Independent Publisher Book Award Basics

What, Who, How, and Why

What: The “IPPY” Awards, also known as the “World’s Largest Book Awards Contest,” are open to English-language independent authors and publishers worldwide and conducted annually to recognize the year’s best independently published books. Launched in 1996, the awards have grown from 325 entries in 28 categories, to over 5,000 entries in 125 categories. The IPPYs typically open in June and are open for entry until February of the following year; results are announced in early April, and the award ceremony is held in late May during the BookExpo America publishing conference. All medalists and their guests are invited to one of the biggest and best publishing parties of the year. The 20th annual Awards gala was held on the 99th floor of Willis Tower in Chicago. (See Flickr photo album of the event.) 


Who: The awards are presented by Jenkins Group, a book marketing and publishing services firm located in Traverse City, Michigan. Since 1988, Jenkins Group has been dedicated to helping authors and small presses succeed in the challenging and always-changing landscape of publishing and bookselling. Book Awards staff consists of Jim Barnes, Awards Director; Amy Shamroe, Awards Coordinator;  and Kim Ross, Awards Administrative Assistant. Judging panels are made up of experts from the fields of publishing, reviewing, bookselling and library. (See the Jenkins Group website.) 

How: Authors and publishers enter their books by filling out either an online or printable entry form, pay a fee for each category they enter, and then mail in copies for judging. Fees range from $75 to $95 depending on how early the entry, with an “add-on” fee of $55 available for regional and/or ebook category entries for the same title. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded in each category, and each winner receives a medal, a personalized certificate, and 20 award seals. All entries are considered for a special group of gold medal awards, the Outstanding Books of the Year, at no extra charge. Judging is based on the quality of each book’s writing and publishing, with emphasis on creativity and innovation. (See the 2016 Outstanding Books of the Year.) 

Why: Book awards are one of the best marketing values available to independent authors and publishers, who often find themselves excluded or ignored by mainstream media reviewers and news outlets. Winning an award brings credibility and recognition, often opening doors to retail and distribution opportunities, foreign rights and translation deals, and a giant boost in PR value to the “award-wining” book and author. Our website publishes about 15 feature articles a year by and about IPPY Award winners, and dozens of other features appear in publications around the world. Why do we charge entry fees? Because it costs thousands of dollars a month to administer a first-class awards program, especially when you factor in salaries, rent, utilities and postage – not to mention hosting an award ceremony in NYC for 400 people. Why should you enter, when there’s no guarantee you’ll get anything in return? Because it’s a gamble, like almost any other money spent on marketing, and for a small entry fee the pay-off can be huge. Entering into the IPPY Awards is easy, affordable, and a whole lot of fun – but “you can’t win, if you don’t get in!”  (See four articles by and about recent IPPY Award medalists: 2016, 2016, 2013, 2011.)