If you’re a speculative fiction author, editor, publisher, or artist, you probably have an interest in genre awards. Most people are aware of the “big” awards like the Hugos and the Nebulas, but there are a whole host other of awards out there from regionally-specific awards, to genre-and-sub-genre-specific awards, to more general awards that have specific genre categories. The whole process surrounding awards can be confusing, overwhelming, and anxiety-inducing, especially if you’re new to the field – and sometimes even if you aren’t.
How the heck does one become an award finalist? How do I know if I’m eligible? How do I improve my chances of winning an award?
Just like there’s no one true path to publication, there is no one true path to award recognition. That said, there are things authors, editors, publishers, and artists can do to increase their chances of receiving award recognition, the biggest one being making people aware of your work.
Awards are not the be-all, end-all of existence, nor are they a required or guaranteed “step” in an author’s career journey, but recognition and shiny trophies are certainly are nice to have! This post won’t necessarily help you win an award, but it at least aims to provide some helpful resources and answer a few questions you may have along the way.
Awards generally fall into three categories: juried awards (e.g. the Shirley Jackson Awards), those that operate by a nomination process (e.g. the Nebula Awards), and hybrid awards that do a bit of both (e.g. the World Fantasy Awards).
Awards with a nomination process can be open to a particular membership group, for example members of SFWA (Science Fiction Writers Association) can nominate works for the Nebula Award, and members of the HWA (Horror Writers Association) can nominate works for the Stoker Award, or they can be open to anyone, like the Locus Awards. The ability to nominate can be tied to a particular convention, for example the Hugos and WorldCon. Conventions with associated awards often offer voting memberships at a lower price point so individuals can still participate in the nominating and voting process without attending the convention in person or virtually.
Awards with a jury or panel may allow authors/editors/publishers/artists or some subset thereof to submit work for consideration directly (e.g. World Fantasy Awards). Other awards may rely entirely on their panelists/judges’ reading and knowledge of the field to find works for consideration.
How do you know if you’re eligible for an award? How do you submit work for award consideration? How do you nominate work and vote?
Every award has their own rules around submitting work, nominating, and voting. Locus Magazine maintains a very helpful award database which is an excellent place to start for authors/editors/publishers/artists interested in submitting work or putting it forward for member consideration. It’s also a great resource for readers looking to nominate works they love, or to find new things to read by browsing lists of past winners.
Browse around, follow the links, see what’s out there, and put yourself forward for consideration where appropriate!
Promoting and Submitting Work
Demanding that people nominate or vote for your work isn’t cool, and it’s often expressly prohibited within award rules. Letting people know what you’ve published in a given year however is perfectly acceptable. Award eligibility posts and social media threads are a great way to make people aware of your published work. Sharing your posts and providing periodic reminders as award nomination deadlines approach is also perfectly acceptable and even helpful, as it’s easy to miss a single post/thread.
Every year for the past several years I’ve encouraged authors/editors/publishers/artists to create award eligibility posts and I’ve gathered them in a yearly Eligibility and Recommendation Links Round-Up. There are other folks who do the same, including Cat Rambo. The sheer amount of fiction, art, and media published and released each year means it’s impossible to read/watch/see/be aware of everything out there. Self-promotion can be uncomfortable, but as someone who nominates for awards, I view it as a public service by creators to remind me about works I loved and to help me catch things I may have missed.
If you’re not sure how to put together an eligibility post, you can see several examples at the link above.
Some membership organizations (e.g. HWA) allow members to post or directly share work for consideration. Always check an organization’s rules around sharing and promotion before you proceed.
If your work is eligible for a juried award, you should absolutely submit it! Don’t assume a jury is already aware of your work, or that they don’t want to see see it. Authors and artists may want to check with their editors/publishers first to make sure they’re not doubling up efforts, but as a general rule, juries want to read and consider widely, so get your work out there. The sheer volume of work published in a given year means that juries might not see things that aren’t directly put in front of them, so if you’re on the fence about submitting work for consideration – do it!
A work won’t end up as an award finalist if people don’t know about it. It’s up to juries and nominators to recommend the works they love. Creators are often their own worst critics; don’t let self-doubt and brain weasels hold you back when it comes to submitting and promoting.
Call for Submissions
Speaking of juried awards, here’s a shameless plug and way to dip your toes into the waters of awards consideration. I’m one of the judges for the World Fantasy Awards this year and we want to see your work. You. Yes, you.
We’re looking for works of Fantasy and Horror originally published in 2022. We want to see Novels, Novellas, Collections, Anthologies, Short Stories, and Artwork. We’re also looking at related non-fiction for consideration in the Special Award categories.
Works must be received by June 1, 2023, but the sooner the better so we have time to properly consider everything.
Instructions on how to submit work can be found here. Please send us your stuff!