And The Winner Is

Dan Walsh is the award-winning and bestselling author of 14 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards and 3 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books.
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This has been a very big week for writing awards, especially Christian fiction. On Sunday, AWSA announced the winners of the Golden Scroll Awards. Then on Monday at the big ICRS event in Orlando (which is still going on), the finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards were announced, as well as the winners for the 2015 Christy Awards.

But these weren’t the only award announcements made this week. Family Fiction magazine announced the winners of the INSPY awards for fiction in seven different categories. Christian Retailing announced their “Best” Awards for 2015 (includes many categories, not just fiction). Am I forgetting any others?

As I read over the various lists on websites, blogs and Facebook posts I thought of a number of things. Of course, it resets the discussion about the value of becoming a finalist or a winner of one of these awards. How much does it matter? Does it really affect book sales? Some say yes, some say not so much.

While it might be hard to measure the rewards in terms of dollars and cents, it certainly brings a lot of extra attention and free publicity to the books and authors who make these lists. I’ve experienced this kind of attention several times, and I have to say…it does make you feel pretty good (for at least a few days). I’m also aware of a certain, intangible sense of validation that comes from it, too (maybe I don’t stink as a writer).

But I think the greatest benefits from these awards might be for the reader, not the writers themselves. But it’s a benefit many readers seem unaware of, or don’t use to their full advantage. Let me explain.

I’ve been publishing novels now since 2009. I have 14 books “on the shelves,” and I’m finishing up another. I’ve had the privilege of being named a finalist and also of winning a number of these awards. I was pleased to learn my novel, What Follows After, was among the Carol Award finalists announced this week for the historical fiction category. But before I was a fiction author, I was an avid fiction reader. I still am.

Those who love to read fiction are always on the lookout for another great book to read, or hoping to discover a new author whose work they totally love. When a fiction lover reads a great book, they instantly contact their friends and say, “You’ve got to get this book.”

That’s where these book award lists come in. Don’t you realize what you have here? A perfect list of great books already broken down for you by category, pre-screened and thoroughly examined by other fiction lovers (who also happen to be skillful folks). Each one guaranteed NOT to be a dud.

The only possible setback might be the price. Many of these books come from traditional publishers who set the prices kind of high ($9 is common). I realize that most people are buying e-books now at the $2-3-4 range. But hey, let’s be honest, you can easily pick up 3 duds for $9 lickety-split. Wouldn’t you rather spend that money on one truly satisfying, well-written book? Who knows? You might also just discover your next favorite author, and you might also find out that author has lots of other books, published a year or two ago that are marked down to a discount price.

My advice? Spend a few minutes on Google and check out those lists of finalists and award winners in your favorite categories. Then make a shopping list of some really great summer reads!