Some of you will no doubt have encountered Publishers’ Weekly (PW), a company that devotes itself to the book publishing industry. If you’re a collector of first edition modern literature, you may have checked out their list of ‘Best selling books in America’, or the ‘Best selling children’s books in America’ that tracks sales of books since 1895 (I’ve mentioned it in a previous blog). They have an electronic newsletter with articles on writing, promoting and publishing books. They have a staff of reviewers for new books and an archive of reviews of tens of thousands of books. It is still the case that established publishing houses in North America seek a PW review to use as a ‘blurb’ on the jacket when they first bring forth a new book in the same way that British publishers look to a review in ‘The Guardian’. It’s the official alternative to finding all the bloggers who review books.
PW also has a branch called ‘Booklife’. It’s a lovely resource for independent authors. As a free service, one can set up an account with BookLife and input their ‘project’ into a standardized package that helps establish how far along you are in getting your work out into the public while offering helpful advice on steps to take to get your package more saleable.
If you have set up an account and inputted one or more ‘projects’ into your account, you could think about entering the BookLife annual writing contest. The contest is separated into two parts – one devoted to non-fiction and the other to fiction and they operate at different times of the year. It’s open to authors who have not had their book published or have had it self-published. Both fiction and non-fiction are further divided into sub-categories. Non-Fiction entries are: Memoire/autobiography, Self-help, Inspirational/Spiritual & Business/Personal Finance. Fiction includes: Romance/Erotica, Mystery/Thriller, General Fiction, Middle-Grade/Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror.
An author is limited to one entry per category, each novel has to reach the word count expected of a novel (i.e. no novellas or short stories). Each submission costs $99 US. The winners of the contest get $5,000 and a profile in PW. Every entry gets a professional evaluation by a PW critic – a relatively inexpensive way to get a professional appraisal of your work. You’re supposed to get the evaluation within eight weeks of submission, although the contest itself is spread over more than eight months. The critic looks at four aspects of the book: Plot, Prose/style, Originality and Character development. You get a brief statement on each followed by a mark out of 10. The four marks are averaged to give you an overall mark for the book. The highest marks in each category get to be semi-finalists.
Well, I have three unpublished books and how could I resist? I entered my novel ‘Punto’ in the General Fiction category, ‘Punto and Me’ in the Romance/Erotica category and ‘The Odin Incident’ in the Fantasy/Science Fiction/Horror category. I’ve had two evaluations back so far, neither of which will get me a spot in the semi-finals but it’s been an interesting experience.
So, for those of you who have read the beginning of ‘The Odin Incident’ (in an earlier blog if you want to check it out), here’s what they said:
Plot: Walker’s novel proves a lighthearted apocalyptic romp that plays with established Norse mythology to tell a story of heroism and young love.
Prose/Style: The plot moves at a brisk and satisfying pace to keep readers intrigued and invested. The characters who exist primarily in Adam’s head can feel a bit intrusive on the page as formatted, though the reader will quickly grow accustomed as the characters endear themselves.
Originality: While sci-fi rendering of Norse mythology is not unexplored territory, the plot and characters are fresh and creative, and the book’s unique brand of sardonic humor goes a long way toward establishing originality.
Character Development: The romance between Adam and Evie, both quirky characters, provides a tender charge to the story’s plot, and supporting characters are fun to read and establish the tone and worldbuilding nicely.
- Plot/Idea: 8
- Originality: 7
- Prose: 7
- Character/Execution: 8
- Overall: 7.50
The comment on the characters in ‘Adam’s head’ (i.e. Huginn and Muninn) was something I was aware of after I’d sent in the submission. It was a few weeks later when I discovered that forwarding a work in ‘Word’ can be hazardous if it gets put into a different platform for reading. It seems that there is a great deal of formatting lost when this happens. Huginn and Muninn, for instance, were clearly delineated in the original by giving them very distinctive fonts. This got stripped out when sending it on. Not that it helps for this time, but I’ve now revised the method of distinguishing their voices by using a more ‘play script’ approach – I’ve put everything in the same font as the body of the work except for making it italicized and put ‘M:’ and ‘H:’ before anything they say. Aside from this glitch, I thought the written part of the evaluation was quite positive. As to the mark, you only get to see those that the author has agreed to make public with BookLife. Of the ones made public, it’s better than many and less than others. Of course, unless you have the data on the number of entries, the high and low marks with a mean/average given for a specific reviewer, the mark itself is not as useful as it could be.
I’ll put my review of ‘Punto’ in a coming blog. The third book ‘Punto and Me’ hasn’t received its evaluation yet.