What Exactly Goes into Judging a Literary Awards Competition?

Sheri Hoyte Managing Editor

Sheri Hoyte
Managing Editor

I’ve talked about this before, and with our 2019-2020 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Literary Awards in full swing, I thought it might be fitting to review the guidelines we follow when scoring titles.

So what do judges look for when scoring a literary awards title? Much like reading with a writer’s hat on, reading with a judge’s hat takes a different focus. Following are the guidelines I use when judging a literary awards title: 

·         Content.  Does the author’s voice convey a distinct and consistent style throughout?  Does the flow of the book draw the reader in at an appropriate pace?  Does the reader have a clear understanding of who the characters are in the story? 

·         Presentation and Design.  There is nothing more distracting to a great story than editing and proofreading errors.  This is the easiest thing to fix or prevent in the first place.  I can tell within the first few pages whether or not a professional editor has been used.  An occasional typo won’t make or break the book, but consistent use of poor grammar will cost points in the presentation category.

·         Production Quality.   Is the cover attractive and appropriate for the genre and the story?  Yes, I know the cliché, but a dull and drab cover, or a noisy cover with hidden titles and too much information can be a turn off.  Does the binding fall apart when opening the book?  Is the paper quality adequate or just so-so?  I have a hard time concentrating on a story when the book I’m reading is falling apart or the pages are tearing because the paper is so thin. 

·         Innovation.  To stand out in any genre, innovation is the key.  Is the subject matter original?  Does the author bring a fresh voice to the genre?   Are writing elements being used in interesting and creative ways?

·          Social Relevance and Enjoyment.  For fiction books: Is the book impactful on the community of the genre?  Is it reflective of important social issues? Is it highly entertaining and completely engrossing?  Would I re-read this book?  Was I left wanting more? 

·         Resourcefulness.   For self-help, business, how-to, etc. type of books: Is the book easy to follow, clear and concise? Are credible sources noted? Does the author have credibility in the subject matter?

When I read a book, whether for pure enjoyment, to learn a new skill, expand my knowledge, or for a literary contest, I want to feel a connection to that book.  Fiction or non-fiction, humorous or biographical, when I’ve finished a book and it lingers in my mind for days – that is the sign of greatness. Find out more about our literary awards here.

Participating in a Literary Event? Here are a few Things to Consider

Sheri Hoyte Managing Editor

Sheri Hoyte
Managing Editor

One of the first things many authors think of when their book is released is marketing and publicity. Participating in literary events should be a big part of that plan. For many, participating as panelists or vendors is exciting, to be sure, but can also be intimidating.  Some of the larger, well-known events, such as Comic Con and the New York Book Festival, have big crowds and a good number of author booths competing for attention. These big events are definitely a different league from signing books in a bookstore or any other small venue, and thus the preparation checklist is larger. However, it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Here are some things to consider when planning any literary event:

·         When choosing which events to participate in, the first thing to do is establish goals. Many of these events are targeted to specific crowds, so before creating a list of events for the year the author should think through what they wish to accomplish. If it is sales, then a comic con is not the right place for a Self Help book. But if it is promotion, why not? Even Comic fans need some self-help sometimes, or have friends who enjoy self-help books, so giving away T-Shirts, postcards, etc., could pay off as word of mouth could generate sales later on.

·         Once a list of possible events is in place, there are few questions to answer before signing up to any of them. Many times there are dues and efforts needed that are not stated on the event’s website. For example, do you need a sales tax number? Do you need to apply for a license to be able to sell? Does the signup fee cover the table, electricity, etc? Asking questions ahead of time will give an insight on the event that can’t be acquired by the general information on the website. Knowing more will help the author determine the exact costs of participation.

·         Make a list of things that you need for the event like banners, marketing handouts, raffle giveaways, etc. Get quotes on production costs – and when designing them, ensure you will be able to re-produce them for other events. This will make the investment worthwhile.

·         Design ways to get people to visit your booth.  Giving away T-Shirts and other items are great, but making the booth interactive can go a long way. A laptop playing the book’s video commercial, the author dressing as a fictional character in the story, having original historical items referenced within the story on display as a way to start a conversation – all of these things are great ways to hold people’s attention and turn those browsers into customers!  Be creative, unique and genuine.

Finally, have fun! In the end authors need to relax, talk to people, and enjoy the time spent with at the event. Writing is an isolating activity, so getting out of that shell is not only necessary to connect with people, it is also imperative to help the audience relate to the author. Many times, book sales will not happen during the event but after the event by people who related to the author. For more information on how Reader Views can help authors, visit www.readerviews.com

Reading for Children – Inspiring Wonder and Imagination: A Teen Perspective

Faryal Jabbar Teen/YA Reviewer Reader Views Kids

Faryal Jabbar
Teen/YA Reviewer
Reader Views Kids

Today, for most Americans, school starts at the tender age of 5 years old, in which young children are taught the basics like how to read, write, add, and subtract. I remember the main focus in elementary school was reading and still is from what I’ve observed from my younger siblings. Teachers desperately try to engage students in books by requiring reading logs and introducing prominent children’s books to them. Reading is a skill that gifts the power to learn and communicate. At first, learning is by no means easy or a true passion for it has to inspire.

There are thousands of children's book out there, many crafted with a moral and lesson in mind. As a result children's books play a huge role in kid’s lives because they teach them how to read and spark their imagination. Often people have the mindset that they are not learning anything reading fictional books because they can’t see any facts or information. However, reading develops comprehension, empathy, and wonder. For a child nowadays with both books and tablet readers, it can be difficult to resist the world of online games and cartoons. While these things are not all bad, there is a different feeling and understanding when watching a movie versus reading a book.  Children can think for themselves and develop a relationship with characters in a book easier than in a cartoon. What better way to teach a child to try new things than “Green Eggs and Ham” by Doctor Seuss. He and many other authors entertain and teach kids through their stories.

After I grew out of only reading picture books I lost interest in reading and saw it as a chore my teacher was making me do. Luckily after I had read “Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan it was like I had a tiny awakening. I read and read, everything from Harry Potter to books about stereotypical high school life that I was enamored by. Although I haven’t lost my love of reading, I too haven’t picked up a book on my own for a while and have turned to binging on Netflix when I have free time. I’m not that old, but I think that as people get older they blame the things they don’t do on time. Everyone I’ve talked to say they simply don’t have time to read including myself. However after writing this article and remembering the feeling of hearing my favorite children's books I am inspired to start making time to read again. The books many of us feel as a part of our growing up is an important feeling for children to have.

There is no one perfect formula to creating a children’s book. All there has to be is a story that has the power to catch the attention of a child. It is amazing how an author can use a small and simple set of words to communicate a message that shapes the way a child sees the world around them.

 

 

Beat the Rush – 2019/2020 Literary Awards Program

Sheri Hoyte Managing Editor

Sheri Hoyte
Managing Editor

Can you believe it’s mid-August already?  Can you believe our local home improvement store has its artificial Christmas trees out already?!  That’s just wrong. The temperature’s been 100+ for the last few weeks in Texas! Not only that, but those Christmas trees are taking up good space that could be used for the super early Halloween displays - LOL! It’s too much!

Anyway, now that summer is winding down and the kids are heading back to school, I thought it would be a great time to share some information about our Literary Awards, which we have been hosting since 2005!  We have received so many inspiring books already that it looks like this will be another great program.

I’m happy to note that we’ve done away with the early bird registration fee, meaning the standard entry fee will remain at the $89 price throughout the submission period. You asked - we listened!

That said, there’s no reason to wait until December to submit your book. The next couple of months are the actually the best months to get your entries in - before the mad rush to beat the December deadline. This also gives our reviewers more time to read!

All awards submissions receive the following with each entry:

  • Book Review – Each title will receive a book review. The review will be posted on our websites, either ReaderViews.com or ReaderViewsKids.com. They will also be posted on the Thoughtcrawlers and Reader Views blogs.  Authors will also receive a PDF copy of the review for promotional use.

  • Social Media Postings – Review will be shared and promoted on our Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram pages. Be sure to follow us on social media so you can share the news we post about your books with your followers.

  • We will also post your review on Goodreads and Barnes & Noble if your book is listed with these organizations.

  • News – Review will be featured on the Recent Reviews dedicated page of ReaderViews.com. These reviews are rotated on a weekly basis.

All entries must be post-marked by December 31, 2019. With so many intriguing titles submitted in all categories, the anticipation is already building! Find out more about the 2019-2020 Literary Awards and guidelines here.  If you have any questions, email us at admin@readerviews.com.

To Escape: But Just a Little

Skyler Boudreau Editorial Contributor/Reviewer

Skyler Boudreau
Editorial Contributor/Reviewer

All stories, good or bad, need a conflict. Without one, there isn’t a story at all. The conflict is what drives the characters forward in the plot. It can be something as small as two employees competing for a promotion to the same position, or something as large as two opposing armies fighting over a piece of territory. Conflict breathes life into all other elements of a story.

Just like in stories, conflict is an inescapable part of life. You will find it wherever you look for it, and even in some places you don’t. On the whole, I would say that most conflicts are unenjoyable for both the participants and the observers. The exception here lies with events like a good debate. There is something exhilarating about watching opposite sides carefully argue their respective points. Some people are hungry for that kind of fight. However, even they will avoid a situation they find too uncomfortable.

Isn’t it strange that, while using reading as a means of escape, we dive directly into the conflicts of someone else’s life? The characters in books might be fictional, but there are often striking similarities between their problems and their audience’s. That relatability is one of the things that keeps reading interesting.

Perhaps “escape” is a poor word. A more accurate one might be “divert.” A reader isn’t truly escaping conflicts in their lives when they open a book but is instead diverting their attention to see how someone else deals with a potentially similar situation. They can imagine they are that character, standing tall and strong, staring down an opponent as they might wish to meet the gaze of an intimidating boss. Once the story is over, the reader might find the courage to emulate that brave character as they handle a parallel situation in real life.

Conflicts themselves don’t seem to vary all that much. Subject A and Subject B both want the same thing. They fight. Subject A wants something that prevents Subject B from attaining what they want. They fight. There’s nothing wrong with this. Conflicts may change shape, but they rarely change theme. We all encounter the same ones.

Reading may, in fact, be a means of escaping. But only a little.

The Surf (Based on True Events from Susan Violante’s Maui Vacation)

Susan Violante Managing Editor

Susan Violante
Managing Editor

As promised in an earlier editorial, here is an installment of the short story about my Maui near-death kayak adventure!

Susan gasped, as she surfaced from the almost tsunami size wave, desperately pulling down her choking lifejacket. For a moment she considers taking it off, but immediately remembers that she can’t swim. The smell of the ocean overwhelmed her, the taste of the ocean now in her respiratory track, burned within her. She turned around looking for her husband, when she found herself under another wave. Surprisingly, she comes out of it alive, although suffocating in the salty water. She opens her eyes to see a wall of water rising in front of her again. She puts her fingers on the snap button of the lifejacket, ready to cut it loose…God, thank you for letting me die in such a beautiful place…

- - -

A month before Surf time

Susan and Michael have barely lived as a couple two years out of the 30 that they have been together. One was before the arrival of their first daughter, the other after the last daughter moved out, and before Susan’s parents moved in with them four years before. Yes, they needed a vacation, so when Nico (the oldest) and her husband gifted them a week at a Maui resort, they couldn’t pack their bags any faster; especially Susan. She had spent the previous year in a wheelchair after triple surgery on her foot gone wrong. She still needed the cane to walk, but that was not going to spoil her romantic getaway. They signed up for all the adventures they found on the resort’s website that matched their bucket list.

“Let’s do the zipline!” said Michael in a tone that resembled a 12-year-old.

“I want to do the horseback trail!” replied 11-year-old Susan.

In the end, they realized that Susan would be limited to water adventures thanks to her bad foot, so they booked all of them and settled on the zipline for Michael and a spa day for Susan. The youthful excitement kept them going until May 27th, departure day. They had shipped her parents off to Florida the day before to visit her sister while they were gone; her daughter would dog-sit her puppies. After four years of chaos everything fell easily into place for them to take some time for themselves…it was too good to be true.

- - -

…God please let Michael live so that he can take care of my family, Susan prayed silently while contemplating losing her lifejacket for a quick end. She didn’t have time to finish her prayer or snap loose her jacket. The wall of ocean fell on her a third time, taking her under further this time. Her mind went blank, not sure if she was pushing herself up or down further. She had lost track of time when suddenly, she could breathe air again…

(more next week!)

What Does it Mean to be a Main Character? A Teen Perspective

Faryal Jabbar Teen/YA Reviewer Reader Views Kids

Faryal Jabbar
Teen/YA Reviewer
Reader Views Kids

The seven of us sat together around the plastic table inside our local froyo shop one day when our book-obsessed friend looked up from her latest fanfiction and questioned, “Which one of us would be the main character?” We all turned to our tall, fiery, red-headed friend, and unanimously agreed she would be the obvious lead. As we walked out of the pink store, my best friend tilted her head and asked me, “Why couldn’t we be the main characters?” That question has stuck with me. What does it really mean to be the main character?

I looked at many books and questioned how an author can choose a single character to expose to their audience. The genre that was the hardest to analyze was war stories. There are thousands of people who are involved in war, and this generates millions of stories. The author has to make the decision to choose the one story that will capture the hearts of the readers. I realized that each of us is the main character in our own life or rather our own story. It seems as though new authors develop their main characters from their own life stories and place them in a high school or on the battlefield. That’s what I love about indie books because it’s a chance to see the author’s perspective, and become attached to their characters.

As a young adult reader myself, my favorite books are the novels in which I can relate. Our favorite genres and personalities are changing and evolving. Books are opportunities to flee our lives and experience new things through these characters. This is the important job of authors, to create characters: animals, people, faeries, mythological beings, or even aliens that can, in a very simple way, change the lives of a reader.  

Approaching a Reader in the Wild

Skyler Boudreau Editorial Contributor

Skyler Boudreau
Editorial Contributor

Contrary to what you may hear, readers are not an endangered species. Their habitats are growing by the day, as more bookstores and libraries are constructed and their beloved authors continue to produce an endless food supply, nurturing the sharp minds of this truly unique animal. With the creation of e-readers and audiobooks, access to stories (mandatory for species survival) is more widely available than ever before. As the species continues to thrive, your chances of running into a reader in the wild increase.

What happens if you do stumble across one? How should you react? Are they aggressive? Do they bite? For this example, we will use a common subspecies of reader; the Coffee Shop Reader.

The Coffee Shop Reader isn’t necessarily found in a coffee shop. You can find one in many different eating establishments, from your local diner to a burger joint. Not all Coffee Shop Readers look alike either. They are, however, still relatively easy to identify with the untrained eye. Just search for the book in their hands and the hyper focused look in their eyes as they become completely invested in the fates of their favorite characters.

As you observe the Coffee Shop Reader with a smile, you are struck with a burning question. What in the world are they reading? Something has captured their attention so completely that they are scarcely aware of their surroundings. You must know what this incredible book is.

You can’t see the cover from your angle. As you shift in your seat to get a better look, the Coffee Shop Reader places their open book down on the table and leans over it with obvious hunger, hunger that not even their half-finished plate of fries will satisfy. Damn it.

You’re left with one option. One you desperately wanted to avoid. You take a calming breath and prepare to interrupt the Coffee Shop Reader’s trance.

“Hey, uh, what are you reading?”

The Coffee Shop Reader doesn’t hear you the first time, and you are forced to repeat your question. They jump. A brief flash of annoyance crosses their face.

“What is it?” they ask.

“Um. I just wanted to know what you’re reading,” you say.

The Coffee Shop Reader’s face softens. They smile and your heart stops pounding.

“Oh, it’s American Gods. Neil Gaiman is my favorite author,” they say.

“Really?”

You pull a worn and tattered paperback novel from your purse. It took hours of internet shopping for you to find a purse you were satisfied with, one that could fit at least one paperback of your own inside along with your wallet, keys, and all the other miscellaneous items that end up at the bottom of purses.

The Coffee Shop Reader’s face lights up with obvious delight when they see the cover. The edition is older, but it’s unmistakably the same book. They take their backpack (probably full of other books) off the chair next to them and set it on the ground. You recognize an invitation when you see one and leap out of your own chair to join them.

Ah the wonders of nature.