Friday, Feb 8, 2013

The Ever Elusive Writer Awards

Too often writers begin a career in this field due to their passion for writing. Once a book is written and published though, the next question is, “What now?” After you’ve locked yourself up in a quiet room for hours and weeks at a time, fingers diligently pounding on a keyboard, or fingers wrought with pain from writing your story the old fashioned way with pen and paper, you then come to the realization that you have created this wonderful manuscript and you want to share it with the world. So how do you do this? Marketing of course! And one way to help market your book is have an impressive book award associated with it.

There are many facets to marketing a book, but receiving a prestigious book award for the manuscript you have just published will go a long way towards helping you market and sell this wonderful “baby” you’ve just created. Having an award associated with your book will give the reader comfort that it has been read by several credible people who understand a particular genre. It helps to make your book stand out amongst the millions that have been published. Your job as a writer-marketer is to obtain one of these awards if possible.

Although the list below is by no means comprehensive, we’ve provided a small list of some of the major writer awards that could be attained with just a little bit of research, footwork, networking, and diligence. We’ll start with book awards that are focused on the Latino/Spanish writer or those that provide themes in this arena. In addition, we’ve provided a list for book awards with a more global reach. As you look for various places and organizations to submit your book to be reviewed for a particular book award, don’t forget to search your local community such as large writing groups. Sometimes they also offer book awards for various genres.

Latino/Spanish Book Awards

The Pura Belpré Book Award: This is named after the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library.  This is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate.

Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award: From the Texas State University College of Education. This honors illustrators and authors that create literature depicting the Mexican American Experience. It is named after Dr. Tomas Rivera a distinguished alumnus of this University.

International Latino Book Awards: Provided by Latino Literacy now – better known as LBFF. They have eight different categories with different selections within each of these. One of their most popular is the Latino Books into Movies Award.

ALLA Book Awards: The award is for the best book published concerning an important anthropological topic related to US Latinas or Latinos and their communities. Publishers and any ALLA member can nominate a book for the competition.

Miguel de Cervantez prize:  This was first established in 1976. It is awarded annually to honor the lifetime achievement of an extraordinary writer in the Spanish Language. It rewards authors from any Spanish speaking nation and is regarded as a Spanish language Nobel Prize in literature. It is named after Miguel de Cervantes who was the author of Don Quixote.

Rómulo Gallegos International Novel Prize:  This is awarded in Venezuela and was created in 1964 by a decree by Venezuelan president Raúl Leoni. It is given in honor of the Venezuelan politician and President Rómulo Gallegos and the author Doña Bárbara. The award prize is 100,000 Euros.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize: This award is given to women writers who write in Spanish and is organized by the Guadalajara International Book Fair based in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. The prize is 100,000 pesos. The book chosen is then translated into English for publication. This is in honor of the seventeenth century Mexican writer Juana Inés de la Cruz.

Premio Planeta: This is a Spanish literary prize award and was started in 1952. It is given by the Spanish publisher Grupo Planeta to an original novel written in Spanish (Castilian). This is only one of about 16 literary prizes given by Grupo Planeta. It is considered to be the second most valuable literary award in the world after the Nobel Prize for Literature. The winner receives 601,000 Euros. This award was created by José Manuel Lara Hernández in 1952 and is awarded on St Teresa’s day, October 15. This is also the name of Lara’s wife.

Premio de Novela Ciudad de Torrevieja: A Spanish literary prize which was begun in 2001 by the publisher Plaza & Janés (a subsidiary of Random House) in conjunction with the Ayuntamiento de Torrevieja (City Government of Torrevieja). This is given to an individual with an original unpublished novel written in Spanish (Castilian). The winner receives over 360,000 Euros and is awarded each year, usually in September.

General Global Reach Awards

The Booker Prize Award: This award is given to promote the finest in fiction writing and provided to the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, or the Republic of Ireland. The judges come from all walks of life and they include critics, writers and persons in academia, poets, actors, and even politicians.

Caldecott Medal Awards: The Caldecott Medal is named after the nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children and is given to the artist with the most distinguished American picture book for children.

National Book Award: The National Book Awards are awarded each year to the best American books published in the following four genres: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature.

National Book Critics Circle Award: These are awarded each year in March for books published in English. They honor the best literature published in the United States in six categories. Those categories are autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. These are the only national literary awards chosen by critics themselves.

Newbery Medal Award: The Newbery Medal is named after the eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children. It is awarded to the author with the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Nobel Prize for Literature Award: Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been awarded annually for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and for peace. Awardees receive a medal, personal diploma, and a cash award.

PEN/Faulkner Award: This was founded by various writers in 1980 (PEN, international writer’s organization). It was done to bring together American writers and readers to promote a love of literature. The foundation is named after William Faulkner who used his Nobel Prize funds to create this award for young writers.

Pulitzer Prize Award: It was established in 1917. This is a U.S. award given for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition. It was created due to a provision in the will of American (Hungarian-born) publisher Joseph Pulitzer. This award is administered by Columbia University in New York City. There are 21 categories awarded yearly. Twenty of these awardees each receive $10,000 US dollars and the winner in the public service category of journalism is awarded the gold medal.

Commonwealth Writer’s Prize Award: This literary award was established in 1987 by the Commonwealth Foundation. The prizes are given to both established and new writers across the Commonwealth.

EMMA (Ethnic Multicultural Media Academy) Awards: The founder is Bobby Syed.  This organization was begun to raise awareness of discrimination through media campaigns, social networking, and the EMMA Awards. These awards are given to promote diversity within the media industry by recognizing the levels of excellence achieved by the multicultural community and the many wonderful gifts that these different ethnic groups bring to the professional and commercial success of the United Kingdom.

Successful Marketing Tips — Developing A Plan

The first step to any successful marketing program is to develop a plan. At the very least, your book marketing plan should include such things as how to package your book, how and where your books will be displayed and priced, how your books will be positioned in the market, who is your target audience, and how you will reach that particular market.

Positioning your book to sell is probably one of the most important facets of marketing, yet many authors fail to give this some thought. You need to ask yourself two basic questions. Who will buy my book, and what need does my book fulfill for my audience?

If you are competing with other authors on a particular topic, then this is more important than ever because you have to find a niche that totally sets you apart. It is this very thing that can make you successful or not. For example, if you are writing an immigrant story book then you need to find what it is about your book that sets you apart from all those other books that are on the market. If you are writing a non-fiction book about how to succeed in business then you will need to provide your reader with something that is unique or different about your approach versus other business books in the market. It is this focus that will help gear you towards a particular marketing plan.

Targeting your audience is essential to a successful book campaign. When doing this you should:

  1. Determine a demographic profile on this particular group. This includes looking at age, gender, income, education levels, and even marital status.
  2. Determine the lifestyle and values of this particular group. Begin by asking yourself what this particular group values most. Also, find out what this group relies on for decision-making when buying products. For instance, do they look at newspapers, television, use the internet, or even read books? The most important question is whether your book can help fill a specific need, or maybe increase the quality of life, or is your book considered a luxury item?
  3. Create an audience profile and look at things such as: Is your book geared towards families, is it just for children, does it target people with certain interests, or does it target those that are educated? Creating a list of certain attributes for the group you are targeting can also be helpful.

Reaching your market has no one specific answer. It is about putting all your resources and knowledge together to target a particular group and brainstorming to see what may work best for you. Here are some suggestions:

  1. It’s important to brand yourself and your book so that whenever anyone sees a particular logo or item they can automatically identify this symbol with your book. Whenever sending out any communication that has to do with your book, make sure it includes your branding information.
  2. Use various platforms to communicate and don’t be afraid to mix it up; however, have a way to monitor the effectiveness of each of these mediums.
  3. Whenever possible meet your audience in person and don’t just rely on social media platforms to do all the work for you. It’s important that people buying your books associate your face with the book you are promoting.
  4. Always look for ways to reach new markets. Don’t just rely on the same things that you have always used. Brainstorm with other people to give you new ideas because the business market is ever changing.
  5. Press releases are not as effective as they used to be. Mailboxes get inundated with press releases and most people don’t even bother to open these up anymore.
  6. The best advice is to not give up on looking for new ways to reach your target market.

Literary Artists

Have you heard of Roberto Bolano Avalos? He was born in 1953 in Santiago, Chile, and was the son of a truck driver (who was also a boxer and a teacher). He spent his early years in southern and coastal Chile.

He was a 21st century novelist and poet and is considered the best Chilean writer of his time. His novel 2666 is considered a modern masterpiece, and in 2008 the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction was awarded posthumously to him. His other works, including By Night in Chile, are designated as essential to Chilean literary circles. In 1999 he won the Romulo Gallegos Prize for his novel Los detectives salvajes (The Savage Detectives). In 2008 he was posthumously awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction for his novel 2666.

Growing up he was dyslexic and felt like an outsider amongst his peers. He was often bullied. In 1968 he moved to Mexico City with his family and dropped out of school. Eventually he went on to work as a journalist. In 1968 he moved with his family to Mexico City, dropped out of school, and after having worked as a journalist, he became active in left-wing political causes. In 1973 he moved to Chile to help build the revolution and during Pinochet’s reign he was arrested. After eight days he was rescued by two prison guards who had been former classmates. This was a key episode in his life and he discusses this experience in the story Dance Card. This is also corroborated by his former classmates in the story Detectives.  Some of Bolano’s Mexican friends, however, have cast doubt that he was even in Chile during that time. Bolano lived his life as vagabond for most of his early adulthood and thus traveled to Chile, El Salvador, Mexico, Spain, and France. He died in 2003 after his health had declined due to liver failure.

Author Events and News

  1. National Book Critics Circle Award 2012: Reyna Grande has been nominated for the Autobiography category for her novel “The Distance Between us.”
  2. Congratulations to Sergio Troncoso. His novel, From This Wicked Patch of Dust, won the Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association. He accepted the award on February 23 in El Paso, TX. In addition, check out this excellent article he wrote on getting Latino books into schools. [Click here]
  3. Congratulations to Theresa Dovalpage as UNO Press announced its 2013 Pushcart Prize nominations. Her book The Astral Plane: Stories of Cuba, the Southwest and Beyond was on the nomination list.
  4. Congratulations to R. Narvaez for being elected to the board of the Mystery Writers of America, New York Chapter.
  5. Martin Espada will be back in New York City on February 9th for a workshop and reading brought to you by Acentos and the Brecht Forum. 3-6pm. Then, he will be reading from his work at 7:00 pm. Joining him for short sets will be poets Lauren Schmidt and Rich Villar. If you missed his workshop in Jersey, this is your chance to catch up! If you ATTENDED the workshop in Jersey, there will be a brand new workshop experience! $25 at the workshop door gets you into the workshop and the reading at 7pm. For the reading only, admission is on a $6-$15 sliding scale. RSVP at
  6. To help change the landscape for our youth across America, Robert Renteria has created a school based and faith based curricula, which he donates FREE to all schools, churches, social services and youth based organizations. The Barrio program addresses social and emotional learning and aligns with the common core state learning standards. Their organization’s mission is to help inspire and motivate teens and at-risk youths to make better life choices. Anyone can request and receive, at no cost, the curricula in both English and or Spanish FREE by contacting him at the Barrio website: Also anyone can reach him directly for speaking engagements or workshops: 312-933-5619 or email him at:

Due to Mr. Renteria’s efforts and commitment to helping our youth, this civic leader received two Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., awards for excellence in his work in anti-violence, education, youth initiatives and community change. His first award was given to him by Reverend Jesse Jackson’s coalition, PUSH Excel on January 15, 2013. On January 26, 2013 he received his second award which was given to him by Chicago’s Illinois Commission on Diversity and Human Relations (ICDHR). Congratulations to Robert Renteria for working towards helping our youth!

Suggested Books to Read

House Divided by Raul Ramos y Sanchez: An excellent story about a man named Mano Suarez who makes a choice to fight against injustice and in turn also has to face the consequences of his past deeds. His first book America Libre in this trilogy is centered around his marriage. In this book, House Divided, it is mostly centered on his relationship with his son.

Esperanza: A Latina Story by Sandra C. Lopez: great story about a young Latina and her life growing up in the barrio. Her father is a gambler, a drunk, and beats up his wife. In addition, Esperanza ends up being the target for a girl in her P.E. class. In spite of all the odds against her, she manages to overcome and go to college.  Although Esperanza’s life has many downturns, it’s an uplifting story and is well written.

8 Ways to Say “I Love My Life by Josephina Lopez and Sylvia Mendoza: A collection of autobiographical stories from eight Latinas who encourage others to discover their personal power and inner strength. It is an awe inspiring book of how the human soul can emerge and redefine itself.

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Featured Interview

The Latino Author is featuring published author Dr. Cynthia Colón. This is Dr. Colón’s first book and covers candid responses to a hectic process of becoming an author. I believe you’ll be impressed with the information she has chosen to share with our readers.

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