What The Judge Said…

One of the problems of being a self published author is convincing the world that your book is a professional product, that the writing is good, the story well structured and that standards are high, guaranteeing a quality experience for the reader.

Many people think that traditional publishers are one way of ensuring a good read but fail to realize that these big publishing houses focus more on marketability, sometimes pushing out sub-standard work by big names, knowing that they will sell anyway, and are less concerned with launching new, unknown authors with a better book but questionable sales potential.

The book world is full of this bias. For example, it is extremely difficult for a self-published author to get a review in The News York Times, or a mention on Oprah’s book list – in fact, it is impossible. There’s just no getting around the line often in bold type on websites that states “Self-published books not accepted.”

It’s an unfair world. That’s just a fact and no amount of bemoaning it will change it.  I also understand why this is the case. The quality issue – we need some way to set a standard for self published books.

With this in mind, I entered March to November in the Writer’s Digest Self-published Book Awards.

Before we get too excited I will say upfront that, no – it didn’t win! But every entry is sent a judge’s appraisal. As I opened my email, my heart was thumping in my throat. These guys would be honest, no need to to suck up to me, no need to be gentle – They would call a spade a spade.

The email begins with an explanation of the grading system from 1-5.

“Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking…”

As I read through the grading system, I was praying for at least 3’s. All my writing insecurities rushed in on me – I was a scientist. Who was I fooling? I hated English Lit in school. I cannot figure out Shakespeare. I got bored with Joyce (there – I said it!) And, yes, I over-use exclamation marks!

These judges would crucify me. I gulped, put on my big girl head and read on.

And to my astonishment…well, read the scores for yourself…

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 4
Plot and Story Appeal: 5
Character Appeal and Development: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 5

And this is the Judges full comentary

Congratulations on writing and publishing your book! The packaging is extremely professional. The title and front cover design made me curious as to what this book was about. The back cover copy is well written although it’s a little hard to read against the brick backdrop design. You have an intriguing story to tell and I enjoyed your writing style. Your novel should have a wide appeal among readers of fiction. Great job with pacing: you focus on showing us the story in action and dialogue and yet manage to include a great deal of vivid details and description. The structure of your chapters is excellent: each one left me wanting to keep reading to the next. Great job with grammar and proofreading. The formatting of the interior of the book is excellent. You have a great web site to market this book. I loved seeing the photographs of the book’s locations, and I enjoyed reading and looking at the excellent photos on your blog. I would definitely think about continuing to build and promote your blog and possibly turning it into a book someday. An excellent entry and I look forward to reading more of your work in the future!”

Judge, 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

So I’m off now to go do my happy dance, for it seems that scientists can write!

Byddi Lee