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The Hacks for Hacks Guide to Writing Awards

HfHWarning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Let’s talk literary awards. Specifically, your tragic lack thereof. It happens. Vonnegut never won a Nebula. Nabokov got snubbed so many times he had to create the PEN/Nabokov Award so he wouldn’t feel like a failure. If these greats can’t win, what hope do you have? Wait, that came out wrong. I meant to say, here’s how you can succeed where they failed. I’ll guide you through the complete awards process, from campaigning your way onto the ballot to gauging how lit up you can get at the awards show after-party.

Step 1: Getting on the Ballot

[pullquote]Your next move, obviously, is to look at all your peers who didn’t make it onto the ballot and indulge in what the Germans call schadenfreude (pronounced SHAY-den-frood).[/pullquote]

You’ve got some award-eligible work, but you don’t want to look like a greedy, self-promoting shill. I get that. Let’s start by looking at some classy ways to get your name out there.

First, write a thing on your blog [1] listing what you have eligible. For instance:

My name is Joe Schmo, and my short story, “The Nine Dead Grandmothers of Vincent LeRoy,” is eligible for—and fated to win—the Super Fancy Award for Best Short Story. Please send my prize to [insert PO Box number]. If shipping costs are prohibitive, I will accept the cash value of the award statuette.

Some writers like John Scalzi [2] and Charlie Stross have dedicated spaces for listing your award-eligible work. Remember, the writing community likes to help its own, so go ahead and do this at every writing website you can find. If they don’t have a thread specifically set up for this, simply use whichever of their posts has the highest Google search rank.

Back to your own blog, you can generate good will by magnanimously highlighting other people’s work. Don’t be afraid to go outside the mainstream, either. If you’re looking for names, here’s one: me, Bill Ferris, the guy who went to all this trouble to write this helpful article. Stop making that face, it’s a swell idea. Advocate for some new, edgy authors, too. People will think you’ve got your finger on the pulse of innovative lit, and you’ll be doing yourself a favor by talking up a bunch of patsies who stand no chance of finishing ahead of you.

trophy shop [3]
photo by akahawkeyefan

Step 2: Get out the Vote

Congratulations! You’ve made it onto the ballot! That’s quite an accomplishment by itself! These are the things you need to say publicly to lull your opponents into a false sense of security.

Your next move, obviously, is to look at all your peers who didn’t make it onto the ballot and indulge in what the Germans call schadenfreude (pronounced SHAY-den-frood). Make a list of people in whose faces you want to shove your good fortune. People may tell you this is childish and petty. You can tell them there’s plenty of room for more names on the list.

[pullquote]President Jackson, President Grant, and President Franklin can be pretty persuasive. It’s not a bribe, it’s paid commercial time. [/pullquote]

Meanwhile, you’ll be out there stumping for your work by going to conventions, pounding the pavement, working the room, pressing the flesh, kissing the babies, buying the drinks, and generally showing what a great person you are. And oh by the way, I could really use your vote in the upcoming–oh, you’re not a voting member? Oh, I see. Yeah, well, I think I’ve got a panel to go to. Enjoy that small-batch microbrew I bought you. Man, can you believe they charge that much for a beer? No, no, it was my pleasure. Really. It’s fine.

As the voting deadline approaches, consider asking other writers if you can write a guest post on their blog, or if they’d like to write a glowing puff piece about you. Most writers would shoot their own mothers in the face for even a scrap of recognition, so they’ll be thrilled to have a big-shot like you grace their backwater website. If they refuse, no hard feelings, they can’t help being dumb. But don’t give up too easily–remember that President Jackson, President Grant, and President Franklin can be pretty persuasive. It’s not a bribe, it’s paid commercial time. Perfectly ethical, kinda.

Step 3: The Moment of Truth

For the awards ceremony, acquire the following items:

Time to prepare your acceptance speech. Get your list of people to thank: Your agent, spouse, editor, writing group, friends, kids, mistress, landlord, the guy whose money you stole to buy your new laptop, your cats, your boss for not firing you for writing your book on the clock. Then, write your concession speech. Be gracious, and be thorough. When the winner is talking, it’s your turn to read yours so everyone can see how gracious you are in defeat. Yes, this goes against protocol, but they can’t do anything to you when you’ve quite literally got nothing left to lose.

After that, there’s nothing to do but drown your sorrows at the after-parties. Don’t read much into it if you don’t get an invitation or nobody will meet your gaze or if they give you phony directions to the shindig.

And if by chance you do win, just remember what got you there: hard work, a good editor, and this article, which you are now legally bound to mention in your acceptance speech.

Are you eligible to win anything this year? What’s your plan to become an award-winning literary darling? Let us know in the comments!

About Bill Ferris [4]

After college, Bill Ferris [5] (he/him) left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.