21 September 2012 - (1) Australian Book Awards - Fame or Farce?

Quote of the day:

"It is not the cards you are dealt but what you do with them that counts."



- Fame or Farce?

G'day guys,

Today I want to touch on a very important subject, one I've had some personal dealings with - Australian Book Awards.  In some quarters it is considered to be a very, very sensitive issue. The 'lucky country', as we (Australia) are often called, has become well known for book awards such as the Miles Franklin Award, Children's Book Council of Australia Award (CBCA) and five of the six State Premier's Awards. Sadly, the newly elected Premier of Queensland dumped his award within days of coming into office. Well done, Premier. However, some keen people did step up to the plate and announced the Queensland Literary Awards. But are they all a level playing field, and is this the 'lucky country'? Read on ...

Are all books published in Australia eligible to enter such awards? No! Self-published authors are not eligible to enter the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards or the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. More about that later.

The point of this subject today relates directly to what I recently posted on this blog (The Struggle of IndiePENdent Authors- 16 September 2012) and I hope this information enlightens those of you who have no idea what really happens in regard to literary awards in this country, and the plight of self-published authors. This year I entered eleven of the following book awards. Hereunder, I name the awards, state what the entry fees were, mention postage costs and also how many of my books I had to submit for judging. By the way, none of the books are returned after judging.

You might find this very interesting:

Miles Franklin Award – 7 books required – $75.00 entry fee.

Queensland Literary Awards – 4 books required – no fee.

CAL Waverley Library Award for Literature – 5 books required – $55.00 entry fee.

The Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature – 4 books required – no fee.

Commonwealth Book Prize (London) – 1 book required – no fee.

Victorian Premier’s Literary Awardsineligible for self-published authors!

Prime Minister’s Literary Awardsineligible for self-published authors!

South Australian Premier’s Award – 8 books entered – 3 categories  – no fee.

Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards (CBCA) – 10 books –2 categories - $176.00 fee.

National Literary Awards (FAW) – 2 books entered – 2 categories - $30.00 fee.

Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards – 10 books entered – 2 categories – no fee.

New South Wales Premier’s Awards – 7 books entered – 2 categories – no fee.

New South Wales Premier’s History Awards – 3 books entered – no fee.


Awards entered: 11

Books entered: 61

Entry fees paid: $336.00

Postage costs: $305.00

Book production costs: $643.55

Total cost: $1,284.55

Ah ... the 'Lucky Country'.

You may ask, ‘What happened, Clancy? Did ya crack anything? Well, I did crack a ‘Commended’ in the National Literary Awards run by the Fellowship of Australian Authors (FAW) which gave me a second award medallion to plaster on the front cover of the book I entered. But nothing resulted in the other ten awards. I guess you are now wondering who did make the short lists for these awards?  Firstly, there was not one self-published author on any short list – not one! Secondly, many of those short-listed were well known authors. Thirdly, every author on the short lists were published by mainstream publishers.

Mm … you may sigh and say, ‘So what, Clancy?’ Well, some of the awards actually encouraged self-published authors to enter, yet none were mentioned in any short list, and only one debut novelist (first book) made the short lists - ONE! Bear in mind, that many of these awards would have received approximately 800 book entries. That’s a hellova lot of authors, eh? Yep, this country has an extraordinary number of writers for our population, and the average publisher would receive about 2,000 manuscripts to consider per year ... if they are accepting manuscripts. So, here is my dilemma. If most of the awards had roughly 800 entries, and this country has so many writers and authors, how come not one self-published author was mentioned on any short list? Great question, eh? Are you curious?

With all those books entered, it sounds like an awesome job for the judges, and we all know their job is subjective. Right? However, at this point I wish to give some brownie points to those who devised the rules for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award and the Victorian Premier’s Award. At least they had the courage to make a stand and deny self-published authors from entering their prestigious awards, fearing their books would never be good enough – not that I agree with their stand. But, the other awards that allowed self-published authors to enter were quite willing to take the entry fees and books of self-published authors, knowing full well that those self-published writers had no hope of cracking a mention. Rough, eh? Yep, indeed.

Okay, so some of you probably think my book was crappy, and I’m just venting. Nope, I am raising these issues for and on behalf of other writers and authors, here and around the globe, but mainly here in the 'lucky country'. You do not survive 13 years as a full time writer, with 19 manuscripts, poetry, photography and 146 short stories to your name by venting. You survive because you are passionate about what you do. You also work hard, study your craft, ask sensible questions to sensible people, study, seek advice, research and keep pushing upstream against the tide like a 'literary salmon', hoping to crack the 'literary ceiling'.

Anyway, for any of you doubters, check my blog post for 11th September 2012 and make up your own mind. It outlines all book reviews for ‘Gunnedah Hero’ thus far - the book I entered in these awards. Pay special attention to the review by John Adams, a top book reviewer for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s magazine, ‘Reading Time’. John is no slouch. Interestingly, that review appeared a few weeks before the short list was announced by the CBCA ... but I did not even crack a mention in their awards. To this day I am still trying to work out how John got a copy of my book. My assumption is that it was probably given to him by one of the judges. I don't know!

Not only, to have 'Gunnedah Hero' ready for sale, I learnt how to, and organised, the following:

1. Paid $1,250.00 to top manuscript and poetry editors to check my work, make appropriate changes and offer suggested improvements. Brilliant editors to work with: Rebus Press

2. Paid $200.oo to a gifted graphic artist who used my own photographs to produce the book's cover and prepare the manuscript for printing.

3. Organised for an ISBN number (International book number) and CIP number (National Library of Australia).

4. Designed and printed a matching bookmark to be sold with the book.

5. Negotiated nine quotes and printed the book. I picked the second cheapest quote because it was the only company to send me a sample book, and I have never been happier with the quality.

This is how it looks now. Would you say it looks scruffy or unprofessional? I don't. Notice the Quick Response code / logo in the bottom left hand corner of the back cover? Yep, probably the first book in Australia to include one. Using a Smartphone, you can click on that logo and go straight to my website. Cool, eh? Okay, that's the cover, what did the inside look like? Refer to my point above, my blog post for 11th September 2012! They can't all be wrong, eh?

'Gunnedah Hero'

Now, I do not wish to single out any particular award, but there are some very interesting points that are relevant to one.

1. One major award, dedicated to all writing for kids, is a volunteer, not for profit organisation that was established in 1945. It's an organisation that is quote, 'passionate about children's and young adult literature.” “exerts a profound influence on children’s books" ... "promotes the literary experience for children and assures the scope and vitality of books for children."

2.This award allows self-published authors to enter its awards.

3. The quotes in point 1 above may be so, but their awards are the most expensive to enter. For me, it cost close to $400.00 to enter this award, including 10 books, entry fee and postage.

4. When I checked the short list I found 30 authors. Many of them, if not most, were well acclaimed authors: Gerard Michael Bauer, Bill Condon, Jackie French, Emily Rodda etc. The list goes on. Not one was a self-published author. Surprised? Notwithstanding what I have just said, I do sincerely wish the winning authors my heartiest congratulations, but wait. There is more ...

5. All books short-listed were published by mainstream publishers: Scholastic, Allen & Unwin, Penguin, Random House, Walker Books, Black Dog Books etc. That list also goes on.

6. However, after careful scrutiny of the shortlist, I noticed two interesting paragraphs at the end of the page on their website: ‘Major Donors’ & ‘Benefactors’. Mm … what did I find in those paragraphs? Three of the authors listed on the short list were also ‘major donors’ and … wait for this … 27 of the 30 publishers on the short list were either donors or benefactors.

I guess all this begs a very big question, 'Is it a level playing field?' Mm ...

You will notice my post of 16th September mentioned a worldwide organisation called IndiePENdents.org. It is a fast growing organisation of independent (self-published) authors from around the world who have banded together to judge their own work. Three author/ members read each book before it gets the seal of approval. Should it be deemed acceptable, a special logo is issued. Reason? It's our way of letting members of the general public know that these books have been checked for presentation, grammar etc. I have read three of them and I can honestly say that they were beautifully prepared by authors who cared about the presentation of their books. One of them was a true life story in India. How it has never been picked up by a mainstream publisher or film maker is beyond me.

So, if you see this logo on a book, give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Don't go away. More on this subject in tomorrow’s blog.


Today is International Day of Peace. Doubt we'll ever achieve it, but I guess it's like justice - worth battling for.

I'm Clancy Tucker