Advice From An Award-Winning Author: Sherrill S. Cannon on Winning Contests and Awards


Winning contests and awards is a fun and rewarding way to amp up publicity for your book and enjoy the book sales that come along with it!

Take advice from an author who has won numerous awards, Sherrill S. Cannon, and perhaps you will find yourself with a long list of credentials just like she has!

In less than four years, my six rhyming picture books My Fingerpaint Masterpiece, Manner-Man, Gimme-Jimmy, The Magic Word, Peter and the Whimper-Whineys and Santa’s Birthday Gift have received twenty-three 2011-14 National awards.   Am I special? I don’t know… As background, I am a former teacher, mother of four and a grandmother of ten, which is one of my proudest achievements!

My newest book, My Fingerpaint Masterpiece, has just been released. All of my books are also part of a fund-raising effort: for the CureJM Foundation, to help find a cure for Juvenile Myositis, an incurable children’s disease. 50% of the cost of the books is donated to the fundraising cause.  We have also just added another fundraiser for the I’m Bully Free organization, found at to help kids cope with bullying!  Manner-Man just loves this site!!!

Incidentally, I am also the author of seven published and internationally performed plays for elementary school children, which have been produced in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom as well as Australia, Austria, Botswana, Cambodia, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Poland, Singapore, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates (so far). I also travel with my husband of 54 years throughout North America in our RV, sharing my books along the way!

I have been asked to offer a few suggestions for “how to win an award for your book”, which I really wish I knew!!!  But I can offer some ideas about how to have your book considered for an award…which really involves your judgment in choosing contests to enter, and your ability to follow directions on how to submit your book for the contest.  Whether or not you win is up to the judges!!

I insert here some succinct advice from the CEO of SBPRA:


Do Enter Contests If:

  • You believe in the quality of your writing
  • You have several 5-star or 4-star reviews from qualified reviewers (not just friends and family.)
  • You are looking for a strong marketing “bump”

Do Not Waste Your Money On Contests If:

  • Your book is not edited
  • Your book is not published
  • Your pitch is not polished (looked at by a competent 3rd party).


Now, for those of you who feel you qualify:


First of all, I feel that winning an award is one the most helpful tools for marketing books.  An award gives your book instant credibility, since it has been selected by judges to represent the best of your genre compared to many other books submitted. When potential buyers select books written by less well-known authors, they tend to choose award-winning books.

Next, let me also remind you that I write children’s picture books, so my “expertise” is really in that genre, especially when recommending suitable contests.  However, these contests have many, varied categories for entries for all kinds of books – and you must be sure to enter your book in the right one.  (Hint: Take a look at previous winning books in each potential category.)  One other comment:  you will note that I recommend contests that are possible for “Indie” (Independent & Small Press) authors to have a chance.  The really “famous” ones – like the Newbery and Caldecott and ALA, etc. – are pretty much controlled by the “Traditional” publishers.  You can enter, but please don’t hold your breath!

The first step would be to be sure that you have several 5-star or 4-star reviews from someone other than friends and family.  This will let you know if your book is potentially award-winning, especially since contests often seem to look at your amazon and Barnes and Noble reviews. Some (like Readers Favorite) will offer you a chance for a “fast-track” review (for a fee) or will get your book reviewed for submission (included in contest fee.)  I usually go for the fast-track, since it gives me some marketing promotion material early, as well as a better idea of whether or not to submit.  You should also choose a contest that will best appreciate your book and that has a reasonable contest fee.  They seem to range from $50-$95, depending on how soon you submit your application.  I wouldn’t recommend paying over that, although there are some contests like the Mom’s Choice that charge $300!  (Remember, you want to win awards, not buy them!)

I recommend the following:

  • Readers Favorite
  • Reader Views,
  • Indie Excellence,
  • NABE Pinnacle Achievement,
  • Indie Next Gen,
  • International Book Awards (IBA)
  • USA Best Book Awards
  • IPPY Awards
  • Dan Poynter Global eBook Awards
  • JM Northern Media Book Festivals


I have entered all of the awards, and feel they are reputable and have good recognition value as well as reasonable entry fees.  Most of the above require paperback versions (which I prefer since my books are for small children) but several of them also allow eBook submissions.  They all have many other categories for whatever genre book you are choosing to submit. Obviously the Dan Poynter Global eBook Contest is only for digital books.

If you are just starting out, a good way to get into the contest mode is through the NABE Pinnacle Achievement awards, and some of what I call the “Regional” awards offered through the JM Northern Media Book Festivals.  You can find them all online.  I have entered the London Book Fair (for UK exposure) and the Los Angeles Book Festival (since I happened to be in LA during the time of the awards.)  There are many other locations for these Award contests throughout the U.S., so you should check their website. Unfortunately, the award ceremonies for these regional award contests are fairly expensive if you wish to attend (even though they do provide an opportunity for each author to give a speech)…but it’s a nice way to find out if your book has award potential!  You can always skip the ceremony and request an award certificate and stickers to put on your book covers.

Once you have selected a contest, you MUST FOLLOW DIRECTIONS!  First, check to see when is the Deadline for submissions, then check the available categories to decide where best to place your book, and then fill out the application completely and correctly. (They may ask for number of pages, publication year, ISBN, sometimes a synopsis, word-count, whatever – so be prepared to fill it out accurately.) Sometimes the applications are available for download to be printed and mailed, and sometimes you can place them on-line.  I always print out my application form to check it for accuracy before submitting it, especially for on-line submissions, and sometimes you are required to print it out to include it with the copy of your book!  Whatever they ask you to do, DO IT!  You can usually choose PayPal or Credit Card for payment – but sometimes they will require a check.  (Please be sure that is filled out with the correct amount and signed, for inclusion with your submission.)

Then be sure to include the correct number of books required, with whatever forms they have asked you to include, along with payment if by check, and address it to the correct address provided by the Contest!  (I always send mine by USPS Flat Rate Priority mailer, which includes confirmation with tracking information. The mailer also provides protection for your books.)

Then the hardest part:  waiting for the announcement release of the award winners!!!  Good luck!!!  I hope that this will encourage many of you to submit your books and eBooks for contests – and I REALLY hope you will be a winner too.

Please fill out this form to ask me your questions and I will post the answers here. There will also be an option to have me respond privately, if desired.

I should mention also, that if you happen to write rhyming books, there are other considerations affecting award winning.   If it rhymes, then it needs meter… I would be happy to go into that with anyone interested!

I am so looking forward to interacting with our talented new authors, and providing answers from an author’s point of view to any of the myriad questions we all have at some point.  Future blogs might address how to go about requesting reviews, communicating on social media, what to do after you win an award, why ignore negative attitudes about awards and contests, as well as Indie publishers from traditionally published authors, and anything else you would like to discuss.  Please just let me know!!!


Sherrill Cannon

Somewhere in America



For those interested, here is the list of awards…


Sherrill S. Cannon – 23 Awards:  (In Year Received)


2014 –  National Indie Excellence Finalist – Manner-Man

2014 – NABE Pinnacle Achievement Award  – My Fingerpaint Masterpiece

2014 – Reader Views Reviewer’s Choice – Winner – Manner-Man

2014 – Rebecca’s Reads Choice Awards – H.M. – Manner-Man

2014 – Los Angeles Book Festival – Winner – Manner-Man

2014 – London Book Fair H.M – Manner-Man

2013 – Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal – Manner-Man

2013 – NABE Pinnacle Achievement Award – Manner-Man

2013 – Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Silver Medal – Gimme-Jimmy

2013 – Indie Excellence Finalist – Gimme-Jimmy

2013 – Reader Views Reviewers Choice 3rd Place – Gimme-Jimmy

2012 – Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal – Gimme-Jimmy

2012 – Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist – The Magic Word

2012 – Dan Poynter’s Global eBook 3rd Place – The Magic Word

2012 – International Book Awards Finalist – The Magic Word

2012 – NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award – Gimme-Jimmy

2012 – Reader Views Reviewers Choice 2nd Place – The Magic Word

2011 – NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award – The Magic Word

2011 – The USA “Best Books 2011” Finalist – Peter and the Whimper-Whineys

2011 – Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal – Peter and the Whimper-Whineys

2011 – Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal – Santa’s Birthday Gift

2011  – Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal – The Magic Word

2011 – Indie Excellence Finalist – Santa’s Birthday Gift