Book awards aren’t the best guide to quality, especially now that we’re seeing awards popping up like daisies in spring. What does an award really signify, anyway? After all, anyone can create an award. What’s frightening is how organizations charge authors entry fees and give out their awards based on a flimsy, subjective criteria, such as “reader’s choice.”
If based purely on reader preference, the award-winning book, though no doubt popular, can have serious faults. Several “award-wining” books have not made it onto the Awesome Indies because they contain any of a number of problems, such as: plot inconsistencies; information dumps; clumsy point of view shifts, and/or pacing issues. How does this happen?
Often, it’s due a failure to assign trained judges capable of applying objective standards to the competition process. Book awards may be decided by untrained judges; indeed, in many cases, there are no clear guidelines for selecting who serves as a judge. If anyone can serve as a judge, what is an award really worth?
Even if the judges are well-trained and are able to apply consistent standards, many book awards suffer from a lack of rigorous competition, For example, what happens if only three books are entered in a category? The winner is the best of what—three books? This victory, bought so cheaply, tells the reader nothing about how the book would fare against all the other books in the market place. Even long standing literary awards, though highly prestigious and judged by qualified judges, still only evaluate books against what is in the competition.
What if all the books submitted to a contest lack merit, but a winner is nonetheless chosen? An award granted under such questionable circumstances signifies no more than its relative value. In other words, it’s the best of a bad bunch. More reputable awards state that they will not give an award if none of the books meet certain objective standards. Unfortunately, such a standard often slides under pressure to validate the contest itself. If no winner is awarded, how can the awarding body justify keeping all entry fees?
There is one possible solution to the excessive award-giving quandary. Several organizations evaluate a book against a standard of excellence (or acceptability) rather than against whatever other books happen to be in the competition. The indiePENdents and the BRAG awards, as well as the Awesome Indies, only grant awards to books that perform well when judged by an inflexible and unvarying standard. Such awards should mean more than ribbons given to books based on shifting standards and reader popularity.
Authors wishing to earn a place in the Awesome Indies must qualify based on their merits. Merely boasting of receiving an award is not enough to qualify for inclusion. Awesome Indies judges a book based on its merits, not on its popularity or on the number of reader’s choice awards it may have received from another awarding body. After all, what makes Awesome Indies so awesome is its independence and uncompromising pursuit of excellence. .
After all, excellence is a hard mark to achieve. By holding all books to a high standard, Awesome Indies stands for quality, not popularity. Award proliferation may help authors sell books. Awesome Indies is here to help authors write better books, and to help the reading public discern which books are well-crafted and equal to traditionally-published fiction. Our readers, and our authors, deserve no less.