How do we Establish our Contest Winners?

July 14, 2014 by Jen Jandavs-Hedlin


Ah, July. Garden grown tomatoes, long hot summer days, the smell of freshly cut grass, bumblebees happily buzzing by on their way to pollenate flowers, backyard barbecues with loved ones, lounging on a sun-soaked beach after swimming in the waves… this is my favourite time of the year. And, for those of us at Word Alive Press, there is another reason to love this time of year: our annual Free Publishing Contest.


This is the time of year when contest entries are pored over and each one is carefully considered. It is humbling to be the recipient of so many wonderful submissions. We take it very seriously that authors have entrusted us with the manuscripts that they have put their heart and soul into. Some are true stories that are utterly heart wrenching, others carry you away to a fantasy world. Some challenge us to live more fully, or give more generously or share the gospel more enthusiastically. Others call us to thoughtfully re-examine our viewpoint on an issue. There is poetry, where words masterfully glide, duck, and crescendo into a flurry of words, and there are devotionals that leave heads nodding and souls stirred.


Since the contest closed about a month ago, the evaluation process has been in full swing. The purpose of this blog however, is not to divulge details of where we are currently at, or to hand out the phone numbers of the judging committee! Rather, I would like to take a look at one of the most common questions we are asked about our contest… How do you select a winner?


The truth is, it’s hard work! Reviewing these manuscripts is a very large endeavour, and we have a system in place involving numerous people, several rounds, and at times, lots of coffee. (For those of you following us on “Pinterest”: http://www.pinterest.com/wordalivepress/ , you may have noticed a sharp increase of pins to our coffee board, entitled “Our Other Love.”: http://www.pinterest.com/wordalivepress/our-other-love/ )


But how do we actually decide? Is the winner the best-written book, or the most interesting? Does the topic matter? Well, I would answer these questions with another question, how would you define what makes a great book? I would suggest that a truly wonderful book will excel in:

  • The quality of the writing.
  • The plot (fiction) or purpose (non-fiction) of the book.
  • Being impactful. (Does it provide a fresh angle, or am I changed by the imprint of this story/teaching on my heart/mind?)
  • And, as a Christian publishing company, we also ask, does it succeed at pointing me towards my Maker in some way?


Yes, there is much more to consider than simply these four categories (we use several evaluation forms that look at many other factors). But if a book does well at the above, it is bound to make waves in our contest.


Selecting a winner is never easy. There is always debate. As the calibre of manuscripts we receive has increased, deciding on only one fiction and one non-fiction winner becomes increasingly difficult. But we believe that it is a worthwhile process, and we are always thrilled to bring our contest winners into the market for others to read and enjoy.


Stay tuned for more contest updates on our “website”: http://wordalivepress.ca/ , “Twitter”: @wordalivepress , and “Facebook”: https://www.facebook.com/wordalivepress . Our goal is to establish and announce this year’s winners by the end of July.

About this Contributor

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Jen Jandavs-Hedlin has worked in the publishing industry for over a decade and is passionate about helping authors to share their stories. She enjoys cooking, reading, writing, and organizing her home into boxes and containers. Jen lives in Winnipeg with her husband, and their canine companion, Montgomery.