Award Winning?

Here’s a question. At what point is a writer justified in calling themselves “award winning” or “prize winning”?

It’s a common enough claim on social media. “So and so, award/prize winning writer/author.”

(For the rest of this blog, if I say “award winning”, think of it as “award or prize winning”. It’s less clumsy than stating it every single time!)

Now, I’m not questioning any of those writers’ claims to be award winning. This is not a rant about people claiming to be award winning when they’re not. I’m sure the vast majority of the claims are true – I just wonder what counts as “award winning” in these cases, and where to draw the line? If I won a school award for a story back when I was 9 years old, does that mean I can claim to be “award winning”? Is a “prize” the same as an “award”? Does there need to be a monetary value to the prize or award? Lots and lots of questions that I don’t have the answer to.

In my own case, I could confidently call myself a “prize winning” writer (I don’t think “award winning” would be right in my case) because in 2004 I won the oncewritten.com Midnight Hour Halloween Fiction Contest with the story “The Midnight Hour”. Then, in 2006, I won the Writing Prompt Contest, also on oncewritten.com, with the story “Conversation”. Both of these contests had cash prizes, and the proof of my winning is still there on the website. But I don’t tag myself as “prize winning” because these prizes were some time ago and I’m not sure they’re relevant to me as a writer now. Am I right to do that? Or am I missing some great marketing potential by not telling everyone?

I personally think that the best way to do this is that all claims of “award winning” or “prize winning” should be accompanied by the particular prize or award won, and its date. That way the visitor/reader can judge for themselves whether the claim is relevant or impressive enough to be taken note of. I know some writers already do this, but I think all such claims should be accompanied by those details. As long as the claim is genuine, where’s the harm?

If you’ve won an award or prize, be proud of it. If it’s relevant enough for you to tell everyone, tell us which particular award or prize you won, and when. Boast about it. Why not? I personally love to know that a writer I’m looking at is a past Stoker or Hugo Award winner (or similar). It’s shows they have some ability as a writer and are worth a closer look.

And if you’ve never won an award? Don’t worry, there’s lots of us out here. Doesn’t mean we’re any less as writers, just that we don’t tick certain boxes or simply haven’t been “discovered” yet by the people who vote in these things. Show how good you are through your writing. Ultimately, that’s where it counts.

As for tagging myself a “prize winning writer”? I don’t think I’ll bother. Doesn’t mean I won’t mention it somewhere in my profile or in interviews though 🙂

What about reviews?

There seem to be some differing opinions about book reviews out there among writers. This is my personal view.

I don’t think any writer should ever get so blase about reviews that they criticize others for drawing attention to them. Having a loyal following may mean you do not need to take any notice of reviews, or you may simply choose to ignore them anyway, but reviews are important to writers trying to build a readership and, for the many writers who suffer from low self confidence, a good review lets them know that somebody else out there actually appreciates their work. It is up to the individual writer whether they read their reviews or not but it is unfair to somehow consider it unprofessional to admit their existence (I do think it’s unprofessional to respond to bad reviews but that’s another issue). I like getting reviews, good or bad, because it shows me that someone is reading my work and that I’m not completely wasting my time when I write. Good reviews make me happy, bad reviews can hurt, but both show someone cared enough to sit down and type. I envy those writers who feel reviews don’t matter because they have reached a stage where they know that their work is appreciated and worthwhile. Not all of us are so lucky. So while I personally might not get ecstatic and do a happy dance at every review (because I’m far too boring for that) I will tell people about them because that review might just be the one that persuades someone to try my work who would not have otherwise done so. And yes, whether we like it or not, Amazon is the most important online venue to get your reviews. So, if you read, review it when you’ve done, and if you write… well, it’s up to you whether you take any notice or not but I think we really should listen to what the reader has to say, don’t you?