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TopShelf Indie Book Awards - Guidelines & Rules

(Does Not Apply to the Book Cover Awards)


What is the TopShelf Indie Book Awards?

We want to use the powerful brand we’ve been building to raise awareness of the best indie authors and books––not just to readers, but to our growing list of booksellers and librarians from around the globe. Every single book that gets entered into the TopShelf Indie Book Awards will be seen by booksellers, librarians, authors, agents, publicists, reviewers, readers, and more––thousands of some of the most influential, most important people who could ever get ahold of your book. Moreover, our ever-expanding network of social media partners currently reach over 2,000,000 people, and our promotions fetch well over a quarter of a million impressions each month, with tens-of-thousands of engagements. Booksellers will be paying close attention to the results of this contest, and the winners will be promoted heavily to booksellers, librarians, and readers on a scale you likely have never seen before. This is the contest that could put you on the map.


Who can enter?

The TopShelf Indie Book Awards are open to all indie and small press published authors, including small press publishers (any publisher not affiliated or partnered with a major New York-based giant publishing house), university presses, and self-published authors.

All entered books must be available for retail sale via a reportable POD service, such as CreateSpace or IngramSpark, or in ebook format through Amazon, Kobo, etc.

There are no restrictions on the number of books the author has published or their prior successes or failures.

The author cannot have books that have been traditionally published by a large publishing house (i.e.: HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, etc.) at any time within the last ten years.


What are the prizes awarded to the winners?

Each submission includes an INDIE DISCOVERIES marketing package, valued at up to $700, which begins within 72 hours from the date of entry. This package includes a full-color image of your book cover on the INDIE DISCOVERIES page at, along with a book detail page, and monthly mentions across our growing social media network with an overall reach of around 2,000,000 until the end of the contest year––up to one full year, depending on the time of entry.

The Grand Prize winner will win a cash prize of $1,000 USD!

The Grand Prize winner will have their face and book featured on the cover of the next holiday issue of TopShelf Magazine––just as authors are featured throughout the year.

The Grand Prize winner will also be interviewed for the holiday issue of TopShelf Magazine and a review will appear in that same issue.

The Grand Prize winner will have a full page ad custom designed by TopShelf and run in the holiday issue of TopShelf Magazine and in all subsequent issues for a full year.

Each 1st Place Winner from each of the 65 categories will have a book spotlight and book review featured within the holiday issue of TopShelf Magazine, and will continue to have book spotlights in all subsequent issues as well as online for one full year.

Each category will have up to 5 Finalists (based on the total number of entries in each category). All Finalists will be listed in the holiday issue of TopShelf Magazine under the category(ies) they are being awarded for. Finalists will also have their winning book(s) listed on the INDIE DISCOVERIES page at for one full year.


What is the value of the prizes awarded to the winners?

Each award (or grouping of awards) has an associated value. Values are estimated and no award can ever be traded in for their estimated values in cash, credit, or any other form of payment.

✓ $15,000 - Estimated Value of the #1 Indie Book Award

✓ $3,000 - Estimated Value of each Category-Based Indie Book Award

✓ $1,000 - Estimated Value of each of the (up to) 325 Finalists

✓ $700 - Estimated Max Value of the INDIE DISCOVERIES package given to each entrant


How is the cash prize paid to the top winner?

There is one cash prize that will be awarded to the top overall winner––the same winner who will be featured on the cover of that year’s holiday issue of TopShelf Magazine. This cash prize is paid to the winner via PayPal, which is the reason why we ask for the email associated with your PayPal account when entering. If the winner does not have a PayPal account then an alternative method of payment can be arranged between the winner and TopShelf based on the individual case.


How does the judging work?

Every book is judged by an independent panel of industry professionals using the same care and stringent standards that TopShelf Magazine uses when vetting and reviewing books for our journal. Books will be judged on every aspect of book writing, editing, marketing, and design. Our judges include a variety of experts from the renowned TopShelf team, including our very best editors, award-winning and bestselling authors, book and magazine publishers, book and graphic designers, as well as a few special guest judges including literary agents, publicists, and NY Times and USA Today bestselling authors.


When are entries accepted and what is the deadline?

Entries are accepted beginning October 1 of each contest period, and the deadline for entry is on April 30 of the following year. This year those dates are October 1, 2017, through April 30, 2018.  Entries received after the April 30 deadline will automatically be entered in the following contest period. In this case, entries received after April 30, 2018, will be entered in the 2019 contest. There are no refunds.


What are the entry fees and what is the benefit of early entry?

The entry fee is $100 per title for the first category and $50 per additional category. Unlike other contests, TopShelf is all about spreading the word about indie authors and books, regardless of the outcome of the contest. So, all entrants are given an impressive INDIE DISCOVERIES marketing package valued at (up to) $700 at no charge (revisit What are the prizes awarded to winners? above for details). This marketing package commences in approximately 7-14 days from the date of entry and continues until the end of the following publishing year––corresponding with the publication of the holiday issue of TopShelf Magazine, which will feature the Winners and Finalists from this contest. It is advantageous for authors to enter sooner than later, since books submitted in April will only be promoted for eight (8) months, whereas, books submitted in October will be promoted for fourteen (14) months––that’s over a year worth of FREE advertising! PLUS, books that are submitted prior to October 31 receive a special 50% OFF early bird discount on the initial entry. So, submit your books anytime within the month of October for just $50 per title, per category.


What forms of payment are accepted and when it is due?

Payment is due upon submission of your book and is paid using any major credit card or your PayPal account.


What are the categories that books must be entered into?

All books must be entered into one (or more) of the genres/categories listed HERE. Each book may be entered into multiple categories at an additional cost (see What are the entry fees and what is the benefit for early entry? above for details).


Can I enter a book that has not been released yet?



Is there a minimum age requirement for entry?

Yes. All entrants must be at least 18 years of age at the time of entry.


Is there a minimum word count?

Except where noted in the category name itself there are no set word counts. However, it is best to stay within the standards of what is universally agreed to be novel length, a novella, short story, etc.


How many titles can be entered by the same author?

There is no limit to the number of titles each indie author or indie publisher can enter.


How many categories can I enter per title?

There is no limit to the number of categories a title can be entered into. However, entering a book into an obviously irrelevant category will likely result in a dismissal of the book from that category without a refund. But if your book is clearly a Historical Thriller with elements of Suspense, Mystery, and Romance, by all means, enter the book into all five categories.


I live outside the United States, can I still enter?

Yes. However, there may be instances where foreign countries do not allow participation. It is assumed that if you live in one such country, you already know this.


My books are published by TopShelf, can I still enter?

Regardless of how fair we treat the entries, this could be seen as a conflict of interest. So, unfortunately, NO, we cannot allow books published by TopShelf Publishing or TopShelf Indie to enter.


Will I receive confirmation that my books have been entered?

Yes. You will receive confirmation immediately upon entering. If you do not receive immediate confirmation of successful entry please contact us right away at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Will I be notified even if I don’t win or place as a Finalist?

All entrants will receive a notice once the winners and finalists have been selected. This notice will be in the form of an emailed newsletter from TopShelf Indie or TopShelf Magazine. This e-newsletter will announce all the winners and finalists, so everyone will know what’s happening.


When will I be notified of the results?

The TopShelf Indie Book Award announcement email newsletter will be sent out by the end of August of the current contest period, which is four (4) months after the submission deadline.


What book formats do you accept?

We accept mobi, pdf, or pdf formats of the published book. Digital copies are REQUIRED in all cases and will be required at entry. However, we love printed copies, too:

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How do I enter?

After you have read and understand all of the information on this page, click here and complete the electronic entry form and make your payment.


Good Luck! =)




Just $100 for the first category and $50 for each additional category!

Special End-Season Promo! ONLY $45 per book, per category! 

TopShelf reserves the right to update the terms of this or any TopShelf contest without notice.