In 2005, when I was still a relative newbie to RWA and the local Houston Bay Area chapter, a board member asked if I’d be contest coordinator for a new endeavor they were considering – a little contest for published books called Judge A Book By Its Cover. Most, if not all, RWA contests back then focused on the writing. We wanted to do something unique. We wanted to be the first chapter to emphasize the importance of a good cover. Booksellers would judge and the first place winner in each category would be featured in an ad in RWA’s magazine, Romance Writers Report.
First, I was flattered that the board thought I’d be the right person for the job.
Second, I was excited because I’d get to be part of “them,” the illustrious Board.
Third, I was freaking out because I had no idea what to do or how to do it.
Luckily, author Sandra K. Moore would be the wizard behind the curtain, running the computer end of things (the heavy lifting, in other words). So I figured, what the heck. I’ll do it for a couple years. I contacted booksellers around the world, asking them to judge. I designed certificates for the winners. I sent out posts on chapter loops to announce the contest. And Sandra coded her fingers to the bone.
Twelve years later, JABBIC is bigger and better than ever. I’m still the coordinator and Sandra is still the computer wizard. (We have a secret pact – if one goes, we both go.) We’ve tweaked things along the way. We added categories and renamed others. Several years ago we added the Readers’ Choice portion, allowing the entire world to judge all the entries separately from the booksellers. Even if a cover doesn’t win, thousands upon thousands of people see it. (That is a lot of publicity!) We spread the word on Facebook and Twitter as well as chapter loops. Authors and artists mention us in blogs and posts and tweets. Beginning with JABBIC 2016, all of our winners receive cool badges to post proudly on their web sites.
When JABBIC began, traditional publishing was pretty much the only game in town. The authors entered and noted their publishers. Since indie publishing took off, we’ve honored not only the authors but the artists who design the covers (for indie and traditionally published books). Writers who scroll through the gallery discover artists for future books. Bookseller-judges place orders for books to restock their shelves. Readers discover new authors for their to-be-read stacks.
Each November I dread the start of another four months of hard work. But each February I’m delighted when the winners let me know how thrilled they are to have their covers appreciated by so many. And each April I love opening my RWR to our beautiful Winners’ Ad on the inside front cover. As contest coordinator, I’ve become friends with authors I might never have met otherwise. I’ve developed lasting relationships with booksellers from down the street to Down Under.
And it all started with an idea for a little book cover contest. Holy crap! Who’da thunk it?