A vanity award, "scam award" or "trophy-for-sale" is an award in which the recipient purchases the award to give the false appearance of a legitimate honor. Pitches for Who's Who-type publications (see vanity press), biographies or nominations for awards or special memberships can have a catch to them in which the honoree is required to pay to win.
Vanity book awards
The vanity award phenomenon among book awards was noted in a Salon article by Laura Miller in 2009. Vanity book awards are characterized by dozens or hundreds of categories to ensure every applicant is a winner or finalist; high entry fees with additional fees for each specific category or other premium service such as trophies or prominent display on the award website; and promises of marketing. Self-published authors seeking promotion and recognition are commonly customers of vanity award services.
List of vanity book awards
The following have been called vanity awards.
- The 2009 National "Best Books" Awards given by USA Book News - In the Salon article "Vanity book awards" by Laura Miller, The 2009 National "Best Books" Awards is identified as a Los Angeles contest run by the marketing company JPX Media. According to Miller, every winner or finalist (i.e. everyone who enters and pays the $69 fee) receives stickers to put on their book covers and "aggressive marketing" from JPX Media.
- The 2010 Creative Spirit Awards were made available to film makers, musicians, and writers for an entry fee of $50 in hundreds of categories.
Other awards targeting self-published authors with high entry fees, with for-profit business models and numerous categories and promises of marketing include the Readers Favorite Awards, IndieReader Discovery Awards, and the Indie Excellence Awards.
The anthology scheme is when a writing contest is announced with the winners to be published in an anthology and a cash prize is awarded. There is usually no entry fee but in fact there is little selectivity and every entry is declared a finalist and offered publication, with a request for money. Furthermore, the anthology is often not sold to the public but only in limited runs to the contributors themselves. The International Library of Poetry known online as Poetry.com, was the main perpetrator of this scheme in the US poetry scene. Another version of the scheme is called "pay to play" in which the writer must pay to be included in the anthology.
Vanity business awards
The number of vanity awards for businesses is considerable, since 2008 the Better Business Bureau has been issuing warnings about schemes found across the country. "Phony vanity awards prey on small businesses who are trying to make their companies stand out in their industry."
For instance, The Best of Business Award by the Small Business Commerce Association is available for $57 to $157 depending if the applicant would like a plaque or a trophy. The Better Business Bureau reports the same scheme under multiple variants of a common name in multiple cities, targeting businesses in hundreds of categories, so "Peoria Award Program", "Memphis Award Program", and "Lafayette Awards Program" are the same operation. The solicitation, which claims to be an award from "Kelly McCartney, Award Committee", is a message in which only the year, town and line of business change:
- I am pleased to announce that (Company) has been selected as a winner of the 2017 Best of (Town) Awards in the (line of business) category by the (Town) Award Program committee.
- Our selection of your company is a reflection of the hard work of not only yourself, but of many people that have supported your business and contributed to the subsequent success of your organization. Congratulations on joining such an elite group of small businesses.
- In recognition of your achievement, we offer a variety of ways for you to help promote your business. You automatically receive the complimentary digital award image from this email and a copy of the press release publicizing the selection of (Company) which is posted on our website. The (Town) Award Program hereby grants (Company) a nonexclusive, royalty-free license to use, reproduce, distribute, and display this press release and the digital award image in any media formats and through any media channels.
- Additionally, as a winner of the 2017 Best of (Town) Awards selection, you may select a customized award which has been designed for display at your place of business by following the simple steps on the 2017 Best of (Town) Awards order form.
The telephone number is linked to multiple consumer complaints about undesired solicitations; the associated website (which offers the mark an opportunity to purchase a plaque, a crystal award or both at a cost ranging from $80 to $200) is alleged to contain malware.
Nonetheless, businesses continue to issue press releases boasting of having received these awards despite their questionable provenance and meaninglessly broad selection of large numbers of cities and categories.
List of vanity business awards
There are studies on vanity business awards showing that a significant wealth has been acquired by the companies organizing lucrative ceremonies and giving out well-decorated trophies not based on merit, but rather to whoever pays the cost. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) reported the following list as trophy-for-sale organizations:
- Actualidad Magazine, Madrid, Spain
- Global Trade Leaders’ Club (GTLC)
- Otherways Management Association Club (OMAC)
- The Europe Business Assembly (EBA), Oxford, United Kingdom
- The Business Initiative Directions (BID), Madrid, Spain
- The European Society for Quality Research (ESQR), Lausanne, Switzerland
- City Weekend, Shanghai "Readers Choice Awards"
Other awarding schemes, as reported by various businesses on the internet:
- Acquisition International (owned by AI Global Media), United Kingdom
- Build News (owned by AI Global Media), United Kingdom
- TMT News (owned by AI Global Media), United Kingdom
- Wealth & Finance International (owned by AI Global Media), United Kingdom
Fee for review
A "fee for review" is when money, merchandise or a service is exchanged in return for a review.  Since an exchange is involved, the neutrality and accuracy of the review could be in question. Reviews could be written by marketers/retailers about their own work, by customers with some incentive such as a friend or family or receiving free merchandise or money, or the reviewer was simply hired as a third-party service specializing in providing reviews for a fee. An example of a hired service is the ForeWord Reviews' Clarion Reviews, which was launched in 2001 and claims to be "the industry's first fee-for-review service for small, independent publishers." Other fee-for review programs include Kirkus Reviews' Indie Review program and City Book Review, publisher of the San Francisco Book Review, Manhattan Book Review, Seattle Book Review and Kids' BookBuzz. 
- Historical scams
- LLC, Array Web Development. "Why Most Business 'Awards' Are a Scam, Preying on Pride". Array Web Development LLC. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- "Vanity Awards Value Money over Honor". Better Business Bureau. 2009. Archived from the original on August 25, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- Laura Miller (November 17, 2009). "Vanity book awards". Salon. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- Victoria Strauss (February 23, 2010). "Another Vanity Award: The 2010 Creative Spirit Awards". Writer Beware. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- "Annual Book Award Contest - Readers' Favorite: Book Reviews and Award Contest". Readersfavorite.com. Retrieved 2016-01-08.
- Victoria Strauss (August 12, 2011). "Award Alert: The IndieReader Discovery Awards". Writer Beware. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- "Award Rules".
- "Vanity Anthologies". SFWA. January 22, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- Melissa Canone (June 3, 2013). "BBB of Acadiana alerts local businesses to Lafayette Awards Program scheme". KATC. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved August 27, 2013.
BBBs across the nation have issued warnings about these kinds of vanity award schemes since 2008.
- Award Scam a Big Loser, June 16, 2016, bbb.org. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- Michael N Marcus (February 5, 2010). "It doesn't get much better than this: Vanity publisher Outskirts Press brags about its vanity award from a scam organization". Book Making. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
- "No consumer complaints for Peoria Award Program - Central Illinois BBB". bbb.org.
- "Memphis Award Program". bbb.org.
- "888-731-3985". 800notes.com.
- "Medina Award 2012, Thirtyseven4 Antivirus". thirtyseven4.com.
- "Scam Alert: Best of Business Awards for Local Businesses - Perihelion Web Design". www.perihelionwebdesign.com. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- "Promise Healthcare » Promise Hospital Receives 2012 Best of Baton Rouge Award". promisehealthcare.com.
- "Observer". www.observer.org.sz. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- "What Price Honor?". www.occrp.org. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- What's the worth of a prize with a price tag?, stuff.co.nz. Retrieved January 2017.
- Factoring awards – what a sham, 3 May 2012, factoringblog.co.uk. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- AI Global Media brands page, ai-globalmedia.com. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- Are Build Magazine Awards legit or scam?, Leon Abrien, 22 September 2016, houseextensiondesigns.co.uk. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- Build News awards – we received 3 for absolutely nothing, Leon Abrien, 5 April 2017, houseextensiondesigns.co.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
- Are the TMT media awards a way to scam media companies?, Paul O' Connor, 9 November 2016, undercurrentsvideo.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
- Here we go again - Wealth and Finance Awards 2016, 13 April 2016, accountingweb.co.uk. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- Wealth and Finance Awards – Are They Real?, 19 May 2016, fightback.ninja. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- "Fee-For-Review Versus Vanity Reviews". authorgrahambrown.com.
- David Streitfeld (August 25, 2012). "The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy". New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- David Streitfeld (August 19, 2011). "In a Race to Out-Rave, 5-Star Web Reviews Go for $5". New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- David Streitfeld (January 26, 2012). "For $2 a Star, an Online Retailer Gets 5-Star Product Reviews". New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- "New Book Review Service Designed To Remedy Publishing Industry Shortage". Archived from the original on June 8, 2001. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
- "Clarion Review". ForeWord Reviews. Retrieved September 1, 2013.
- "The Indie Author's Guide to Paid Reviews". PublishersWeekly.com.
- "City Book Review Sponsored Review Submission". CityBookReview.com. March 17, 2017.