DU MAURIER (Kiss of Death chapter RWA—Romantic Mysteries, Romantic Suspense)
DUEL ON THE DELTA
EDGAR® AWARDS (Mystery Writers of America—Mysteries)
ENCHANTED WORDS
EPIC (Ebooks)
GAYLE WILSON AWARD OF EXCELLENCE
GREAT EXPECTATIONS
GOLDEN GATEWAY
HOLT Medallion (Virginia Romance Writers)
IDA (Ebooks only, All genres; Oklahoma Romance Writers)
IPPY PUBLISHER BOOK AWARDS (Indie books)
LAUNCHING A STAR
LAUREL WREATH (Volusia County Romance Writers)
LINDA HOWARD AWARD OF EXCELLENCE
LORIES BEST PUBLISHED (The Heart RWA Online)
MAGGIE AWARDS (Georgia Romance Writers
)
NATIONAL EXCELLENCE IN ROMANCE FICTION (First Coast Romance Writers)
NATIONAL READERS CHOICE (Oklahoma Romance Writers)
PRISM (FF&P chapter of RWA—Fantasy/ Futuristic/Paranormal Romance)
READERS CROWN (RomConInc)
RITA® (Romance Writers of America®)
THRILLER AWARDS COMPETITION (ITW—Mysteries/Thrillers)
WINTER ROSE (Yellow Rose RWA, TX)