25 March 2023

Award-winning or Bestselling?
Which would you choose?

As we approach award season time, the old existential question is coming up at hotel bars, dives, and other dubious but cheap places that serve alcohol to bitching and whining authors…

If you could be an award-winning author OR a bestselling author, but not both, which would you choose?

And has your preference changed over the years?

Mine has.  I was all about the awards when I was younger.  I wanted to be recognized, and was leery about 'selling out' to the masses (a ridiculous idea, as I see it now.  Why would a book that everyone likes not be a good book?)  

To that end, I didn't consider writing certain genres and actually turned down a lucrative series contract with one of the big five 15 years ago because they wanted to change it from epic fantasy to paranormal romance.  Honestly, I can be an idiot.)

In the thirty years since my first publication, I like to think I've grown up.  With 17 novels, 60 short stories, and a couple hundred comedy credits behind me, my outlook has changed.

Now, ten awards later, I want money.

(I hope you're laughing now.  Has she given up her ideals?  Hell yes!)

This change of heart has prompted me to examine what it is that each accomplishment does for one.

Here's what I've concluded:

Award-winning means you are lauded by your peers.

Bestseller means you are appreciated by the reading public.

No question, a lot of awards are judged by professional authors and professional reviewers.  I've sat on a number of juries myself.  And there is no greater thrill I've found than having professionals in your own field laud you as 'the best' in a category.

But that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to earn a poop-load of money.

Why is it so hard to attain both?

I have an author friend - actually two of them- who consistently make bestseller lists.  One is a million-book seller.  The other, in the tens of thousands per book, but with over thirty books, that amounts to a lot of sales.

Am I envious of the money they make?  Hell yeah!

Neither have won an award.  And I know it gnaws away at them. Does the money compensate?  I expect it does.

But somehow, as authors we crave both. We strive for both.  We want to be acknowledged by our peers as well as loved by the public.  We want to see our names on the bestseller lists, and on the awards list.

At least, that's how I see it at this point in my career.  But to be fair, I've gone to a younger author with Harper Collins, for his take. Here's what he says:

     "It's an age-old question and I have to admit that I'm rather boring when it comes to the side of the fence I fall on. Writing has always been my passion. It's a privilege to be able to do it professionally. And if that means that my work becomes bestselling, or it garners the attention of my peers in awards, then it's an added bonus.
     "I'm envious of other authors - just because they all do such magnificent work. So, to be the ultimate fence sitter, I'll say that either is a welcome and monumental achievement. And one that should be cherished and celebrated far and wide!"  (Jonathan Whitelaw, author of The Bingo Hall Detectives - "a sharply funny read")

Well said, Jonathan! How about you, fellow authors?  If you had to choose, which way would you go?

Man, I'll be glad when this book is finally out (May13.)  Available for preorder most places.

Melodie Campbell writes lamentably funny fiction, usually with a mob connection, from the shores of Lake Ontario. If you enjoyed The Goddaughter series, you also might enjoy this book, which takes place in 1928 and stars Gina Gallo's great-grandmother!


  1. If I had to make a choice, it would be best-selling author. I'm in this to make a living. However, I don't think the choice is between these two options. I'm not a bestselling author. . . I never received any awards, yet I pay all my bills. My income has increased over the years and it will probably do so for the foreseeable future. But I don't expect any awards, nor do I think I will ever be a bestselling author. They're not my goals--there are more important things in life.

    By the way, Melodie, I love the cover of your upcoming novel! There's an 80% chance I'll buy a copy and read it. ;)

    1. Laff! Anne, you have made my day. And thanks for commenting on the cover. I have to say, of all my books, this is the cover that most signals what is in the book, and I think they've done a masterful job. Art deco signals historical age, ocean liner shows setting, "Merry" in the title signals humourous, and "Murders" says the genre. I'm going to use this one in my classes. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I'm with you, Melodie. Most awards have no money connected with them, and I don't think the average reader even comprehends what an Edgar, Shamus, Derringer, McCavity, Agatha or most of the other awards even mean.

    I have won the Black Orchid Novella Award twice (one of the few awards I know that involves a monetary prize), and been a finalist for the Edgar, Shamus, and Al Blanchard award, along with a few other lesser-known prizes. None of them have increased my miniscule sales or had any other effect, except that I got to meet a few "real" writers when I went to the Edgar Awards. That was great, especially since my wife got pictures.

    Yes, the awards mean I've been recognized by my peers, but they don't pay for my cat's Fancy Feast. I'd love one of my books to sell enough to be more than a blip on Amazon.

    1. Steve, I sure understand. My awards did one thing for me: it got me the attention of publishers and agents, for which I am grateful. That got me contracts.

  3. Fence sitter. I'm happy every time I get paid for my work. And the biggest thrill(s) of my writing life were the two times I was included under "Other Distinguished Mystery & Suspense Stories of ..." in The Best American Mystery & Suspense ("The Sweet Life" in 2022, and "A Time to Mourn" in 2012).

    1. Eve, those are truly fabulous accolades. And yes, I like your attitude: every time I get paid for my work! I'll smile when the next cheque comes.

  4. Great post, Melodie. I never really thought about the difference between the two.


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