Character Building Counts and Wise Bear Digital: Two More High-Entry Fee Book Awards

It’s Awards Week at Writer Beware! No, I’m not handing out prizes–I’m dispensing cautions. I’ve got two posts this week, both focusing on literary awards you may want to think twice about before entering.

Today’s post features two awards of a type that seems to be becoming more and more common: aimed at small press and self-published writers, their principal purpose is to make money for their sponsors. I’ve written before about these kinds of programs, which share a general M.O.: a high entry fee, dozens or scores or even hundreds of entry categories, anonymous judges, minimal prizes, and, often, the sale of additional merchandise to winners and honorees.

Character Building Counts Book Awards

I became aware of the Character Building Counts Book Awards partly because I received some questions about them, but also because they spammed me at least three times.

CBC describes its program thus:

We pay tribute to books and essays that teach character-building lessons through fiction or nonfiction writing categories. We are looking for books and essays that will generate ripples of goodness and decency in a communal pond that is thirsty for safety, security, and peace of mind.

All the hallmarks of a profitmaking enterprise are here: an entry fee of $95 (“early birds” got to pay just $75); 31 entry categories (relatively modest for a profit-making award); nameless judges (with typical vague claims about their competence); and non-prize prizes: an Internet radio interview with would-be impresario Cyrus Webb, sticky seals, a printed certificate, a spam press release, and some self-referential pseudo-promo via the Awards’ own outlets). There’s no mention of merchandise for sale, but I’m betting that the winners will have the opportunity to buy more of those “beautifully designed” seals.

The Character Building Counts Book Awards website is registered to Grassroots Publishing Group, a small publisher located in California, which appears to have published just three books since 2008.

Wise Bear Digital Book Awards

Again, I became aware of these awards because they spammed me.  

The Wise Bear Digital Book Awards aim to “honor the best in digital publishing in the independent writing community.” Registration starts at $50, rising to $70 if you enter after March 1, 2013. There are (count ’em) 95 entry categories. Judges are anonymous, though their expertise is touted in the usual terms. Prizes include an “online medal award ceremony” (that’s a new one), a “digital medal,” a “personalized certificate” you can print out, and the familiar self-referential promo stuff (mostly, presence on Wise Bear’s own website and social media accounts). Winners are also “eligible” to win a DIY video trailer package and a Kindle Fire. All entrants receive “a book review and critique.”

There’s no mention of additional purchase opportunities. But since Wise Bear also sells podcast interviews, book reviews, and epublishing packages…what do you think?

Writers: While a sticker on your book cover (or your website, if it’s a “digital medal”) may look cool, and it’s nice to be able to say you’re an award-winning author, awards like this carry no prestige, and have zero name recognition with readers, booksellers, and critics. Whatever they may claim, the primary benefit of these programs is to the sponsor–not to you.

There are much better uses of your marketing dollar.

EDITED TO ADD: Wise Bear’s owner has contacted me to let me know that she believes my use of one of her graphic images in this post is a copyright violation. I believe it’s fair use, but I also acknowledge that this is a gray area, so I’ve honored her request and removed the image.


  1. A friend who writes asked me about a pay to enter thing. I always warn, if you have to pay it is set up to benefit them
    –not you. And on Linked-In, a woman was asking questions about that Author House (?) that Penguin just bought concerning things they require to "help" her publish. A bunch of us jumped in with "Stay away. Stay way." Honestly, this field seems to be set up for a satisfactory predator prey relationship. Don't give anyone money. You don't have to.

  2. I agree that we need to be aware of scammers. However, I also believe that we need to be sure that something really is intended as a scam before we start calling it that.

  3. Buy reviews from people like this and paying to get an award is like buying a fake diploma. Looks cool on the wall for ten minutes, but it means and is worth NOTHING

  4. Thanks! 🙂 I don't see any good reason, ever, E.V.E.R, to pay an entry fee to be in a contest. Now, there might BE some good reason I'm not aware of. But it just seems to have so much potential for abuse.

  5. Thank you so much for your diligence in making sure authors are aware of these kinds of scams – much appreciated!

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