The 2011 Judges Report
Our readers and judges were extremely impressed with the entries that we received for our first annual book award. We had entries from all over the world but the highest volume were from the UK, which accounted for 63 per cent. We were delighted with the array of genres submitted: fiction for children, young adults and adults, thrillers, science fiction, memoirs, and travel books, to name a few. General fiction accounted for 39 per cent of the entries, which is why this genre has a heavier presence amongst our short list and winners. We were also pleased to receive a large number of entries from independent presses as well as self publishers.
All of the books were sent to readers with a particular interest in the relevant genre. Inevitably, it is difficult to judge one genre against another and this has created a number of debates. As a possible solution we have considered dividing the entries into categories to allow for category winners, but we are reluctant to do so at this point, as the prize pot would have to be divided up into smaller prizes. We would like to keep our main prize as large as possible. Also, we feel that having a shortlist and longlist allows the best books from all genres to receive the recognition they deserve. We hope that the authors in these lists will market themselves as a shortlisted or longlisted author for the Rubery Book Award.
Generally, the books we received were presented in a very professional manner. In fact, all the covers of books sent in by independent publishers were polished and appealing. Presentation cannot be underestimated, as this is what potential buyers will see first and it will influence their decision to purchase a book. A publishing house will be aware of these issues, but authors who self publish will inevitably have less experience. We know that self publishing a book takes a lot of hard work (especially if you decide to take on the design and typesetting yourself). The covers in most instances were immediately likeable and drew in the reader. There were, however, some books that were let down by the presentation. This could be something as simple as no copyright page, or page numbers appearing on the preliminary pages before the main text. We know these are small things but we do believe that professionalism is paramount. Despite these problems, one or two did make it to the longlist and shortlist because their content was superb but we felt we could not give a main award to them.
A book’s content is critical to its overall success. Books from independent presses clearly avoided editorial issues and were well written. This was also true with many of the self published books. However, we had a few exciting, well told stories which were let down by punctuation problems or grammatical errors. One particular mistake appeared frequently: after a character had spoken, there was a full stop before the inverted commas followed by a new sentence to merely say ‘She said’. This should all be in one sentence, separated by a comma. In other books there were smaller errors which became irritating when repeated endlessly. There were also problems with continuity where a jump in time or place required the helpful device of a double space. At least one book had an excellent narrative but needed an editor, or someone who would read it with a critical eye, so we felt we could not give it a prize. We do understand that even traditionally published books have some mistakes, so we tended to judge these issues on how much they distracted us while reading.
Children’s and young adult books accounted for 25% of entries. Here we found some fast-paced stories that grabbed our attention immediately and drew us in, although they were often let down by lack of character development. Some of the books for younger readers did not have enough dialogue and had unnecessarily long paragraphs, which we felt did not suit the age group that was clearly intended by the contents. Others were brilliantly illustrated but lacked a strong story.
We would like to reiterate that we were impressed with the overall quality of the entries and competition was tough. We wanted to recognise more than we could. As a result, the judges felt that a separate prize should be added to the three prizes. It was decided that an extra prize could be created: The Judges’ Special Award. This will not be awarded every year, only when the judges feel a need to recognise something extraordinary. This year it is awarded posthumously to Johnny McKeagney for his book In the Ould Ago. His family will receive a small cash prize and a glass plaque.
All of our winners win a cash prize and glass plaque.
First Prize Christine Donovan’s Jump Derry.
Second Prize Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn’s Unravelling.
Third Prize Sarah James’s Into the Yell.
The Judges' Special Prize Johnny McKeagney’s In the Ould Ago.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank our readers and to everyone who entered and gave us the chance to read your work.
We look forward to launching our next book award in September.