How to get shortlisted for a book award

How to get shortlisted for a book award

Want to know how to get shortlisted for a book award?

Well, I can’t tell you how to win because I’ve not done that yet – but I can show you exactly what I wrote to get shortlisted for the Business Book Awards 2022, by sharing what I wrote.

I’ve always taken an unorthodox approach to writing awards entries. I find it helps to really stand out as much as possible – and in the parameters of an awards entry, there’s really only one way to do that.


Bringing through your tone of voice is so important if you want to get noticed. Think of it this way:

Can you imagine what a judge has to look through each and every day when they’re judging? There were 300 entries for the Business Book Awards this year, and that’s a lot of words to read. This is less about how to get shortlisted for a book award and more about how to play to the needs of the end user – the judge.

Keep the judge happy and you’re onto a winner.

If I was a judge, I would love it – absolutely love it – if I came upon entries that were a bit more edgy, a bit more entertaining and made me want to read.

Of course, it’s important you don’t forget the entry criteria. Judges still need to judge. But there are so many ways to enhance an awards entry by letting your personality shine through and using humour.

When I wrote the entry for How To Start A Cult, I wanted it to pre-frame the judge’s experience of the book so it felt like a continuation. If I had submitted a ‘serious’ entry, it would have jarred with the reading of the book.

As it stands, my entry was an extension of the book. And equally, it was pretty risky.

I even call that out. If you hate my humour in the awards entry, you’re going to really hate the book. But that’s ok.

Anyway, you can read my full entry for the award below. Hopefully, it will provide some inspiration for taking a few more risks in your own awards entries and highlight just how to get shortlisted for a book award.

Here’s the entry in full:

What is the book and what are its key takeaways?

How To Start A Cult is a business book like no other. Taking a wholly unorthodox approach to brand and marketing, HTSAC (as absolutely zero people call it) reveals why brand loyalty is dead and why the primary aim for brands should be belonging.

In striving for this goal, Jody Raynsford (that’s me) suggests cults offer the perfect blueprint (leaving out all the weird aliens and sex stuff, obvs). And how would he know? Because he accidentally found himself the leader of his own cult.

In relaying the story of starting and growing a cult brand, Jody draws on personal experience to outline a process that any brand can follow.

Recovering from mediocrity is like recovering from an addiction. It’s all about the steps, of which there are 7 steps outlined in the CultBrand Method.

The five key takeaways from the book include:

1- No cult can grow without a good villain (or two). So pick good ones that galvanise your followers and show you’re on their side.

2 – When you become successful, you become a target for critics. Instead of pandering to them or apologising (like most cowardly brands), embrace the hate and use it to your advantage.

3 – Thou shalt target misfits and outliers to grow your cult. Find people who are homeless and give them a place to call their own. They’ll love you for it.

4 – Why your brand needs more cowbell. This makes absolutely no sense if you’ve never seen the SNL Don’t Fear The Reaper sketch. But for those readers who do, you know exactly what I mean.

5 – Make ’em do press-ups. Or jump through hoops. Or buy your stuff. Giving your followers opportunities to show their devotion deepens their connection to your brand.

If these sound odd in summary, wait until you read the book.

Who is the author?

Jody Raynsford is a brand marketing strategist, copywriter, author and speaker.

As a copywriter with clients in the UK and US, his sales copy has been responsible for multiple $1 million-plus product launches.

He is the founder of Hello Genius, a marketing agency that helps businesses and brands unlock sales through bold, personality-driven content to rapidly build attention, grow awareness and make the competition irrelevant so they dominate their market.

Jody is the author of the best-selling business book, How To Start A Cult, and The Engagement Formula – a business owner’s guide to writing great content.

He is founder and co-host of the UK’s No.1 running podcast, Bad Boy Running, and winner of Best Podcast at The Running Awards.

·     Helped brands of all sizes in a range of sectors to succeed by being bold and different

·     Written and launched promotions that have sold millions of dollars worth of products in the US and UK

·     Spoken on the topics of branding, marketing and differentiation at events.

·     Taught over 1,000 businesses, brands and entrepreneurs how to nail their message and story

·     Successfully launched and grown three separate brands

·     Founded and co-hosted an award-winning podcast

Why should the book win a Business Book Award?

Come on, admit it. Most business books are boring as hell. You should know, you have to judge a tonne of ’em.

You’re either going to love How To Start A Cult or hate it. Which makes entering this book for an award a pretty risky endeavour.

(If you’re cringing at this entry, you’re REALLY going to hate it…)

Here are SEVEN good reasons why How To Start A Cult should win:

#1 – It doesn’t look or sound like any business book you’re likely to read this year in your big stack of entries. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is another story…

#2 – It was Christmas No.1 on the Amazon Sales & Marketing chart. This was thanks to a cheeky little campaign that involved mobilising a cult to buy a book about building cults to prove the value of building cults. How meta.

#3 – For the right people, it’s entertaining. Most business books aim to be informative (or give their author an ego boost). I want people to enjoy it and suddenly realise they may have picked up some useful knowledge on the way.

#4 – It’s a good message. Yeah, the cult thing is a weird hook. But cults are good. They foster belonging and reduce loneliness. If the book helps engender more belonging we all benefit.

#5 – If a book like this is successful it will encourage other authors of business books to show a lot more of their own personality and humour.

#6 – I’m sure you’re fed up with seeing the same old, same old quotes everywhere. Nowhere else will you find quotes from Megamind, Fight Club, Sherlock and Ash from the Evil Dead to prove a point.

#7 – It’s brilliantly written. It’s very funny. And the author is utterly deluded. Help him out. Humour him.

So that’s it. That’s one entry that shows you how to get your book shortlisted for a book award. It’s probably also the entry that guaranteed the book didn’t win the award, either. But I’ll never know.

Your take-away? Just because it’s an official entry form doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it and use your personality. I reckon 99% of the other entries sounded exactly the same. Tone of voice helps you stand out.

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