October 17, 2013

Judging a Book by its Cover, A Cautionary Tale

Several months ago, I entered SelfSame in the Writer's Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards in the Middle-Grade/Young Adult category. Winners were announced this week; I'm disappointed to say I wasn't one of them, but I was sent my scores and the judge's commentary.

In the scoring criteria, SelfSame was given 5 out of 5 points for Structure and Organization, 5 out of 5 points for Grammar, 5 out of 5 points for Plot, and 5 out of 5 points for Character Development.

The Judge's Commentary was a flat-out rave:

"This was another of my top favorites! It was very hard to choose this year. I was captivated by this story of Enid and Sorcha, 2 halves of the same soul. One in 1764 and the other in today's world, two centuries later. It was a fascinating novel. I loved all the historical facts in Enid's story. I loved that they knew about each other all along. I loved that their grandmothers excepted [sic] all of this.

"The writing was spot on. The characters, in both time periods, felt real and were interesting. The pace was even and kept me engaged. I loved the way Melissa Conway wove the story with each chapter going back and forth between the girls. And I am a romantic, so I loved the ending!

"I think YA girls will eat this story up! I will add this to my library and be happy to encourage my readers to pick it up."

So why didn't it win?

Well, the judge gave me a score of 3 out of 5 for Production Quality and Cover Design. That's right. She said: "The only place that I can see improvement is the cover. I get it after reading the book, but nothing about this cover would entice a reader to pick it up and delve in to it."

While I'm thrilled she liked the content, Judge 52's disdain for my cover really cost me. Any indie authors out there thinking about entering the Writer's Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards, please be aware that your cover WILL be judged. As it is judged by all your readers, despite the old adage that they shouldn't. ;-)



  1. You should be very pleased with the comments about the written content, though. That's a wonderful review.

  2. Fascinating. One wonders what he would have done with the original cover. I'm curious (just for my own self) what would be a winning cover for this story.

    1. Oh, I know! She probably would have given the original cover a 0 out of 5! Or, conversely, she might have LOVED it. There's really no telling. :-)