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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