small press book awards?
April 3, 2010 9:26 AM   Subscribe

What can you tell me about these book awards? Are they legit?

My friend won an award here for his self-published book and he's really proud. I'm proud of him too, but I'm concerned about the fact that these are pay-to-play. On the other hand you have to submit entry fees for a lot of respectable things. Does that make these a scam or just a small award from a small business?

(And why is this anonymous? Because I think he knows my username, and I would be ashamed if he thought I even thought about this!)
posted by anonymous to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, it legitimately made him proud, and you, too.

It's a pernicious scam from the perspective of the "legit" publishing industry, though. Your friend should definitely not mention "winning" this award in future efforts to attract a real publisher.
posted by gum at 9:43 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would call it more a contest than an "award", but winning a contest is nothing to sneeze at.
posted by Some1 at 9:51 AM on April 3, 2010

Pay-to-play isn't necessarily a scam, in that those who pay money do get something in return, but it's not how most small press book awards work. Or large press, either.

I used to work for a book review magazine, and we also hosted an awards ceremony. No payment was required to nominate titles, and nominations could and did come from readers, authors, editors, publishers, etc. Judges were not paid by us (or anyone) for their time. We requested (and received) free judges' copies from publishers - who were both big houses and small presses - and the judges were chosen by the staff of the magazine based on their fields of expertise (someone who didn't know anything about, say, poetry, or who hated it, would not be asked to judge that category). We definitely looked down on pay-to-play stuff like this, as well as "publishers" who made their authors pay for editorial services. But it was more that we disdained the companies that run them, not the writers who, for whatever reason, felt the need to participate.

But! Your friend is stoked. He worked hard on his book. Buy him a congratulatory drink and never tell him about this question.
posted by rtha at 9:53 AM on April 3, 2010

I'm not familiar with Bengal Book Reviews, but it concerns me is that entrants are paying $50 to win an award that offers nothing really tangible. I judge entries for the Writer's Digest Self-Published Books contest every year, and the entry fee is something like a hundred dollars--far steeper, but the winner is rewarded with actual publication. For this, all you get is a "seal" to place on future editions, a certificate, and a "featured spot" on their website. You also get a review, but everyone who sends in money gets a review, and they're not particularly good reviews. I think you're right to be concerned, but there's really nothing you can do at this point that won't hurt your friend, so I would stay quiet--unless he starts talking about entering more of these, or unless he's using it as a point of pride in cover letters, which can actively hurt his chances for legitimate publication. Then I would say he deserves to know.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 10:02 AM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Given that the awards description starts with poor grammar ("Bengal hosts Book Awards for authors that (sic) believe their story stands above the rest.") and continues with bad formatting/typesetting, I'm not inclined to buy or value books based on Bengal's appraisal.
posted by orthogonality at 11:11 AM on April 3, 2010

"Review: Chase has really outdone herself with the first in a series of cop thrillers."

posted by orthogonality at 11:14 AM on April 3, 2010

Ugh, I didn't even see the $50 "entry fee."

Google "Bengal Book Reviews," subtract the hits for South Asia and the University of Idaho, and you get precisely one instance of an author claiming this award. Bengal Book Reviews is a person with a website ripping off self-published authors.
posted by gum at 11:24 AM on April 3, 2010

Check out the Making Light blog for discussions of this sort of scam.
posted by kjs3 at 8:51 AM on April 6, 2010

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