Is there a way to check how well known a prize is? Is the standard - I haven't heard of it in multiple places so it must not be a thing? I ask because some of this is crowd dependent. Living in CT, where there are a lot of successful authors, I recently learned about an award that is big locally - they get ten or twelve agents and editors to jury it. But aside from people who've been judges, I'm not sure if anyone's heard of it. Is there a quick google test? (Not that I've won the Tassy award, nor a I querying yet; this is a classic cart before horse question.)
When a person queries me and mentions they've won "first place in the Carkoon Garden Show Writing Contest" I look up the contest.
I look for the following things:
1. Number of categories. A contest that has eleven hundred categories is no contest at all.
2. Who's nominated: If I haven't heard of any of the books on the short list, I'm less likely to value that contest.
3. Who published the books that are nominated: If I haven't heard of any of the publishers, I discount the contest entirely.
4. The entry fee: if it costs more than $25 to enter I'm less likely to consider it a good contest. Contests with steep entry fees are often very profitable for the people who run it, not so much for the people who enter or "win."
5. Contest footprint: If I google the contest and the only thing that shows up is the contest website, that's a problem. If people aren't talking about the prize, or lauding the winners, it's less valuable.
Let's look at the contest you mention: The Tassy Award
1. There are five categories for this award. They're all categories that make sense. I've seen contests that have a category each for suspense, mystery, thriller, procedural, private eye and zombie detectives. The purpose is to get more entries (and money) not to honor one particular book as outstanding
2 and 3. Here's a list of winners. They provide a link to the author's website which is helpful.
I don't know any of these authors, but I know the trade publications that are talking about the books. That's a good sign.
4. The entry fee is $20. That's reasonable for an organization like this.
5. Here's the google search. It's clear that it's pretty well known. Not the Pulitzer, but not everything can be.
So, if you enter and win this, I'd definitely list it in your bio. When I google it, it's clear that this contest should be taken seriously.