How to Use Book Awards to Market Your Book

Each year, the book industry publishes about a million titles. Aside from being Dan Brown or John Grisham, it can be a challenge to get you book noticed.
You can fix this disadvantage by entering book award contests. Book awards are a simple and practical marketing option, and the returns can be spectacular. For example, when 2010 National Book Award fiction winner, Jaimy Gordon (Lords of Misrule, McPherson & Co.) was first selected, the initial print run was increased from 2,000 to 8,000 copies (45,000 hardcover copies were eventually printed).
Gordon offered publishing rights to Vintage for $25,000, and received a $100,000 bonus for winning (the initial paperback print run was 75,000 copies). 120,000 copies in print and $125,000 in hard cash... not bad for an independently published book by a 65 year-old professor from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Only a few prizes carry that much weight, but all awards do invite attention. Winning a book award is a great way to:
1. Gain notice from readers, publishers, librarians, etc. Putting a book award seal on the front cover of your book makes it stand out and signals that it is a book to pay attention to. Editors, agents, buyers, journalists and producers receive hundreds of books every week, and your award stamp says, "I'm a book that's been recognized. Look at me first. You can be assured that I'm a quality book worthy of your interest." Award-winning reputation can get your book reconsidered or discovered for the first time, and help it get picked from the heap.
2. Provide you the reputation and prestige that we all need in this overcrowded market. Earning a book award means quality and value, and you just can't beat that. The credibility achieved with a prominent book award opens up a whole new round of attention for your book from journalists, reviewers, distributors and buyers.
3. Enlarge your P.R. possibilities. Just consider what the title "Award Winning Author" will do for your press releases. It certainly justifies broadcasting a celebratory press release that can lead to newspaper and magazine articles, radio and television appearances, newsletter and blog mentions.
4. Build your sales, call for a reissue, and get your book in new markets. Everyone loves a winner! The PR blitz begins as you display your medal at the awards ceremony, and extends from there as you pass on the word about your triumph. Each individual that sees your award will see you and your book in a different, brighter light, and that translates into increased book sales.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
So, which awards will you enter? There are many in the U.S., not to mention those presented in other countries. A number of awards are wide open, a few are only open to participants of literary associations, and others have detailed eligibility requirements for entry. Your first move is to look for awards that match your book and your marketing goals.