Looking for a list of the world’s top book awards? You’ve come to the right place.
First, a question: do book awards still matter? After all, in music circles, it’s pretty common to hear artists dismiss awards like the Grammys or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as nonsense. Even the Academy Awards has had A-list honorees refuse to show up to collect their hardware.
Fortunately, that that mentality is rare among writers. Whether publishing their first book or their 100th, literary appreciation never goes out of style among novelists. Fortunately, awards also mean something to readers too. Book buyers have millions of titles to choose from, and awards help novels stand out from the avalanche of new releases each year.
But finding the right award to submit to can be as challenging as finding the right college scholarship. So much depends on genre, publishing career stage, country of residence, and at times even gender.
Making things more complicated, many awards also require that the author be a member of a private writer or publishing group. Others require submissions to come from publishers or agents.
Another wrinkle is that certain awards also require finalists and winners to purchase the award seals they earn.
This comprehensive list of book awards can help cut through the madness. For convenience, the major genres are listed first, followed by specialty categories.
Mystery and Thriller Book Awards
The Best Thriller Book Awards (aka The Besties).
Novelists compete in one of 15 categories, including Action, Crime, Conspiracy, Historical, Horror, Legal, Medical, Military, Mystery, Paranormal, Political, Psychological, Romantic Suspense, Sci-Fi and Spy.
Eligibility: This annual award is open to all published books – traditional, indie or small. No membership in any writing organization is required. No separate fees are required to use winner and finalist seals. More details here.
The Edgar Awards
Fittingly, this award for mystery authors is named in honor of Edgar Allen Poe and put on by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA). In a very Poe-like tradition, short stories are accepted as well as several other formats and genres.
Eligibility: It’s complicated. Self-published books are not permitted. As for membership in MWA, “while the author does not need to be a member of MWA, the work itself must make the author eligible for active status. Only works from a publisher on our approved list are eligible to be submitted.” There are also various rules about submitting to committees. We advise a close reading of the rules. More details here.
Select Past Winners: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara; Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney; Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman; These Women by Ivy Pochoda; The Missing American by Kwei Quartey; The Distant Dead by Heather Young.
This award for excellence in crime fiction is organized by the Crime Writers’ Association in the United Kingdom.
Eligibility: In general, publishing houses must submit books for consideration, but there are also several Daggers which are not nominated by publishers. For example, the Debut Dagger is a competition for the opening of a crime novel by a writer who isn’t represented by an agent by the time the competition closes, and who has never had a traditional contract for a full-length novel. More details here.
Select Past Winners: City of Ghosts by Ben Creed; Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith; The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths; Midnight Atlanta by Thomas Mullen; Blacktop Wasteland by S A Cosby; House of Correction by Nicci French.
ITW Thriller Awards
This award series for excellence is organized by the The International Thriller Writers (IWT). There are several categories, including hardcover, softcover, audiobook, short stories and more.
Eligibility: In general, books must come from a recognized publishing house, making it difficult for self-published authors. Active IWT members may also apply. More details here.
Select Past Winners: Clive Cussler; Christopher Reich; Adam Fawer; Pride Runs Deep, R. Cameron Cooke; Michael Haneke.
Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction
Presented by the University of Alabama, this award is presented annually to a published work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.
Eligibility: Books must be “Readily available to readers via commercial sources (retail or online bookstores such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or iTunes). Other rules apply. More details here.
Select Past Winners: John Grisham; Michael Connelly; Paul Goldstein; Deborah Johnson; Attica Locke; James Grippando; C.E. Tobisman; Sharon Bala.
Bram Stoker Awards
Presented by the Horror Writers Association (HWA), this award named after the legendary author of Dracula offers awards in multiple categories, including first novel, anthology, young adult and even poetry.
Eligibility: There are a lot of options for both self-published and traditionally published authors. Note that the HWA has strict guidelines for publicizing awards. More details here.
Selected List of Past Winners: Linda Addison; Maria Alexander; Michael Arnzen;
Clive Barker; Laird Barron; Charles Beaumont; Robert Bloch; Bruce Boston; Nancy Holder; Alessandro Manzetti; Steve Niles.
The Hugo Award
Presented by the World Science Fiction Society, this award is for writers of science fiction and fantasy.
Eligibility: Membership in “Worldcon” is required. Authors and publishers cannot technically submit books. The Hugo Awards nomination process is open to every member of the current and previous Worldcon, meaning that the votes can potentially be cast by thousands of people. More details here.
Select Past Winners: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse; The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin; Harrow The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir; Piranesi by Susanna Clarke; The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal.
The Nebula Award winners are nominated by and selected by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).
Eligibility: Authors and publishers cannot enter their own books per se. SFWA members nominate sci-fi and fantasy books for consideration. With that said, winners don’t have to be members of the SFWA. More details here.
Selected List of Past Winners: A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker; The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal; The Stone Sky (Broken Earth #3) by N. K. Jemisin; All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders; Uprooted by Naomi Novik; Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy #1) by Jeff Vandermeer; Ancillary Justice: Imperial Radch 1 by Ann Leckie.
Presented by the The Orwell Foundation, this annual award is named after 1984 and Animal Farm author George Orwell. The award honors great fictional and non-fiction works (currently including both novels and journalism) that “make political writing into an art.”
Eligibility: While the definition of a political work is broad, works must be published “by a recognised publisher or imprint based in the UK. If a book is also published in the USA or Canada, it must be published simultaneously in the UK.” More details here.
Select Past Winners:Joshua Yaffa; Kate Clanchy; AliSmith; Colson Whitehead; Anna Burns; John Bew; James Week; Alan Johnson.
Romantic Novel Awards
Put on by the Romantic Novelist’s Association, the Romantic Novel Awards celebrate excellence in romantic fiction and publishing. The RNA offers several fun individual awards, including The Romantic Comedy Novel Award, the Fantasy Romantic Novel Award and The Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award. Some awards are determined by reader voting while others are determined by the RNA.
Eligibility: Open to members and non-members of the RNA. Various rules apply to books not submitted by agents or publishers. More details here.
Select Past Winners: Clare Pooley; Kate Hardy; Shirley Mann; Carole Matthews; Louise Douglas; Christina Courtenay; Milly Johnson; Catherine Tinley.
This award honoring exceptional romance writers is presented by the The Romance Writers of America (RWA). RITA includes several categories, currently including Erotic Romance, Paranormal Romance, Historical Romance and more.
Eligibility: This is a rare award where speed is essential, as the RITA Awards currently cap submissions at 2,000 entries. As far as membership, the current eligibility requirements read as follows: “The RITA Contest is open to members of RWA as well as non-members, but priority will be given to members.” More details here.
Select Past Winners: Claim Me by J. Kenner; The Saint by Tiffany Reisz; For Real: A Spires Story by Alexis Hall; Off the Clock by Roni Loren; Wicked Dirty by J. Kenner; Three-Way Split by Elia Winters.
The Christy Awards
This award, named for the bestselling novel Christy, is organized by the The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. The Christy Awards promote fiction written from a Christian worldview. There are several categories, including Historical, First Novel and Mystery/Suspense.
Eligibility: Entry for traditionally published authors is straightforward. Self-published authors are eligible only if they meet certain requirements. More details here.
Select Past Winners: Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes; Now and Then and Always by Melissa Tagg; A Long Time Comin’ by Robin W. Pearson; The Medallion by Cathy Gohlke; The Painted Castle by Kristy Cambron.
Young Adult Books
AAAS/Subaru Prize for Excellence in Science Books
How cool is it that a car company is promoting great literature? The good people at Subaru and the American Association for the Advancement of Science celebrate outstanding science writing and illustration for children and young adults.
Eligibility: Books are submitted by publishers. More details here.
The Morris Award
The Young Adult Library Services Association awards debut books written for young adults. The award’s namesake is William C. Morris, an influential innovator in the publishing world and an advocate for marketing books for children and young adults. Separately, publishers may purchase seals for nominees, finalists and winners.
Eligibility: Publishers, authors, agents, or editors may not nominate their own titles. More details here.
The Michael L. Printz Award
This award, presented by the Young Adult Library Services Association, seeks “the best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit, each year.”
Eligibility: Publishers, authors, agents, or editors may not nominate their own titles. More details here.
Presented by the American Library Association, The Newbery Medal is the oldest and most prestigious award for children’s books in the world.
Eligibility: Authors must be citizens or residents of the United States whose book is intended for children up to age 14. Aside from that, the award is open: “There are no limitations as to the character of the book considered except that it be original work. More details here.
List of Various Non-Genre/Cross-Genre Book Awards
The Best Indie Book Award. The “BIBA”honors exceptional works of fiction and nonfiction across genres.
The Booker Prize. Legendary book award recognized worldwide.
The Encore Award. This award honors UK writers who avoid the sophomore slump. Presented by the Royal Society of Literature, the honors go to outstanding second novels.
Eric Hoffer Book Award. Offers a grand prize for one independently published book per year, as well as miscellaneous other honors.
GoodReads Choice Awards. GoodReads analyzes statistics from the millions of books added, rated, and reviewed on Goodreads to nominate 15 books in each category.
The IndieReaders Discovery Award. Tons of categories to apply for, and top winners will be sent to a top literary management agency to be considered for representation.
The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. A huge cash prize is awarded to the winner of this award, sponsored by the City Council of Dublin, Ireland.
National Book Awards. Each year, more than 20 judges honor the best literature in America.
The National Indie Excellence Awards. As the name indicates, independently books are recognized in this award sponsored by Smarketing, LLC.
PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel. Internationally-recognized awards with roots in Earnest Hemingway’s beloved state of Wyoming.
Women’s Prize for Fiction. This UK-based award celebrates books written by women writers and typically offers a substantial monetary award.