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2021 TopShelf Book Awards - The Rules

(Does Not Apply to the Book Cover Awards)


What is the TopShelf Book Awards?

We want to use the powerful brand we’ve been building to raise awareness of the best 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 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 4,000,000 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 2021 TopShelf Book Awards are open to all indie, small press, and traditionally 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.


What are the prizes awarded to the winners?

The Grand Prize winner will receive 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.

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

The Grand Prize winner will have a two-page, center-pullout (poster-like) ad custom designed by TopShelf and run in the holiday issue of TopShelf Magazine, with a smaller (full-page) version running in all subsequent issues for a full year.

✓ 1st Place Winners have their winning book featured within the holiday issue of TopShelf Magazine, and receive free book spotlights for one full year.

Each category will have up to 3 Finalists (based on the total number of entries). Finalists will be listed in the holiday issue of TopShelf Magazine and will have their winning book(s) listed on the DISCOVERIES page at TopShelfMagazine.net for one year.


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. The cash prize will be paid in full to the winner no later than March 29 following the announcement of the winners. In the event that the cash prize is not claimed by the winner before March 29, the cash prize shall be forfeited.


How does the judging work?

Every book is screened by TopShelf editorial staff for quality, before being 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 July 20, 2020, and the deadline for entry for the general public is on April 30, 2021, with Nominees having until May 31, 2021, to get their entries in. Entries received after the May 31 deadline will automatically be entered in the following contest period. There are no refunds.


What are the dates this contest is open, what are the entry fees, and what is the benefit of being nominated or of taking part in the early-bird special?

The entry fee is $100 per title for each category. Books submitted between July 20, 2020, and September 7, 2020, receive up to a 50% early-bird discount, with entries being only $50 per book, per category. Official TopShelf Nominees get 90% off their initial entry plus an official TopShelf Certificate of Nominee and a Nominee Badge. Entries received after March 1, 2021, and before April 30, 2021, will include a 25% surcharge.

    • Early bird special starts on Monday, July 20, 2020
    • Early entry ends Sept 7, 2020
    • Late entry starts March 2, 2021
    • Contest closes April 30, 2021
    • Nominee entries close May 31, 2021


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.


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 author or 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.


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 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 Book Award finalists will be notified by email by the end of September of the current contest period, and the winners will be announced in the Holiday Edition of TopShelf Magazine in December.


What book formats do you accept?

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

TopShelf Magazine

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Manchester, NH 03103


How do I enter?

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


Good Luck!




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