A fiasco from start to finish
I joined in the Gemlight Awards for the very reason they advertised: to promote my books and to secure an honest review.
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So, enter me, with The Unnamed in action/adventure and The Silence is Lifted in fantasy. I signed up, followed all the rules, and waited for my acceptance.
My notification came a couple of days later, with The Silence is Lifted being assigned to a judge. But I heard nothing about The Unnamed... So I commented on the chapter asking about my second entry. No response. Over the next several days, I started tagging members of the Writing Community in my comments. Still no response.
Several days later, I received a post on my wall from The Writing Community that simply stated "Your judge is @ Nazra" with a response from Nazra's personal account stating "ok."
What I didn't realize at the time was that Nazra was the founder of the Gemlight awards and she was covering her own mistake in the 3rd person. I confirmed this after finding a similar post on another writer's page from Nazra stating, "I'm the head of The Writer's Community. I hope you are fine. My reason for leaving a message on your wall is that I missed your book in the list of the participants and I didn't assigned [sic] you any judge. I'm really sorry for doing so. I do hope you accept my apology. I will judge your book myself that is if [sic] you want. Agani [sic], I am sorry for the mess up." --Much more of an explanation than I'd received.
But, I followed Nazra and awaited my results.
A while later, I was supplied said results in the form of the lowest score I had ever received out of any competition. No review, no scoresheet, no indication at all that my story was actually read other than a one-line comment at my intro that said, "nice intro."
And far from sour grapes, The Unnamed has not only won several genre competitions, but a few cross-genre ones also, as well as earning publication in a literary magazine. This collective foundation was enough to make me start looking into things.
And yep! Aside from the round one results chapter being incredibly confusing, My Unnamed, which has NO "shipping" in it at all and not a hint of romance--had been judged as EROTICA. I really couldn't believe it, and I started commenting again. Again, several days went by with no response on several different threads, but by then, I knew to tag Nazra if I wanted something addressed. She eventually did, and admitted there had been a mistake (two, in fact, as The Silence is Lifted had been miss-assigned as well, as action/adventure instead of fantasy) and that the placement would be corrected. But she never addressed my concerns that the Unnamed had been judged to romance/erotica standards when it CLEARLY wasn't, resulting in a low score. She then went on to state that my score for The Unnamed was too low to have moved on to round 2.
...But I had already been assigned a round 2 judge...
At this point, I just let it go. It was Silence I was really interested in for this competition, and it had earned 50 out of 50 in round one, tying with another writer who I have had the privilege of competing with AND tying with in the past. This actually really served to validate the ability and attentiveness of the judge responsible for reviewing us in round one. Thank you, Cindy Lou Harvell, for your time and attention.
But then came round 2. We waited... And waited... I got a review on the Unnamed, solidifying that I actually had been judged in round 2. Then, the day before judging was due, a post comes out from Nazra that she is sick and "The reason, I'm telling is that I won't be able to announce the results of The Gemlight Book Awards anytime soon."
Oooook... You have a whole team of writers in this community. Was there really no way for you to stay on schedule?
Regardless, a few days pass. Then a few more. No notifications. No reviews from judges, no updates on the awards except for a bit more judge shuffling, based on the posts on Writer's Community wall. Finally, ten days later, the awards were announced in the form of a YouTube video with the winner's book covers animated to move across the screen.
The Silence is Lifted was nowhere in the running. Neither was The Willow Rise Six, the other perfect score from round one.
No review came for The Silence is Lifted. No scoresheets were released. No chapter was added to the competition book listing the winning scores, and I suddenly wondered if our judge skipped out on reading anything (my round 2 judge also judged for Willow Rise and for a book written by my round 1 judge, who is also an amazing author.) No scores, no reviews.
Soooooo, I started commenting again. I asked my judge directly for my review, assuming that she must have just found a lot of stuff I needed to fix for me to have not made it into the running. She finally answered and happily left my review with all 5 stars and a disclaimer of, 'I don't think I need to give any suggestions, it's already so PERFECT! Keep it up!"
...Well., that's great but... How TF did I not end up in the running then??
So I commented again and asked her for my score to which she replied: "Hey! Sorry for the late review actually there was little misunderstanding and sure I'll tell your score... lemme check"
Shortly followed by: "hey! Can you please ask your score from the writer's community? I'm not really sure what it is."
Ok, now by this time I was REALLY confused. Aren't the judges responsible for assigning the scores? But, I agreed, and I wrote on Writer's Community wall asking for my scores.
After three days, I began tagging people, including Nazra, but still, no one responded.
In the interim, I reached out to Cindy and Alan, the other authors who had been judged by Shreeya, our round 2 judge. Neither of them had received their scores or reviews. Alan made the suggestion that the "reader engagement" as listed in the round two criteria may have had something to do with it. So I got to thinking, how would one objectively measure reader engagement? Because they don't have access to Inkitt's analytics so there's NO way they would think they could look at review numbers and comments, right? I mean, They wouldn't ACTUALLY attempt to compare a book like Creature Seer's, whose author has been running around, busting her ass earning return reads for the past several months, to Silence or Willow Rise that have only been circulating for a matter of weeks and whose authors simply don't have time to invest in endless review swaps. I mean, they would have no way of knowing how long a story has been posted, no knowledge of reads-per-chapter, both of these things INSTUMENTAL to judging reader engagement.
No, there's ABSOLUTELY no way they would try to extrapolate statistics from what they're able to glean from reviews and comments. That would not only be a ridiculous move, as writers flock to these competitions based on the fact that they AREN'T popularity contests like the Inkitt novel contests, but it would be basically be putting the judging into the hands of the previous reviewers and completely invalidating the hard work of the round 2 judges.
And besides, reader engagement has absolutely NOTHING to do with the quality of the writing. Most of my start to finish readers are reader-only and never stop to comment or review. There are no reviews posted under their profile and no responses to any posts on their wall. Some people are simply here to read.
But I digress... And here we are, nearly five days into my original query as to my scores. I've also asked how the judging was accomplished, but this too has received no answer.
So until such time as my questions are answered, and all contestants receive their reviews and scores from assigned judges, this review stands.
***Author beware*** This is the most poorly run competition I have ever taken part in.