Updated: Jul 8, 2018
So this week I received an award from Emit Blackwell for a short story of mine - Brush Strokes. (You can read it here, or you can listen to it here.) This is quite an honor for me, and especially for this particular story. I first wrote this story way back at the turn of the century - around 2001 or so. I submitted it to some online review groups, and got some good feedback, and I tweaked the story a bit. Then I set it aside and life happened. I let it sit on my hard drive, then an external hard drive (and a thumb drive at one point) but never did anything with it. It managed to survive two hard drive crashes and I believe at least 3 computer upgrades. I dusted it off earlier this year and read over it again. I still liked the story, but I knew I needed to make a few changes, to bring the story up to the current time. While not a sci-fi story, it is a story set in a contemporary setting, so I needed to add in the proper amount of tech for my characters. I sent it on to some authors who's opinions I respect and got some more feedback for the story, and then I published it to the blog here. When Emit started his short story contest I sent it on, hoping for the best, but also not holding my breath. (I'm always my own worse critic.)
In addition to the award for Brush Strokes, Coy and I recently received recognition for Wrath of the Fury Blade, being named a finalist in the 2018 Next Generation INDIE Book Awards. This was another honor for us to receive national recognition for our second novel. Being named a finalist is just as exciting and just as gratifying as if we'd won the whole thing, especially when you see who your competition is. Coy and I experienced the same thing back in 2007 when our first card game, Bankruptcy: The Card Game, was named a finalist for the Origins Award. Not bad for a small, indie game company who was just 3 years old at the time.
Why do I submit my work for awards? Is it to stroke my ego? Is it to declare that I am better than other people at something? Is it to just to get a sticker or a small plaque or medal that I can show off? Maybe a little of all of these, if I am honest with myself. But I think the bigger reason I send off my work for awards - even ones that have an entry fee (and there are a lot of authors who refuse to do this - but that should probably be a separate blog post) - is to get my work out in front of people. Award contests involve sending your work to be read by different people and to be judged on its merits. You get exposure and you get feedback (sometimes even actual critiques and comments, but even without this just learning whether you made the cut or not is feedback). Award submissions are a form of marketing, which is why I have no problem with sending my work off to contests with entry fees. The end result is that many other people have seen your work, and whether you win or not, isn't that the goal for authors? To get your work read by as many people as possible? You never can tell what may happen because you entered a contest. And if you are a finalist, or short listed, or even get to be a winner, then you have hit marketing gold. You can put the sticker on your book, add it to your website, and share it with the Twitterverse. It lets readers know that the work you have put out there was good enough to be recognized by others.
Certainly, not all awards are created equal. Getting a Hugo or Nebula Award is a far different thing than getting the Blackwell Short Story Award (no offense Emit). But if you approach them all from the perspective that awards are a form of marketing, then the perceived "prestige" of the award doesn't matter. So I will continue to submit my work for awards with the knowledge that I am getting my stories out to many different readers. And who knows, maybe someday I will get that Hugo.