Muslim Bookstagram Awards 2021 – What Makes a Winning Story?
The Muslims Bookstagram Awards 2021 are in full swing! We have had an incredible response from publishers, authors and book lovers who nominated 2021 versions for the Muslim Bookstagram Awards.
This is what our community is! We received hardback books, picture books, novels, memoirs and more.
But what does it take to make a winning Muslim story?
Continue to support MuslimMatters for Allah’s sake
Alhamdulillah, we are over 850 supporters. Help us reach 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a little gift from a reader like you to keep going, for just $ 2 / month.
The Prophet (SAW) taught us that the best actions are those that are done consistently, even if they are small.
Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $ 2 per month. Set it up and collect the blessings of Allah (swt) for the khayr you support without thinking about it.
The first thing judges will look for is authentic Islamic content! Whether the book is fiction or non-fiction, are the details mentioned about Islam correct?
It may not seem like a big deal, but it matters a lot – to claim that Islam teaches something, or that Muslims believe in something, you better have solid Islamic textual sources for it!
We recommend that you have your book verified by a qualified Islamic source; ideally more than one! Make sure their names are included in the book so that readers can also do their own research on the veracity of these people.
The main mistake that Muslim writers make when trying to write Islamic content is to make history moralistic instead of gently teaching it through history.
Use your story to explore a theme or introduce an Islamic concept through character development and plot. Islamic content can and should be presented in a creative way that is accessible to readers, age appropriate, and demonstrates the moral of the story without lecturing.
Kids of all ages are smarter than we think – and adults appreciate and benefit from creative messages too!
Who is your target demographic? Are you creating your story like a chalkboard photo for a toddler, a picture book for very young children or early readers? Are the plot and language used appropriate for older high school students or for lower young adult readers?
“This is just a children’s book, how difficult could that be? “ It’s just that – a lot more knowledge and effort is required for children’s literature than you might think!
Whatever age group your book is targeting, make sure you’ve done your research. Consider things like what’s appropriate for development, what industry standards have been set for each demographic, and whether your work matches the quality of the bestselling books already available.
A common tactic among Muslim publishers is to translate a book directly from Arabic or another language to English and then publish it as is.
Don’t do that!
Books written in different eras, different cultures and different languages are just not one size fits all. Western English-speaking readers have a very different cultural background than people living in Pakistan, Egypt or Indonesia.
Unless one is writing an Islamic non-fiction book – in fact, even then! – one has to ask whether it is culturally relevant and appropriate for the readership. Even if the language is technically correct, and even if the fiqhi the content itself is accurate, it should be borne in mind that the diversity of cultural realities and nuances means that what may be appropriate for one context or demographics is not necessarily applicable to all.
Endearing characters, a well-developed plot and an emotional connection: these are all the secret ingredients (now, not if) of a real good story!
Too many Muslim books feature stagnant characters, flat storylines, and a sense of disconnection between the reader and the story. Getting a child character to go to the masjid, learn an Islamic phrase or two, and then come home isn’t an interesting story! But having a character encounters a challenge, or makes a mistake, then learns a lesson and truly grows as a person… that sounds more promising.
Emotional connection doesn’t require a heavy topic or a full novel; skilled writers know how to create an emotional investment even with a handful of simple words.
As critics, nothing puts us in our skin more than a poorly edited book! If you have spelling issues, strewn grammatical errors, and your sentence structure would make your high school English teacher flinch… you should immediately pause the posting process.
Copy editing is not the only type of editing that concerns us. A story editor is extremely important: someone who can walk you through the most difficult points in your story, tighten things up, and push you to strengthen your work in every way.
Pro tip: a writing coach is not an editor!
It may seem like time consuming, and even expensive at times, but a solid edition can make or break your book! The investment is definitely worth it.
In addition to editing, visual presentation matters!
This includes eye-catching covers, styles / font sizes that don’t tire the eyes, good quality paper, and visually appealing artwork (not something that has been gathered from stock images).
Together, these technical details have a significant impact on the reader. We want to see books of high physical and visual quality, and conforming to Islamic protocols (for example, no depiction of prophets and / or the Invisible). For those who avoid tasweer (pictures of animated objects), you can do it without making the scary characters faceless or completely bland!
At the Muslim Bookstagram Awards, we don’t judge books just by their covers… but that is definitely a factor!
Ultimately, the Muslim Bookstagram Awards exist to showcase books that are really right. Our goal is to encourage Muslim writers to produce truly amazing work and to elevate the quality of Muslim literature disseminated around the world.
While mainstream publishing has the advantage of being long established, Muslim literature is a rapidly growing niche and Muslim publishers need to raise their standards. Muslim writers and publishers can no longer expect Muslim readers to settle for poor quality. As with all other things, we should strive to achieve a standard of Ihsan (Excellency).
While we never want to discourage Muslim writers, we do want to push each other to really do our best! Muslim readers deserve to receive books from us, to us, that are just as interesting and engaging as what we find in mainstream bookstores.
Are you ready for the challenge?