Kobo Writing Life

My Writing Life: Winning the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize 2016

by Nicola R. White

As a self-published author, many literary contests are not open to me, so when I first heard of the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, I was thrilled to learn that I could enter. And even better, there was no entry fee! (When you pay all publishing and promotion costs out of pocket, expenses add up fast). I double-checked my e-book file for Fury’s Kiss to be sure the cover and formatting didn’t have any obvious errors, then submitted my entry online. I knew there would be serious competition in the Romance category and didn’t really expect to win, but a small part of me couldn’t help thinking What if…?

Weeks went by as the contest judges deliberated over hundreds of entries. I almost forgot about the contest entirely as I turned my attention to releasing my next book, until one night when I was lying on the sofa in my living room, working on another manuscript. When I saw an email in my inbox with “Kobo Emerging Writer Prize Shortlist” in the subject line, I assumed it was a mass announcement that had gone out to all contest entrants. I clicked on the email to open it, then jumped off the sofa when I saw what it said. Congrats on your nomination!

I was thrilled that my book was considered one of the top debut romance novels of the year, and at that moment, I couldn’t have cared less if I won the prize or not.

Soon I received an invitation to attend the award reception in Toronto, which I had to very regretfully decline. When I’m not writing romance novels, I teach college students and practice law part time, and I simply couldn’t spare the time and the cost of a plane ticket and accommodations. (Especially since I still didn’t think I would actually win the award).

After I RSVP-ed with my regrets, I expected that would be the end of the whole thing, but Kobo Writing Life got in touch with even more incredible news. If I could make it to the reception, they would cover the cost of a flight from Halifax (my hometown) and one night’s accommodation in Toronto. I still wasn’t sure that I’d won—after all, maybe KWL was reaching out because I was the only self-published author shortlisted in my category—but the What if…? inside my head started to get a little louder.

I arranged to take a couple of days off work and arrived in Toronto on a Tuesday afternoon, a few hours before the reception would begin. As I walked into Terroni, the beautiful restaurant where the reception was held, I was a bit nervous and unsure what to expect. Like many writers, I’m an introvert, and parties full of strangers are not usually my idea of a good time. Happily, everyone I met was there because they were truly “book people” like me, and I had no trouble striking up a conversation with other shortlisted authors, Kobo employees, and guests.

Before long, the first category was announced, and I held my breath as I waited to see if I would be the winner. Hearing my name announced was an incredible moment. The ten thousand dollars that came with the Emerging Writer Prize was a huge windfall, but it was even more meaningful to know that after spending hundreds of hours writing and editing my first novel, it had resonated with and entertained readers.

Accepting the award from Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn

After Kobo’s press release about the Emerging Writer Prize was sent out, my hometown newspaper published a feature article about the contest win and I appeared live on local morning news. The story was also covered by larger, national news outlets like CBC and The Globe and Mail. Sales of Fury’s Kiss picked up, along with the other books in the series. For a brief period of time, I was even outselling Stephen King in the fantasy category on Kobo’s online store!

As a result of the publicity that followed the announcement, I have been offered opportunities to speak on panels, appear at author events, and write articles and blog posts. Winning the Emerging Writer Prize was truly a dream come true and doors that were previously closed have begun to open to me. I hope that my good fortune is an indication of a larger shift in the publishing industry, and that other self-published authors will be given the respect and recognition they deserve for all their hard work.

Nicola and the Kobo Writing Life team celebrating her win


Nicola R. White is no stranger to the fantastic. Although there are no Furies in her family tree (that she knows of), she comes from a small city on the east coast of Canada where ghost stories and superstitions abound. She has worked on movie sets, as a bartender, in a lighthouse, and as a lawyer, and though she’s never been an exotic dancer like her character, Alex Hughes, she does know how to pole dance.

She has always been fascinated by the strange and morbid, and often stays up too late reading books that give her nightmares. She believes truth is stranger than fiction, and just a few of her heroes are Buffy, Dana Scully, and Xena.

Nicola is a member of Romance Writers of America and Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, and is an active member and supporter of the award-winning Romance Divas website and online forum. You can find out more about her here.