I do not think this award is a "scam." My experience with it is only indirect. I run a small independent publishing company and one of my authors was declared a finalist for one of its awards (for a book of his that was published by a different press). He was extremely excited about it and expected that his name recognition would be going up as a result. I was excited too, and then I went and checked out the current Eric Hoffer Award website and realized it is actually a small-scale contest associated with a book review (the US Review of Book) that I had never heard of.

Will his name recognition go up very much as a result of being named a finalist? Not to the degree he had hoped. However, it is still an accolade he can add to his bio, and recognition from an independent, outside source. I am still pleased that he won, and I will definitely add it to his bio on my press's website.

Yes, it is a small-scale contest. Does that mean it's a scam? I don't think so. The contest doesn't promise anywhere that it's the biggest honor in existence or that it's comparable to a Pulitzer or Nobel prize. It doesn't promise that Toni Morrison and Earnest Hemingway will be judging your book. It doesn't promise your prize will be publicized in the New York Times and the Washington Post. However, it does what it says it will: It collects an entry fee (now $50) from either the publisher or author, the book is read and judged against all the other books that are entered, a winner is selected, and prizes are handed out. (And as an earlier commenter noted, his check cleared.) The prize results are out there on the Interwebz for all the world to google and see, and I as publisher and he as author can add it to his bio.

I think these contests, and others like them such as the IPPY awards, can be worthwhile as long as expectations are managed and realistic. Probably tens of thousands of books are entered each year in the Pulitzer prize and similar competitions. Even if the prestigious prizes are blind to whether the publisher is indie versus big, it's still the case that if you enter the Pulitzer your book may be competing against 10,000 other books, while with the IPPY or Hoffer prizes it may only be competing against 100, or 50, or 5. That's why the prize is less prestigious, but for the same reason it may be more worth your while as a fledgling publisher or author to enter books in it - just as for unknown authors, signing with an unknown, less selective publisher can help build a career, even if it isn't as awesome as signing with a big publisher.

We all have to start somewhere, and it's unrealistic to suggest that every author or publisher should skip straight to the big leagues and not bother with the small potatoes. Hence, I am strongly considering entering a number of the books I'm publishing this year for the Hoffer Award.