Commentary From The 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

The commentary from the Writer’s Digest judges recently arrived via email. I cleaned up some odd fonts  found in the their reply, otherwise, what follows below is word for word.

Overall, the only major significant flaw(s) were not having pictures on every page, a little tightening up wouldn’t have hurt either. I will keep what follows in mind for future books in the series.

My illustrator Tielman lived up to expectations and after singing his praises whenever I pitch the book, it’s gratifying to see him score the only 5 for Production Quality and Cover Design. That five also belongs to Jo and Audrey at Mystic Publishers in the Production Quality department and the people at Bookmasters who printed the book.

The four other fours all belong to me so there’s room for improvement. I have a good book. I’ve always known in my heart I’ve had a good book. I just need to continue promoting it and getting more time in schools and events.

And now, the review.

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.

Structure and Organization: 4

Grammar: 4

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot (if applicable): 4

Character Development (if applicable): 4

Judges Commentary:

Yalu and the Puppy Room is a very sweet story that shows exactly what happens from a puppy point of view at an animal shelter. Right from the start, readers will be rooting for Yalu and feel her pain when she’s not picked to go home with a family right off the bat. The illustrations in this book are exceptional and support the story perfectly.

In future books in this series, I encourage the author to make sure every spread has illustrations. In this volume, there are several spreads with nothing but words, but the illustrations support this book so well, you feel like you’re missing something without them! A way the author might be able to tighten the copy to allow for fewer pages (and thus make sure each one has an illustration) is to make sure that every single word counts. This is especially important in picture books where there are fewer words than most books. For instance, in sections where the reader is shown that Yalu drops her head in despair, we don’t necessarily need her inner thoughts to reaffirm that feeling we know exactly why she’s dropping her head. The author is very good with his words, and showing what’s happening is strong enough without telling afterwards.

That said, the author should be very proud of this book. It looks like the author is developing it into a series, and children will surely want to follow Yalu’s adventures book after book. Good stuff!

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And The Winner Is…

The results of the Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self Published Book Awards are in and the winner is, drum roll please…not me.

After months of reading, there were over 2,800 entries, the judging phase has ended and as a courtesy, the people at Writer’s Digest wanted to let me know that all the winning entries, including the honorable mentions, were already notified by the editorial staff last week and their prizes have been distributed.

Funny, the phone didn’t ring last week and when the phone doesn’t ring and a judging date has passed, that should mean something.

Anyway, narrowing down the winners was extremely hard and the task very difficult because this year’s talent was truly impressive—so that means I lost to very good talent. I’m at that point of my book where Yalu’s world comes to a stretching halt when the father visiting the puppy room says he wanted a male and she thinks: they wanted a what?

The good news is that all participants will receive a brief judge’s commentary that will be emailed by the end of the year if not sooner. It will be interesting to see what my review will say.

It will also be interesting to find out who won as well as those who placed in the children’s category, and those who received an honorable mention. I do want to see their work and gain insights into their writing. The winners and honorable mentions will be posted in the March 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest.

I tried. I put my best effort into my writing and lost. Life does go on. It’s how people and puppies respond to setbacks in life that determines their true character.