Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards


I’ve wanted to be a writer since I composed my first story in first grade. It consisted of one full sentence — I think it was about a little girl catching the bus to school — and a crayon drawing. It was written in scratchy pencil on that oversized yellow paper with green lines that teachers use to demonstrate how to print the alphabet. My dad hung it, framed, in his office at his restaurant The Country Squire. I was hooked!

Between then and now, I wrote dozens of college papers (still stored under my bed in a box and re-read more often than I feel comfortable admitting); scores of freelance magazine articles about music and roller derby; countless web sites for clients like Papa John’s and Microsoft during the dark days of my corporate career; a novella for NaNoWriMo in 2003; my first book Rollergirl: Totally True Tales From The Track; 2317 blog posts here; and my recent books Living Paleo For Dummies, Well Fed, and Well Fed 2.

There were so many times, especially in the ’90s and early 2000s, when I struggled with what felt like a vast distance between what I was doing and what I wanted to be doing. Writing is hard. It’s lonely and marked with self doubt and, so often, I felt (feel!) overwhelmed by the sheer number of words it takes to communicate clearly. (And the fear that if I don’t choose the right words, I’ll never make my thoughts understood by others.)

When in doubt, I turned to writing books like Stephen King’s On Writing and Elizabeth George’s Write Away and Writer’s Digest magazine for inspiration. (A fantastic, nuts-and-bolts writing/editing book is The First Five Pages.)

In 2011, Dave and I decided to self publish Well Fed because I’d already worked with a big publisher, and I didn’t like the experience. We decided to do things our way, and we made that decision very methodically and logically with to-do lists, plenty of research, and pros/cons debates. Once we were committed, we agreed that most of the other decisions — choosing our design partner, selecting the recipe list, taking the photographs — would be made by following our hearts. No corporate negotiations. No market testing. We were going to do what we liked and with good intentions, and we hoped very much that other people would like it, too.

So… it was very rewarding to learn that Well Fed 2 was chosen as the Grand Prize winner of the Writer’s Digest’s 22nd Annual Self-Published Book Awards. In addition to being able to prance around my kitchen shouting I’m a grand prize winner, I also won a trip to New York City for the 2015 Writer’s Digest Conference, along with a cash prize. YAY!

As I said in an interview about winning the award, “When I’ve doubted my ability to be a writer, reading Writer’s Digest has inspired me and given me confidence, along with practical tips and good advice. It was a thrill and an honor to learn that Well Fed 2 won the grand prize this year. I feel really strongly about self publishing, although it’s not always the easiest path, so it’s very rewarding to have my book recognized this way.”

If you’re a blogger or print writer, Writer’s Digest is a valuable weapon to have in your arsenal when you want to brush up on your skills or feed your confidence. It’s a helpful publication, both practically and emotionally, and the Writer’s Digest online bookstore is loaded with great books about writing.

Congratulations to the other authors who took home awards this year:
Yolande Clark-Jackson and R. Jackson (Illustrator), Rocko Rocket: Rocko’s Big Launch (rockorocket.com)
Martha B. Hook, Glory Be!
Dottie Rexford, Cora Pooler
Susan Vigilante, Breakfast with the Pope (desperateirishhousewife.blogspot.com)
Nancy Peacock, The Life & Times of Persimmon Wilson (nancypeacockbooks.com)
Tom Rogers, Eleven (leventhebook.com)
Jana Reiss, The Twible (janariess.com)
Ken Hebson, South From Istanbul
Jill Ronsley, 10 Steps to Publish & Succeed (suneditwrite.com)

Each year, Writer’s Digest honors self-published authors with the Annual Self-Published Book Awards. The 2014 competition received more than 2,800 combined entries in nine categories. For  more on the awards (and a lengthy interview with me!), pick up a copy of the March/April 2015 issue of Writer’s Digest, available on newsstands on February 24. You can also read the digital edition of the magazine which will be available at writersdigestshop.com.

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  • Morten says:

    Congratulations!! So, so well deserved. I think – I have seen the other entries. I thought it was a really good book and I love it dearly.
    <3 <3 <3

  • Lydia says:

    Congratulations! How fantastic!

  • Paula says:

    Congratulations, this is a major and well-deserved honor. And Tommy winning his 4th Superbowl too. Happy for you and Dave, enjoy!!!

    • Oh! That Super Bowl. What a thrill! I take a lot of personal responsibility for the Pat’s season. we moved to Vermont last summer, and they won the Super Bowl. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

  • Sasha Martin says:

    AWESOME. Serious congratulations.

  • Todd says:

    Congrats on the award! Both books are great! You should be so proud! not only on the writing, but the recipes and how well the book is organized! Thanks also for the writing references! I started my first blog this past month and it is a lot of work to set up correctly. Now that I have started adding content I see how hard it is to stay on subject in a concise, orgainized manner. I love to write but do not think myself very good at it yet. Any tips would be appreciated!

  • Karen d. says:

    Congratulations!!!!! I received both Well-Fed books for Christmas and am enjoying cooking from them immensely.

  • Trish says:

    Congrats, Mel! That’s quite an achievement!

  • Jessica says:

    I’m not sure how the editing is handled with self-publishing but one thing I can say about your books is that they are error-free. Most of my other paleo cookbooks have multiple mistakes in the writing. Grammatical errors, missing or repeated words, and other inconsistencies are unprofessional and give the impression that books are rushed.Page after page your books come across as being carefully planned and meticulously presented. They represent the community beautifully while so many others scream, “Hurry,buy me I’m the latest and greatest!”
    Keep up the good work. Jessica

    • Thank you so much! We worked very hard to make the books as error free as we could. I always hire a professional copy editor and proofreader — not sure how other self-published authors do it. I’m so glad you think we did a good job… thank you!

  • Laura says:

    Congrats! That is really amazing. You guys did such a great job with those books. They don’t even look self-published – they look really professional – so kudos to you!

  • Julie says:

    I opened my copy of the latest Writer’s Digest tonight only to discover that my favorite recent cookbook author is the Grand Prize winner! Huge Congratulations!! That’s quite a field to be chosen from. I quite agree with other commenters and the editors of WD about the professionalism you brought to the book(s)… I hadn’t noticed your books were self-published – I hadn’t had cause to give it much thought at all!… just had thought how useful and beautiful they are to read and use … now they are even more amazing, given the even-more-work involved, well done!

    • Thank you so much for the sweet compliments and for sharing our excitement! I love when people don’t realize our books are self published — I would love to help remove the stigma of self publishing and show that we “little guys” can do it as least as well as the big guys in New York.

  • Denise says:

    Dear Melissa, You have contributed to my life in so many ways: #1: I love both your books (I bought Well Fed 2 first, then had to get the other one) and use your method of organization on my own meals (the ground meat + vegetables basics). I’ve always cooked my own food (even chicken stock) from scratch, but your method really simplified daily meal prep for me. Your attention to detail paid off. I never would have thought that you’re self-published! You and Nom Nom Paleo are out on my kitchen counter every day.
    #2 Because of your recommendation, I read It Starts With Food and I did my first Whole 30 last November. Wow.
    #3 I’ve had Fibromyalgia since 1987 and also take thyroid medication. I just read the full article about your decision to quit Cross Fit. Your struggle made me feel better about mine. It sucks not to be able to do what you want with your body. Nobody ever talks about taking it down a notch as a WIN (in the end) and the process of loss that goes along with it. Thank you for talking about your trip to a quiet peace with your body.
    And NOW, #4, it turns out you wanted to be a writer since you were a kid. I’ve been a writer since then too, but lost touch with it these last few years. Thank you for your recommendations on Writers Digest and the other books. Stephen King’s book is fantastic. So, you’ve inspired me yet again to do something that matters to me.
    Much love to you Melissa!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this sweet comment. It means more than the award, no lie. I’m so glad that you find my writing, my recipes, and my (over)sharing helpful.

      I’m sorry you’re having to deal with thyroid and fibromyalgia! It is SO frustrating when the body just won’t cooperate with the mind, but it does help to know we’re not alone in our struggles. I just read this article about julie Andrews (http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/02/sound-of-music-julie-andrews-christopher-plummer-50-anniversary_ and it recounts that she had to have throat surgery that destroyed her voice. Can you imagine? You’re Julie Andrews and you lose that ability? She said, “It was devastating. I thought maybe I would get it back. That was before I realized that he had actually taken tissue away. But for the year and a half that I waited for something miraculous to happen…”

      I can relate to that! Waiting to get “back to normal.” I think i’ve just really accepted that everything is different now, and it’s OK. Julie Andrews went on to be a very successful children’s author, so even in the dark, we can find something new and good.

      Glad you liked Stephen King’s book On Writing. I really love that one — always makes me feel fired up.

      Best wishes to you!