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How Outskirts Press EVVY Nominees are determined

May 11, 2012

A week from today we will know the results of the 18th Annual EVVY Awards, which are taking place May 17th in Denver, Colorado (well, Lone Tree, actually, which is a sub-division just south of downtown Denver) at the Lone Tree Arts Center. The EVVY Awards are an annual event put together and hosted by the Colorado Independent Publishers Association. I will be on hand to receive the awards Outskirts Press authors win on their behalf. Of course, those authors are welcome to attend themselves, although historically I have accepted the vast majority of our EVVY Awards myself since most of the finalists are rarely within travelling distance of Denver.  Of the thirteen EVVY finalists that were published by Outskirts Press last year (the most among all participating publishers), just one of them lives in Colorado.

The EVVY Awards are a big deal for us at Outskirts Press for two reasons. For one, it’s nice to have such a longstanding event so close to home. And two, winning an EVVY Award is a prerequisite to winning our own contest, the Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year Award.  After winning a First Place EVVY Award in the Fiction category last year, Doris Kenney Marcotte went on to win the 2010 Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year Award for her novel The Beads of Lapis Lazuli: A Greek Mystery.  Her road to this accomplishment and its $1,500 Grand Prize began when she accepted our official EVVY Award nomination in the fall of 2010.

Well, actually, it started long before that, which brings us to the subject of today’s post:  How our official Outskirts Press EVVY Nominees are determined.

At Outskirts Press, we publish approximately 1,500 new books a year. Sometimes it’s more (and with the recent addition of the Kindle, Nook, and iPad editions, it is promising to be way more heading into the future – although those editions are not eligible for our EVVY nomination), but 1,500 is a good average.   Our goal in any given year is to send less than 100 titles to the EVVY Awards as official Outskirts Press nominees.  Therefore, the quickest, least subjective way we limit EVVY contenders right off the bat is via the publishing package the authors choose. Only Diamond and full-color Pearl books are eligible for consideration.

So, let’s perform a little math. Approximately 60% of the books we publish are Diamonds and approximately 10% are Pearls.  S0 70% of the 1,500 books we publish each year, on average, are automatically eligible for EVVY Award consideration. That’s 1050. Let’s round it down to an even 1,000.   Out of 1,000 books published each year, we are looking to officially nominate less than 100 to send to the CIPA EVVY Awards.  That’s 10%.  It gets interesting when you examine how 1000 eligible books become 100…

Throughout the year, the production department is “on the look-out” for contenders.  Our consultants remember particularly promising books at the beginning of the process; our book designers remember particularly beautiful books during formatting; our cover designers remember the custom covers they, personally, are most proud of; our copyeditors remember particularly important or entertaining works; and our author representatives remember particularly impressive books throughout the entire process.  When it comes time to determine the Outskirts Press official EVVY nominees toward the end of each year, we solicit that feedback from the consultants, formatters, designers, editors, and representatives.

Sometimes these decisions are subjective (as all book contests ultimately are), but there are some logistic steps a savvy author can take to significantly increase the odds of receiving an official EVVY Award nomination at the end of the year, and when one looks at the process (and the statistical likelihood in general), these steps start to make more sense:

1. Get a custom cover design – We offer a wide variety of cover choices for our authors, from free pre-designed themes, to custom covers, to the flexibility allowing an author to submit her own cover.  And while there are exceptions to every rule, almost without fail, our official EVVY Nominees are comprised almost exclusively of books featuring custom cover designs by Outskirts Press designers.  I discussed a little bit about that reality a few posts ago.  Also, remember, our cover designers are asked their opinions of ALL the books they work on.  Which is more likely? That they’ll remember/recommend a free, pre-designed style, or that they’ll remember/recommend a custom cover they poured their heart into?

2. Get an enhanced or custom interior – Even our standard, free interiors are excellent, and sufficient to garner an EVVY Nomination. In fact,  I cannot remember an instance where a standard interior, on its own, was the reason for dismissal, but the fact remains that an enhanced or custom interior is never going to “hurt” the author’s chances, and it could even help.

3. Have your book professionally copyedited – This shouldn’t just be a requirement for EVVY Award consideration, this should be a requirement for publication.  Of course, in this day and age of POD printing, ebooks, and self-publishing, it’s not a requirement for publication, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.  So, book contests and awards are the industry’s way of REWARDING authors who take this very important step.  We only nominate books that have been professionally edited.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  Our nominees are personally and manually selected because we want to sweep the EVVY Awards, and we know the CIPA EVVY judges are not going to recognize a book littered with mistakes.  While it can be argued that the “strength” of specific covers and interior designs are subjective, most typographical errors are not.

Final considerations to bring the total number of nominations down to a reasonable number are much more subjective, I’ll admit, and they involve things like reasonable retail price for the genre, marketability, and the author’s own professionalism. After all, we know that one of the EVVY Nominees is going to be our Outskirts Press Best Book of the Year award-winner, and we want that author to be ahead of the game when it comes time to sell the book, market the book, and work with other people.

4. Accept our nomination – This is an easy step to complete but some authors still miss this one even after they successfully accomplish the other ones. There is a belief among a few writers that book contests shouldn’t cost money to enter.  Let me set that misconception to rest:  Most book contests cost money to enter (and if they don’t, you have to ask yourself what the catch is).   Our official EVVY Nomination requires the submission fee to the EVVY Awards, along with the cost of printing the necessary copies for the EVVY judges and shipping them, and completing all the entry forms, etc.  Simply put, entering book contests is kind of a pain in the butt (and so is administering/judging them, which is why book contests cost money).  It’s true just being nominated is an honor (less than 10% of our books are), but in order to be an Outskirts Press official EVVY Award nominee, you have to accept our invitation and agree to let us submit your book to the CIPA EVVY Awards on your behalf, just as our most recent official nominees did late last year. And from that list, we’re down to our thirteen finalists.

So how do EVVY Finalists become EVVY Winners? I’ll discuss that next time…

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