Make Your Book Award-Worthy

15.02.2017 |

Episode #3 of the course How to write best-selling, award-winning fiction by K.C. Finn


After tackling the perils of the outside world of social media yesterday, today we’ll turn back inward and examine your books and ideas themselves. What constitutes an award-winning novel? Why do some books win and others don’t? And, most importantly, what can you do to ensure your book stands a great chance of success?



Everyone dreams of being labeled “the best” at what they do. It breeds a sense of validation and gives a kind of self-confidence boost like no other. It also credentializes you to the outside world, like a stamp of approval that states “this person’s work is top-quality.” Unfortunately, in the world of writing, being “the best” is not only highly competitive, but highly subjective too. Different awards look for different qualities, and praising one book over another often comes down to the personal taste of the judges. As the saying goes, you can’t win ‘em all. So how have I won so many? Let’s take a look at this idea more deeply.


In Practice

As my books continue to place and be awarded some of the most popular accolades in indie publishing, I have noticed the most common features that can be considered the “base standards” for a book to be considered award-worthy. In my experience, there are three golden rules that make a book stand out from the crowd:

1. Near-faultless spelling and grammar. Award judges will accept that not every mistake can be caught, but a manuscript riddled with errors will be trashed without even being completed at the read-through stage. It doesn’t matter how great your story is, if it’s peppered with mistakes that readers have to keep wading through and climbing over, then they will lose interest fast.

2. An original concept. Judges of book awards have generally been doing the same job for years. They judge because they genuinely love to read, but that means they’ve read a lot of books. If your story sounds just like everyone else’s, then they’ll quickly lose interest and stop paying attention, even if the writing is of a very high quality. Grab them with something different right from the opening chapter for best results.

3. Go 3D. One of the things I’m most praised for when I get feedback from editorials, critics, and judges is creating a world that seems real. Especially in genres such as young adult and horror, background characters can become two-dimensional and simply present to fill out the plot, while locations fade into meaningless watercolor backgrounds for the action taking place. If you’re unsure about how to “go 3D” with your writing, look out for lessons 5 and 7, which will give you some invaluable tips.


Now It’s Your Turn

Take hold of a plan or idea you’ve had for a new book or story. On a new sheet of paper or new document, brainstorm some strategies on how you can ensure your book is meeting the base standards to make it award-worthy in the future. Make an action plan of what you intend to do as your story develops in order to ensure these qualities are met.

Tomorrow, we’ll go back to marketing and look at how the story summary and genre choices you make can really help your book to hit the best-seller list right out of the gate.

Now get those brains storming!


Further reading

Do some research into the kinds of awards out there. I started with James Minter’s list of 50 awards accepting indie writers.


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