Literary Awards are great ways for new authors or writers to make themselves known. Most awards have a “new author” or “first novel” category, but even when they don’t, awards are great ways to find books that fit your interests. Whether they be based on genre or demographics, literary awards help bring authors and readers together. They also honor authors who have come before them, either named after or renamed for authors who are influential in whatever field the award is for. Here’s a list of literary awards and the amazing authors they’re named for.
Named after prolific author Agatha Christie, the Agatha Awards were created to celebrate cozy mystery writers. The first awards were given out in 1988, for Best Novel, Best First Novel, and Best Short Story. Now, more than three decades later, awards are given out for Best Contemporary Novel, Best Historical Novel, Best Nonfiction, Best Short Story, and Best Children’s/Young Adult.
Christie’s novels, over 70 of them, are said to be the third most widely published books (coming after Shakespeare and the Bible), and are considered the bestselling novels of all time. While known for her mystery writing, she also published 6 romance novels under the pen-name Mary Westmacott.
Did you know? Christie was once the subject of an investigation by the British Intelligence Agency MI5. In her novel N or M?, the character Bletchley—a British Officer in possession of wartime secrets—was a little too close to the real live codebreaker, Dilly Knox, a close friend of Christie. MI5, afraid Christie knew government secrets, had Knox question her about the character, to which she replied, “Bletchley? My dear, I was stuck there on my way by train from Oxford to London and took revenge by giving the name to one of my least lovable characters.”
The Edgar Allan Poe Awards, or popularly The Edgars, are awards given out by the Mystery Writers of America. Spanning decades, The Edgars have existed since 1946.
Awards are given out for Novel, First Novel, Paperback Original, Fact Crime, Critical/Biographical, Short Story, Juvenile, Young Adult, and TV Episode. There are also Special awards, including Robert L. Fish Memorial, Mary Higgins Clark, Grand Master, Raven Awards, and Ellery Queen Award.
The Edgar Allan Poe Awards, named for classic mystery and horror author of the same name. What higher honor could a mystery writer ask for?
Did you know? Although we know him as Edgar Allan Poe, due to his difficult relationship with his father John Allan, he often went by Edgar A. Poe—or he made up a name!
Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction
The Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction is named for the prolific writer of the same name. The awards have been awarded to two to three short stories a year since 1983, chosen through a blind selection process done by the University of Georgia Press.
O’Connor wrote two novels and 32 short stories, in addition to numerous reviews, criticisms, and essays, over her lifetime. Though she lived a short life, dying at age 39, O’Connor made a name for herself in the Southern Gothic genre, often tackling issues of religion, race, and morality. The award, given to an author through a blind selection process, is announced at the end of the summer.
Did you know? After being diagnosed with Lupus, O’Connor moved back to her family farm Andalusia in Georgia, where she raised 100 peacocks. A lover of all types of birds, O’Connor raised her peafowl, as well as ducks, ostriches, emus, and toucans.
International Dylan Thomas Prize
Named for the Welsh poet, the International Dylan Thomas Prize is an award created to celebrate young writers. Dylan Thomas, born in Swansea, began writing as a teenager, and publishing his works in literary magazines and earning a name for himself.
Established in 2006, the prize is awarded to the author of any English language novel written by an author under the age of 39, intending to inspire and celebrate young writers. The award is chosen by a panel of judges and announced, in partnership with Swansea University, in mid-May.
Did you know? One of the factors that led to Thomas being discovered and publishing a collection of his own works was the attentions of T.S. Eliot, Geoffrey Grigson, and Stephen Spender, who first read one of Thomas’s poems in a magazine.
SIBA's Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize Long List
First awarded in 1999, The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) focuses on works about the South, or by Southern authors. Originally, the SIBA Awards focused on Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Children’s literature.
However, the awards have grown, now including Cookbooks, Mysteries, Thrillers, History & Life Stories, and Young Adult categories. On March 1st, they changed their name to The Pat Conroy Souther Book Prize, named for the late, influential Pat Conroy.
SIBA Director Wanda Jewell, talking about the name change on their website that Conroy “has not just written some of our favorite books, he has been incredibly generous in his support of readers, of booksellers, and of other writers. The world of southern literature is a rich place today because of the encouragement he extends to new authors and the commitment he has always shown towards the southern literary community.”
Did you know? Pat Conroy grew up as a military brat, which inspired him to become a supporter of research identifying and understanding children who constantly moved around with their military family, submerged in military culture, and who were often personally affected by war.
The Coretta Scott King Book Awards
Awarded to authors and illustrators of African American Children’s literature, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards are named to honor Coretta Scott King and her work and courage to brotherhood, work she started with her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr.
King worked alongside her husband during the Civil Rights Movement, stepping into a leadership position after her husband’s death. As a leader in the Civil Right’s Movement, King became active not only in the struggle for Racial Equality, but also in the LGBT+ and Women’s Movements. King was responsible for making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a national holiday. The award is decided by the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table and announced early during the year.
Did you know? Coretta King founded The King Center in 1968, which acted as an archive of many of MLK’s works, and went on to file the wrongful death lawsuit Coretta Scott King, et al. vs. Loyd Jowers et al., the case that found the Loyd Jowers, his conspirators, and other U.S. government agencies guilty in the assassination of her husband.
The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
Sir Walter Scott was the founding father of historical fiction. Waverly, the western novel that established the historical fiction genre, was incredibly popular, even though it was published anonymously. In fact, it became the signifier of all Scott’s later novels—they weren’t written by Sir Walter Scott, but were instead “From the Author of Waverly.”
The prize itself, established in 2009, is awarded to novels nominated by their publisher and published in English, and whose first publication runs in the UK, Ireland, or the Commonwealth. It's the first literary prize to be awarded to the genre of historical fiction. The Walter Scott Prize, one of the biggest literary prizes in the UK, is announced at the Borders Book Festival in June.
Did you know? Not only was Sir Walter Scott a master of words and history, he was also a successful treasure hunter. In 1818, after receiving permission from the Prince Regent, future King George IV, Scott and a small team discovered the lost Crown Jewels, earning him not only fame, but a baronetcy as well.
Hans Christian Anderson Award
Not to be confused with the Hans Christian Andersen Literary Award, this award is considered the highest honor that a children’s book can receive. The Author’s Award has been given since 1956 and the Illustrator’s Award since 1966, giving this award a history nearly half as long as Andersen’s own legacy! The award is given through the International Board on Books for Young People, and announced in April.
Did you know? Some people believe that The Little Mermaid was based off of Andersen’s own feelings for his friend Edvard Collin, who—like the prince in Andersen’s original tale—did not reciprocate his feelings.
The Wilder Award, also known as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, is named for the author of the Little House on the Prairie series for children. This award is given to an author or illustrator whose books have made a lasting impression over a period of year in the U.S.
The award celebrates not a book, but a creator of children’s literature who created a body of work that left a mark on American children’s books. The award is given out by the Association for Library Services to Children, a branch of the American Library Association, at the beginning of the year.
Did you know? The Little House on the Prairie series was based off Wilder’s childhood experiences in a settler family.