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  • Writer's pictureSheri McGuinn

Indie Book awards


indie book awards. writer. editor. judge

For the second year, I’ve been a judge for an independent book association’s award. They’ve asked their name not be mentioned until the contest is over. However, I do have some notes for independent publishers entering contests.


As a judge, I am given specific directions for scoring five areas and told how each section is weighted. In this contest, twenty percent is for cover and interior design. They list various details that should be included on the cover – including a readable price. The interior should follow industry standards – and the design should match the look and feel of the cover. Both should fit genre expectations. Another ten percent addresses text mechanics - typos and such. The remaining seventy percent covers quality of writing, content, and structure.


I read and scored four books over the summer:

  • One was technically excellent, but the content was rather repetitive.

  • In another novel’s acknowledgements, the author thanked someone for proofing the manuscript carefully for typos. I think I found one, which is comparable to any novel from any publisher. However, that author really needed an editor. There were problems with the structure of the story and basic sentence structure.

  • The third book was a collection of short stories, fairly well done, but the opening paragraphs were confusing to a reader without specific geographic knowledge and there were places where a good editor would have pointed out tense and continuity issues.

  • The last book was non-fiction with exceptional writing and content. The main flaws were in the book design. While there were interesting design elements, they were not applied consistently and did not follow industry standards where they should have.

Takeaways if you want to do well in indie book awards:

  • Edit at all levels! Comprehensive (aka substantive) editing addresses issues with the story structure, character development, consistency, etc. Copyediting is essential if you tend to write run-on sentences or change tense from one sentence to the next. Reading for typos is proofing and should be left until all revisions are done and you get a proof copy printed.

  • Know what books in your genre look like. That is what will attract your audience.

  • Know publication standards so your book looks professional – even if you hire a designer, you need to know if they’re doing it right.

  • If you are entering a contest, ask if they’ll share information on how they score. They may not, but if they do, make sure you meet their standards before entering.

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