skip to Main Content
Opinion: Why I Set Up A New Book Award When Other Awards Let Indie Authors Down

Opinion: Why I Set Up a New Book Award When Other Awards Let Indie Authors Down

headshot of Edward Trayer

Edward Trayer explains why he founded his own book award scheme for indie authors and small publishers

As indie authors, we've all been incensed by reports of scammy, insubstantial book awards that set out as much to exploit self-published books and their authors as to reward them. 

In an inspiring case study to encourage us all to right wrongs with positive action, ALLi Partner Member Edward Trayer, who writes as Billy Bob Buttons, explain how his bad experience of such awards led him to invent The Wishing Shelf Awards, and what the outcome has been. 


Seven years ago, I set up the Wishing Shelf Book Awards. Why? Well, I was upset with book awards open to self-published and independently published authors. I felt they were a total rip-off. I remember, I was a finalist in one America-based award – I was so excited – and they didn’t even bother to tell me. Then, in another award, also America-based, I did very, VERY well, but all they were interested in was selling me dodgy winner stickers at a crazy, inflated price.

Then there was the feedback I got from the Writer’s Digest Award. It was a joke! It was 19 (yes, 19!) words long and congratulated me on writing a wonderful adult book set in war-time France. It was actually a children's book set in a magic bookshop!

So I went for a walk…

I went for a walk and decided in amongst the tall chestnut trees to set up my own book award. And that, my fellow authors, is what I did.

But it had to be different. Much, much different to what was on offer at present.

What Makes an Effective Book Award?

So I thought to myself, what do I want from a book award?

  • Well, I want the organisers to see me, actually see me – and my book. I don’t just want to be a ‘$’ sign or a ‘£’ sign to them.
  • Also, I want to get value for money so, even if I don’t win, I want to get feedback from the judging.
  • And, finally, I don’t want to pay lots of money to enter.

So, from this, I set up The Wishing Shelf Book Awards (www.thewsa.co.uk).


The Distinguishing Features of the Wishing Shelf Awards

Over the last seven years, it has grown. Wow! How it’s grown.

In the first year we had 42 authors and publishers enter. This year it will be closer to 300!

  • Now we have a very interactive Facebook page where the authors and publishers can discuss the award and how best to run it.
  • Now we provide the authors who enter a catchy quote to help them to market their books.
  • Now we post reviews – based on the feedback – on Amazon and Goodreads.
  • Now we actively support Blind Children UK, helping them to produce books for children with sight problems.
  • Now we have over twenty schools and two adult reading groups (1 in London, 1 in Stockholm, a total of 62 adult readers) helping us to judge the books.
  • Now we are recommended by ALLi; not many book awards schemes are!
  • Now we send authors who enter feedback of between 400–1,500 words based on the readers’ comments. They look at the cover, the content, the editing and the style. We even provide the authors with statistics e.g. How many of the readers would read another book by this author. How many of the readers felt the cover was strong etc, etc.
  • And the prize list for the finalists and winners is pretty impressive too.

So now, my tiny award is a bit of a monster and is taking more and more of my time. Is it fun? Yes, most of the time it is. And that’s important, as the Award is not run for profit and every penny of the entry fee is spent on running the award and helping to support Blind Children UK. In fact, most of the time it is very rewarding, and our reputation on and off the web is ‘glowing’.

Don’t get me wrong. We do mess up. Two years ago, for example, it took too long to get all the feedback to the authors. So, this year, I’m employing help. The Wishing Shelf Awards actually has a member of staff! An ex-primary school head teacher who will help me to correlate all the feedbacks. It’s all very exciting.

The Icing on the Cake

award winner's logoBut do you know what the best bit is? The very, VERY best bit:

Twice now, one of the US-based awards I hate has attempted to buy my small awards. And I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed telling them to go to…well, you know where.

Now THAT was fun!


#Indieauthors - read how the @WishingShelf Awards were invented to provide a scam-free alternative for #selfpub books and small presses and what makes them so different from the rest. Click To Tweet

From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive



Author: Billy Bob Buttons

Edward Trayer, under the pen name Billy Bob Buttons, is the author of sixteen children’s books including the UK People’s Book Prize Winner, I Think I Murdered Miss. He is also the organizer of The Wishing Shelf Book Awards. www.bbbuttons.co.uk


This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. I recently self-published a book and looked through the number of awards and marketing organizations and they barely conceal their avarice.

    I liked your awards organization because, I felt it was well thought out with the goal of promoting the self-published authors and it achieves the goal of marketing too, which is a big help.

    Thank you for all your efforts and hard work.


  2. I’ve entered this competition twice, once in 2014 and again last year. In my case getting feedback from children who have actually read my books has been invaluable. I thoroughly recommend WSA to authors, and cannot praise Edward highly enough for his professional attitude.

  3. I entered the WSAs for the first time this year and I’ve been really impressed with the communication and general support (especially from your “competition”). I hope it continues for many years to come.

  4. A great overview of a wonderfully organised award that I entered for the first time the year before last. I can vouch that this is well run and hugely worthwhile for the feedback alone — and for children’s authors it’s priceless to get the feedback from the kids. Thank you, Billy, for this round up and for all of your hard work. And what a great feeling it must have been to turn away those people wanting to buy your business! LOL!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest advice, news, ratings, tools and trends.

Back To Top
×Close search