Our expanded 2023 list of the best book awards includes the most prestigious honors for writers of mysteries, thrillers, romance novels, legal thrillers, science fiction, young adult, children’s books, general literature and other genres.
We maintain this list for authors and publishers because book awards are an essential tool for building an audience. In a survey of 613 authors, publishers and publicists about book marketing tactics, 73% reported that book awards are important or very important. Nevertheless, it’s surprisingly difficult to find truly credible awards that most writers are eligible for. Finding the right award to submit to can be as challenging as finding the right college scholarship.
For both authors and publishers, book awards can be life-changing, paving the way for new opportunities and elevating their status in the industry. Winning or placing in the best book awards is seen as a stamp of approval by experts and readers alike. These accolades acknowledge the author’s tireless efforts and determination, and for those using traditional publishers, underscores the publisher’s dedication to crafting exceptional work.
Awards often result in tangible outcomes as well, such as increased media attention and visibility, which can translate into higher sales and a more robust market presence. This heightened exposure can unlock doors to international rights deals, film adaptations, and future publishing agreements. In essence, book awards act as a catalyst for growth and success, fortifying an author’s reputation and propelling their career to unprecedented heights.
About Book Award Eligibility
Eligibility for many of the best book awards depends on genre, publisher, publishing career stage, nationality, country of residence, and at times even gender. Making things more complicated, many of the best 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 beyond eligibility, and one that extends beyond the publishing world, is that certain awards also require finalists and winners to purchase the award seals they earn.
This comprehensive list of the best book awards can help cut through the madness. For convenience, the major genres are listed first, followed by specialty categories. Awards that are dependent on very specific requirements, or that are geared mostly toward inexperienced writers, are listed at the end.
So if you are looking for a comprehensive list book of awards, you’ve come to the right place.
List of the Best Crime, Mystery and Thriller Book Awards
1) 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: 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 reading the rules closely. 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.
2) The BestThrillers.com Book Awards
Novelists compete in one of 15 categories, including Action, Crime, Conspiracy, Fantasy & Dystopian, Historical, Horror, Legal, Medical, Military, Mystery, Paranormal, Political, Psychological, 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. Announcement for the 2023 thriller book awards.
Select Past Winners: Girl Missing by Kate Gable; Huron Breeze by Landon Beach; The Money by David Shawn Klein; Cover Your Tracks by Daco Auffenorde; The Silver Waterfall by Kevin Miller; Have You Seen Me? by Alexandrea Weis; Tokyo Zangyo by Michael Pronko; Standby Counsel by Alexi Venice.
3) The Daggers
This award for excellence in crime fiction is organized by the Crime Writers’ Association in the United Kingdom. The Daggers includes honors such as the “Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award.”
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; Cop Town by Karin Slaughter.
4) 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.
List of the Best Cross-Genre Book Awards
5) The Costa Prize
Launched in 1971, the Costa Book Awards is one of the UK’s most prestigious and popular book prizes and celebrates the most enjoyable books of the year by writers resident in the UK and Ireland. Uniquely, the prize has five categories – First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – with one of the five winning books selected as the overall Costa Book of the year and each category is judged separately by a panel of three judges per category. The Costa Book of the Year is then chosen by a nine-member panel which includes representatives from the original panels who are joined by other well-known people who love reading.
Eligibility: Your publisher must enter your book. Publishers should contact the Booksellers Association to ensure they receive an entry form More details here.
Select Past Winners: The Kids by Hannah Lowe; Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson.
6) The Booker Prize
This legendary book award recognized worldwide is awarded each year for the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland. A five-person panel constituted by authors, librarians, literary agents, publishers, and booksellers is appointed by the Booker Prize Foundation each year to choose the winning book
Eligibility: Only publishers can submit entries to the prizes; authors and agents are not permitted to enter the prizes directly. Submissions can be made here.
Select Past Winners: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood; Milkman by Anna Burns; Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.
7) The Best Indie Book Award
The “BIBA”honors exceptional works of fiction and nonfiction across genres by independent authors.
Eligibility: Entries are limited to independently (indie) published books, including those from small presses, e-book publishers, and self-published authors.
Select Past Winners: Death’s Debt by Dennis K. Crosby; Eagle Ascending by Dan Whitfield; Gaia’s Game by Ken Stark.
8) National Book Awards
The mission of the National Book Foundation is to celebrate the best literature published in the United States, expand its audience, and ensure that books have a prominent place in our culture. On March 16, 1950, publishers, editors, writers, and critics gathered at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City to celebrate the first annual National Book Awards. Since then, the series has become perhaps the best known book award in the United States, more than 20 judges honor the best literature in America.
Eligibility: For the Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature Awards, authors must be US citizens, or if authors are non-US citizens or have particularly complex immigration issues, there is a petition process. Detailed guidelines define an “American” author. Authors cannot submit books directly. Self-published books are only eligible if the author/publisher publishes the work of other authors in addition to their own.
Select Past Winners: The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty; The Birdcatcher by Gayl Jones; Balladz by Sharon Olds.
9) GoodReads Choice Awards
The Goodreads Choice Awards is a yearly award program, first launched on Goodreads in 2009. Winners are determined by users voting on books that Goodreads has nominated or books of their choosing, released in the given year.
Eligibility: GoodReads analyzes statistics from the millions of books added, rated, and reviewed on Goodreads to nominate books in each category. Most books that Goodreads nominates are from verified Goodreads authors.
Select Past Winners: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus; Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman; Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak.
List of The Best Horror Book Awards
10) 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.
List of The Best Legal Book Awards
11) 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.
List of The Best Political Writing Awards
12) Orwell Prize
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.
List of The Best Romance Book Awards
13) 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.
14) RITA Awards
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.
List of The Best Religious Book Awards
15) 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.
List of The Best Sci-Fi Book Awards
16) The Hugo Award
Founded in 1953, The Hugo Award is an annual literary award for the best science fiction or fantasy books. The Hugo is viewed as one of the most prestigious awards for science fiction. It is named after Hugo Gernsback, founder of Amazing Stories, a long-running magazine (if the name sounds familiar, it’s because Director Steven Spielberg licensed the title for use on an American television show called Amazing Stories in the 1980s and again in the 2020s). The award is run by the World Science Fiction Society.
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.
17) Nebula Awards
Dating back to 1965, the Nebula Awards honor the best sci-fi and fantasy books. Categories for film and TV scripts were created in succeeding decades. The awards 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.
List of the Best Young Adult & Children’s Book Awards
18) 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.
19) 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.
20) 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.
Past Winners: Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri; Dig by AS King.
21) Newbery Medal
Established in 1922, and presented by the American Library Association, The John Newbery Medal is one of the oldest and most prestigious award for children’s books in the world. Frequently shortened to the Newbery, is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the ALA.
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.
Past Winners: New Kid by Jerry Craft; Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De la Pena.
22) The Children’s & Teen’s Choice Book Awards
Winners are selected by kids and teens of all ages. Backed by the Children’s Book Council. The Children’s Book Council (CBC) is the nonprofit trade association of children’s book publishers in North America, dedicated to promoting children’s books and reading.
Eligibility: Find details here.
Past Winners: The Other Talk by Brendan Klely; We Had to be Brave by Deborah Hopkinson; Wildcard by Marie Lu.
Additional Book Awards
Some book awards are based on very specific criteria such as gender or geography. Others seem geared toward giving large numbers of inexperienced writers feedback from “professionals” rather than recognizing the best books. Still others are so exclusive that they they are inaccessible to most writers. Here are additional awards for publishers, writers and publicists to consider.
23) 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.
24) Eric Hoffer Book Award
Offers a grand prize for one independently published book per year, as well as miscellaneous other honors.
25) 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.
22) The National Indie Excellence Awards
As the name indicates, independently books are recognized in this award sponsored by Smarketing, LLC.
26) PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel
Internationally-recognized awards with roots in Earnest Hemingway’s beloved state of Wyoming.
27) Women’s Prize for Fiction
This UK-based award celebrates books written by women writers and typically offers a substantial monetary award.
28) The Pulitzer Prize
Not strictly for book awards, bur nevertheless extremely important, The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine, online journalism, literature, and musical composition within the United States. The Pulitzer Prizes and Fellowships, established in Columbia University by the will of the first Joseph Pulitzer, are awarded by the University on the recommendation of The Pulitzer Prize Board. The Board meets twice annually. There are 23 categories across journalism, books, drama and music. The Prizes are announced during the Spring.
Industry Voices on Why Book Awards are Important
In a world where book buyers can easily choose between books based on peer reviews, why do book awards still exist? The simple answer is because many great books suffer from poor distribution and non-existent marketing. Book awards help readers discover great new voices.
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.
“The Costa and Booker prizes may be a literary lottery but awards have more influence now than reviews…It’s literary prizes that shape the afterlives of new titles. Even in the recession-hit UK, these prizes show no sign of losing popular appeal.”
Robert McCrum, The Guardian
“Publishers take note of what wins, as do a large number of readers (prizes often equate to a bump in sales), which means that the bookish landscape, the one in which we’re all wandering around, changes when awards are doled out. Those effects are worth being tuned in to, no matter what you feel about book awards in general or the winning books specifically.”
Josh Corman, in his Bookriot article, Like it Not, Book Awards Matter