When Alice McDowell wrote to tell me that her book, Hidden Treasure: How to Break Free of 5 Patterns that Hide Your True Self had won a fifth award, I wrote back to suggest I interview her about how to win book awards. Perhaps Alice’s insights (and resources) will help you write an award winning book!
Micaela Karlsen, Bring Your Book to Life® Program graduate and author of A Plant Based Life, first introducted me to Alice McDowell to help her with the book she was writing, a book that distilled almost four decades of work in the realms of personal growth and spirituality. One of the things I loved about working with Alice is that I tried many of the exercises in her book, Hidden Treasure:
How to Find Out About Book Awards
Lisa: How did you find out about the awards/contests?
Alice: My publisher, She Writes Press (SWP), stressed how important it was to have a publicist. I chose Stephanie Barko because she had a similar philosophy to mine and specializes in both non-fiction and fiction. She and SWP suggested I apply for awards and gave me a list of possibilities. I looked at the awarding categories for each organization to see where there would be a good fit. I didn’t apply for any category that was too general such as non-fiction or ones that included books from the major publishing houses. Stephanie suggested that I pick categories I thought would have the fewest entries.
Lisa: Did any require more than just sending the book (such as writing about why it should win a book award) or was the process just to send your book in?
Alice: In most cases I had to send in two to four books for each category along with an application sheet placed in each book. Thankfully, I did not have to write anything about why the book should win.
Lisa: How many book award contests did you apply to, in order to win book awards?
Alice: I applied to 7 contests and got awards from 3 of them (5 awards, in total).
Lisa: Wow. That’s an impressive result! What particular websites would you recommend for research?
Alice: Here are the websites that Stephanie recommended, along with a few I found:
- Books for a Better Life Awards
- ForeWord Indiefab Book of the Year Awards
- Nautilus Book Awards
- Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Nonfiction
- National Book Critics Circle Awards
- Goodreads Choice Awards
- Readers’ Favorite Awards
- IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award
- Body, Mind and Spirit Book Awards
- National Indie Excellence Awards (NIEA)
[Note to readers, Alice sifted through these and chose 7 of the 10; depending on your budget you may want to do the same.]
Lisa: What are some of the things you think have helped make Hidden Treasure a multi-award winner?
Alice: It’s important to have a great writing coach and you are one of them. I also think a good layout is important. It helps the cursory reader get a quick grasp of the book’s contents. My book contains original cartoon-like drawings that catch the reader’s eye. It also includes a questionnaire on the personality patterns, which encourages the reader to engage with the material. After all, most of us like to discover more about ourselves!
Lisa: I loved the questionnaire and I also found aspects of myself in the different character (and, subsequently, body) types you discuss in the book. It’s not necessarily the kind of thing where you read one chapter because that’s your type. It seemed to me that while one type may dominated our personality (and body), we may experience aspects of all the other character types. So it was helpful to be exposed to all of it. In addition, of course, reading about the other types can help us understand other people in our lives, and support healthier relationships. What else makes Hidden Treasure a treasure, award-worthy, from the feedback you’ve been getting?
Alice: People remember good stories more easily than theoretical concepts. I include true stories my students wrote about how these concepts apply to their lives. You suggested I contact Kelly Malone to help make each story come alive by adding those specific details that make each story real for my readers.
Lisa: Yes, learning to tell a good story is a process and can be challenging at first. I knew working with Kelly on the details could help you learn the skill more quickly. I think it really paid off. The book was enlightening from the beginning but the case studies really draw us in as readers. Any other things that readers point out about the book’s power?
Alice: Readers like the take-home dimension.
Lisa: That they come away with something they can use right away?
Alice: Yes. Towards the end of each chapter, I suggested exercises for individuals and groups to help heal or soften unwanted behaviors stemming from the personality patterns.
Lisa: Yes, I found the exercises very empowering and derived immediate benefit from doing them. Anything else you want to add about what contributed to making Hidden Treasure an award-winning book?
Alice: Content is the most important—provided it is well written—because the award reviewers carefully read the entire book. My book was a product of twenty years teaching the personality patterns and eighteen more teaching religious studies. I had extensive references which I believe established my credibility.
Lisa: I agree. Hidden Treasure is not one of those, “I need to write a book; let me crank something out” type of books. As you say, it is the distillation of almost four decades of teaching. And that wisdom gained, and real-life stories to illustrate it, make it a powerful and empowering read. What advice do you have for authors in the process of writing their books?
Alice: I have four bits of advice:
- Don’t give up! Have some kind of writing schedule that works in your life and keep to it. Eventually the book will get written.
- Have a good writing coach.
- Get knowledgeable people to read and comment on your drafts.
- Employ several proofreaders. Mistakes are a turn-off and even the best proofreaders can miss a few.
The Rewards of Writing a Powerful Personal Development Book
Lisa: What have you heard back from readers who have read the book (perhaps share one especially inspiring story).
Alice: Readers uniformly tell me how much they like and are helped by the book. One stranger came up to me in the grocery parking lot of all places, gushing about how she loved the book and was so thankful I had written it. It’s great fun to suddenly be surprised by a comment about the book.
I love how readers are giving the book to friends or family members. A woman living on the east coast told me she was having weekly conversations about the book with her sister on the west coast. Some are forming study groups to delve into the book more deeply. It’s wonderful to see how the book is bringing families and friends together in an authentic sharing.
Lisa: What else has come out of writing Hidden Treasure?
Alice: I feel more confident in myself as a writer. I’m using it as a text in the 3-year Hidden Treasure program at Light on the Hill Retreat Center. Other Institutes are also using the book in their courses or have put it on their reading list. Barbara Brennan School of Healing; Inner Source Healing, and Full Spectrum Center are examples.
I really enjoy presenting my book in various cities. I love meeting new, enthusiastic people and it helps spreads the word.
Lisa: It must be exciting to see other institutions sharing the book and helping your work reach and help more people. And, I think, one of the greatest gifts of being a writer in the personal development field is to hear from people about how the book has helped them. Congratulations. I am thrilled for you! Do you have any offerings coming up that people may want to explore?
Lisa: Alice, enjoy the journey of being a published author and creating even more impact with your book.
Here are some links to more book awards and writing contests:
American Business Awards (has categories for best business book and ebook)
Alice McDowell, Ph.D. is a workshop leader, spiritual counselor, and retreat guide. She is founder of the Hidden Treasure Program, Co-founder and Spiritual Director of Light on the Hill Retreat Center. She dedicates herself to helping others to awaken to their true selves, and discover divinity within. She has trained with healers, humanist and transpersonal psychologists, Sufi and Buddhist teachers, and Christian contemplatives. Her book Hidden Treasure, is winner of 5 book awards from three different organizations.
Read more about Alice’s book writing and publishing journey in this author interview on How to Write a Book.