Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

O Hai!

I never win anything. 
And my philosophy is that I’m already a winner. My life is already so incredibly awesome that I don’t need to really ask for or wish for or win things. 
But every now and again someone sends me a link and says “Rhi, you should enter this contest because your book is really good.” 
In this case it was the 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards hosted by Writer’s Digest. Completely a big deal in my mind, because it’s Writer’s Digest. So I looked at the steps, mailed my books out, and waited. The waiting part took a long time. 
Yesterday I received a message thanking me for entering, that all the contest winners had been contacted last week and prizes were distributed to the winners. The e-mail then included a section that explained I would be receiving a commentary on my entry. Commentary!? They didn’t mention this before, and a commentary is . . . amazing, incredible, much more than what I’d expect from any awards committee because of the sheer number of entries they receive.
They promised that commentaries would show up by the end of the year. Mine came today. *cue anxiety attack*
THE COMMENTARY (in all its glory)
Entry Title: SURRENDER (The Ferryman + The Flame #1)
Author: Rhiannon Paille
Judge Number: 51
Entry Category: Middle-Grade/Young Adult books

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.

Structure and Organization: 5
Grammar: 4
Production Quality and Cover Design: 4
Plot (if applicable): 4
Character Development (if applicable): 4

Judges Commentary:

Very nice cover design! However, I’m not sure all of the inside photos match the cover’s quality — I think it may have been better if they had all been in the same style, instead of some PhotoShopped and some drawn, some cartoonish, etc.– but they do provide a nice visual as we go through the story.
I really appreciated the guides at the front–and the voice you injected into it.

I have two suggestions for tightening the narration in future publications. Because, while this kind of story lends itself to be lengthier and has longer paragraphs for world-building, etc., you could still do a fair amount of tightening to make it even better.

First, do a search for all your adverbs — an easy way to get many of them is by searching “-ly” — and omitting as many of them as you can (which is probably most of them). The second would be to do a search for all your passive verbs — particularly, IS/ARE/WAS/WERE/FELT/REALIZED/LOOKED/ SEEMED — and replace those with active verbs. You’d be surprised how many words you can trim when you do that, which makes the book sleeker and helps with pacing. And, when you swap out passive verbs for active ones, you can even trim a lot of adjectives because a good, active verb, will do the work of both of those things PLUS the work of adverbs! There were a few grammatical/formatting hiccups, but nothing major.

All in all, this is a well-written piece. I agree with your blurb on the cover and always admire someone who can weave in so many details about unique worlds she creates without the prose feeling narration-heavy. Nice job!


Did they just agree with Evie from Bookish Evie who said I’m the J.R.R. Tolkien of the Young Adult Generation? *reads it again* Holy crap they agreed that I’m the J.R.R. Tolkien of Young Adult. HOLY CRAP.


And the score, 21 out of a potential 25 points!? WOW.


I’m pretty much floored, never mind the little things I’ve been working on in my later books already that they mentioned, or the artwork that’s been redone (SURRENDER was re-released October 1st with brand new artwork to match the rest of the interior art) but J.R.R. FREAKING TOLKIEN!


I don’t care if I didn’t win this contest, this commentary right here? This makes me a winner.

And I’m so glad I entered! If you’re looking for a contest that will treat you right, this one is definitely it!


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