Saturday, August 15, 2015
The Wishing Shelf Awards - not just any old award!
I was going to write another post about our Romanian adventure, but I'm breaking it here to say something about an award I've taken part in for three years running now and really value. This is The Wishing Shelf Awards, run by Edward Trayer.
Edward publishes children's books under the name of Billy Bob Buttons - very successfully, I might add. He has won a number of awards himself for his books, one of which was The People's Book Prize. He started the Wishing Shelf Awards a few years ago as a way of providing the type of award he felt would be really useful to authors. The background, structure and costs for entering the WSA can be found on its website, so I won't go into all the details here, but it's probably worth mentioning that the entries are limited to 300 books a year. Edward says that about 50% of the books submitted are turned down.
What I mostly want to say, though, is why I like entering the awards so much. Firstly, they are aimed at independently published authors, e.g those with a small indie publishing house or self-published authors. Secondly, the books are judged by readers and not panelists. In other words, the target audience. This is something I really appreciate. Edward's team includes reading groups in both Sweden (where he lives) and in the UK and the books are circulated amongst them. My last entry was read by sixteen men and women, and there was a really good range of ages.
What's amazing is that every book (and that's a lot now) accepted for entry is read and given feedback on a number of criteria. Yes, every single book! If the author chooses, this feedback is passed on, so regardless of whether he or she reaches the finals, the entrants can gain really impartial and valuable insight into what the readers think of their work. I think this is fantastic. I know they aren't professional critics, but who better to judge than the public who would (you hope) read your books anyway? But what I like as well is that the awards also give some marketing support in the form of stickers, logos, reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and advertising to those who make the finals. And even those who receive good feedback but aren't finalists can have the reader's quotes put on Amazon and Goodreads as a review.
I know this sounds like I'm advertising the WSA, and yes, in a way I am. But that's because I really am impressed by what these awards offer to indie writers. It's often hard to get unbiased views from readers, and we all know how difficult it can be to get reviews until we've built up a following, so the WSA is doing something I feel is really worthwhile. The first time I entered, I won a silver award for my YA book, The Skipper's Child. Last year, I entered my Eccentrics in the adult fiction section. It didn't make the finals, but I got great feedback, some good quotes and a 'Red Ribbon winner' title on the basis that 99% of the readers were positive about it. So I was actually pretty happy. This year, I'm entering the non-fiction section and I'm really looking forward to seeing what comes of it next spring.
So now I've gone on a bit about the feedback, what have I learnt from what I've had? Well one thing I know is I've got to go for more commercial covers for my books. I've got my own ideas about what I like, but I realise now that they aren't what the majority of today's readers find appealing. If I want to reach a wider audience, I'll have to think about this. The second learning point was about the plot for my Eccentrics. A few readers said it wasn't strong enough, so I need to look at that more carefully for my next novel. On the plus side, the reading groups gave me good points for the characters, the humour, my writing style and editing, so I'm really pleased about all of these. But I'll need to maintain them too!
If anyone is thinking of entering after reading this, have a look at the website first and see what the options and conditions are. Then go for it! It's a great scheme and a great support for writers (note: there's a Facebook page and Twitter as well), so huge thanks to Edward Trayer for both conceiving and setting it up. Long may it last!