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best rejection ever!

earlier this year, i submit Witness to an annual international self-published book contest. yesterday, just a few days before christmas, i received notice that i hadn’t won. this, in itself, is okay; disaappointing, obviously, but okay. i’m certain there were quite a few very strong contenders (the letter even said so – “Competition was particularly fierce this year” – so it had to be true), and i learn from my mistakes and all that. so, that was fine.

the notification itself came in one of those stiff-backed full-sized envelopes so the pages are un-folded and all, and included the aforementioned letter, a cardstock certificate of participation in the contest, a couple photocopied pages of book marketing and promotion tips, and judge’s comments on my work.

now, let me say that i did pay $50 to be included in the contest, which is i suppose the reason for the more formal presentation of the notification; however, why on earth would i want a certificate to commemorate the fact that i hadn’t won something?*

okay, i can hear you asking: ‘what’s so ‘best’ about this rejection?’

well, i’ll tell you:

as i mentioned, i received comments from the judge (#32) that read my book. the following is an exact copy of the commentary i received, word for word:

Plot: 4
Grammar: 5
Character Development: 4
Cover Design: 3

Judge’s commentary:

What did you like best about this book?
The back cover copy is strong and compelling. After reading it, I was eager to open the book and start reading. After the opening hook, I couldn’t put down the book. With a well thought out plot and scene after scene of fabulous dialogue and active narrative, Witness is sure to have readers begging for more from author Bill Blais. The story starts at a good point and has a strong sense of movement, with all of the events unfolding in a logical yet unexpected manner. The characters are strong and sympathetic, even with their flaws. They speak naturally, and ring true to who they are. The authro voice is strong without being intrusive or overpowering to the story.

How can the author improve this book?
The front cover is okay, but it doesn’t offer a strong enough hint of the wonderful tale inside. With a story this powerful, the author might consider revising the cover for future printings. Take a look at other covers in the bookstore and see what jumps out – then do one better. There isn’t much else I’d change about this book, other than perhaps add a stronger hook at the end of all the chapters. Most of them have a light hook, so this really isn’t necessary. It would just strengthen it enough to take it from very good to excellent. Marketing this book would be a joy. There are all sorts of online book groups that would be eager to hear from the author for a chat or interview. Libraries and bookstores are other great places to ask about reader groups.

and this is the rejection letter? wow. (for reference, the numerics were based on a 1-5/low-high scale) obviously, i’m thrilled to hear all these fabulous things about my work, and i even understand where the judge is coming from about the cover art. it’s decidely not like the other books on the shelf, and it might do better with a more typically ‘fantastic’ cover. i’m not thrilled about that bit, and i don’t want to agree because of what it says about us as readers, but i can see the point.

that bit aside, though, my book is apparently bloody awesome.

just not good enough.

all my general snarkiness aside, though, i do want to be clear: i am genuinely and seriously thankful for this commentary, and i do appreicate that there are probably hundreds of books vying for the top spot in the genre fiction category. even as a rejection, this still ranks as extremely high praise, and it gives a little boost to the ego, if i do say so myself.

*worse, still, my name was off-center. i mean, come on, if you’re going to go to do a job, do it right. it’s the little things, folks, the little things…

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