A few months ago, I sent my book, A Symphony of Cicadas, to the “21st Annual Writer’s Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards.” I had high hopes of placing, but mostly I was anxious about the promised commentary from the judge.
Well, I didn’t place. And I’ll admit, I was totally bummed out. I forgot all about it and let it go. But then, a few weeks later, I received a letter that spelled out the judge’s comments.
And my jaw literally dropped when I read it.
The most you can get in each category is a 5. And I got only 4s and 5s across the board. Here’s the judge’s comments in their entirety:
Structure and Organization: 4
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Plot (if applicable): 4
Character Development (if applicable): 5
Ranking note: 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.
Judges Commentary: A SYMPHONY OF CICADAS, by Crissi Langwell, is a book filled with interesting characters and an unusual plot line. At first the storyline seemed straight forward: A man and a woman, in love, both with children, but no spouses, awaiting their wedding day. Of course, there is tension and problems between the children, but the main characters, the man and woman, love each other and are promising themselves and each other that they will get through everything.
Then comes the surprise, a terrible automobile accident and Rachel and Joey are killed, while the others must go on with their lives. The tone of the book changes from one of happy anticipation to sorrow. The author takes us through the death process, the funeral, the adjusting of both of deceased and the grieving people left behind.
I must admit I was angry with Rachel for being a careless driver with her son in the car. Not that the accident was totally her fault, but a mother of two, I know how important the children’s lives are. This is not blaming, it is an indication of how real you made the story that I was able to identify with this mother losing her child, and feel anger with the truck driver, etc. Only a skilled writer has that much influence over her readers.
Congratulations for weaving an interesting story line and entertaining us as well as making us think about what death means. I thought the complication of having Aunt Rose there to greet her added a lot to the storyline, and also gave the reader reassurance that all will be well when it is our turn. Well done.
– Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards
Now that I’m almost a year into this self-publishing adventure, I’m not as prone to enter contests anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I was smitten with this commentary the judge gave. It let me know that I’m on the right track, and I’m actually not making a fool out of myself with each book (yes, these thoughts do go through my head). It gave my baby princess ego a much needed boost.
But contests like these come with a price. Like a $ price. Some are small, others are large, and they all add up to costs I just can’t afford – just for a measly ego boost. Of course, the winners of contests like these get much more than an ego boost. They get a ton of exposure – the very prize every struggling author wants (along with a cash prize. Trust me, the exposure is more valuable). But the odds of winning these things is slim, as there are so many books out there.
Maybe one day again I’ll entertain the idea of entering my books into contests. But for now, I think I’ll focus my energy on writing. 🙂