Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Lesson Learned – Being a Judge

If you ask any published writer about learning the craft of writing, they will tell you to READ.  I have to agree.  I learned so much about writing from reading a good book.

One way to learn the craft and get your reading in is to volunteer to be a judge for a book contest. 

For the past 10 years I’ve been a judge for different book contests.  I wanted to share a few lessons I’ve learned from being a judge.

  1. Know how many books you can read before you commit to being a judge.  I once committed to 10 books, and it was probably the worse time in my life to be trying to read.  I read them, but it was very stressful.

  1. Make sure to choose the type of books that you write or want to write.  This helps you to see what the market is buying and you get to see what made these books sellable.

  1. Choose a book that isn’t in your genre.  I always pick a genre I’ve never read before.  You can learn from these books too.  Your goal is too see what is selling and why.

  1. Pick a genre that is hot right now.  I always pick a genre that is hot right now.  I want to see what the big deal is and I want to see how the book is written.

  1. Make time to read.  The last thing you want to do is have to read all the books in one month.  Spread your reading time over the time limit they give you.  You’ll enjoy it more if you’re not rushing to read.

  1. Judge each book right after you read it.  Don’t wait until you finish all the books, because you might not remember each book.  Take the time to fill out the judging sheet after you read the book.  The book is fresh in your mind and you can give an honest opinion.

  1. Read the whole book.  Even if it’s not your cup of tea, finish the book.  You’ll learn what doesn’t work for you as a reader and you can use this knowledge in improving your own writing.

  1. Do you have a problem with your writing; (dialogue, conflict etc); dissect these books for these problem areas.  See how the writers over comes them, learn how to improve your writing.

  1. Write down the names of the books and authors.  Once you send in your information, you’ll probably forget about them later.  When the awards are announced, it’s nice to see if the books you enjoyed or the ones you didn’t make it to the winner circle.

  1.  Support the writers you enjoyed.  I think the best part for me with being a judge for a book contest is finding new authors to read.  I visit their websites and add them to my to buy list.

These are a few lessons I’ve learned over the years as a judge. I hope they help you in determining you want to judge a book contest or help you with your first contest.

Have you judged a book contest?  Share your wisdom.


Deb Ehret said...

Thanks for your post, LaShaunda. I'm a new judge this year and thought your tips helpful - especially to fill out the judging sheet right away. It makes sense, but how often do we let other things interfere with our good intentions!

Deb Ehret

LaShaunda said...


Thanks for stopping by. Glad the tips were helpful for you. I hope you enjoy being a judge. Stop by and let me know how your first experience went.