Awards and what do they really mean?
It seems to be that time of year when awards are cranking up. With the debacle over Lambda and other awards, I have to wonder – what does it all mean? Now Carrie Bradshaw moment aside, this is not meant to discuss Lambda or any other current wank. It’s meant to look at the awards offered and does it mean anything?
Doing a quick and dirty search of awards for the m/m market (because after all that is primarily what I talk about here), I found these:
Editors and Pre-editors
If there are more, please let me know. I didn’t spend much time looking just did a quick search. But in all of these they (of course) take nominations. And it seems anyone can nominate or self nominate.
As a reader I feel greatly for authors. I can’t imagine the skill, talent, and courage it takes to pen anything then send it to the publisher who then takes ~60-70% of the cut. Imagine that just for a moment. I recently made a sandwich and my mom wanted half. HALF! I almost yelled. Do you realize I sliced those tomatoes myself? I was aghast so I can’t imagine giving more of that away and hoping for a good editor, great cover art, solid promotion, and a plethora of buzz from reviews. Oh and yanno fighting pirates on an everyday basis. So authors have my respect and admiration even if I don’t always like their work. On that end, giving a virtual or literal pat on the back can’t be a bad thing.
But is that all it is? A popularity contest for that prized pat on the back? Or do these awards really take into consideration that little known fabulous piece of work from a quiet author? Is the one who yells the loudest or writes the most sex going to “sweep” awards?
I admit I watch the Emmys and the Oscars but I don’t really care who wins. It doesn’t change my view of the shows or movies if they get nominated or not. I like the pretty fashions and the catty commentary – not all but some of it. You can tell there is money and popularity at work just from being savvy in current pop culture.
So does the same thing happen in the micro chasm of e publishing?
As a reader do you care which books win? Does it make any change to your opinion or what you buy?
Do you buy into the hype of certain books because they’re "award winning" or do you ignore that entirely?
Is this really just authors getting a well deserved pat on the back for job well done?
Or is this authors having to spend money, time, and extensive energy into promoting themselves for the mere chance to be considered?
Getting an award is of course nice. Who wouldn’t want that! I wonder though if this just makes authors feel worse when they can only shrug and think it’s just another contest they don’t stand a chance at winning, no matter how great their writing is.
16 thoughts on “Awards worth the free image?”
Ciao Kassa, it’s an honor to be listed after only 1 year 😉
Just a note, for what I know, Lambda, Eppie and Rainbow Awards (mine), have a first phase in which people nominates books, and a second phase in which judges read the books. In my case, the majority of books read by the judges was selected by a jury of more than 60 people, only 1 book per genre arrived at the last phase with the popularity contest. The last phase, with the judges reading the books lasted 6 weeks and it was the most demanding, since jugse took seriously thier task. Obviously I’m speaking for myself, but I bet that also for the other awards is the same.
I didn’t obviously award the authors if not with a pat on the shoulder, but on the other hand I didn’t even ask for a fee or anything else if not the availability of ebooks for the judges. All people involved granted their time for free.
Hi Elisa, thanks for commenting!
That does sound pretty standard and rough! I remember when you asked and I couldn’t imagine all those books in such a short time so hats off to you and your judges to read that many books so close together and for them not to run together. Job well done.
It is nice that authors donated their time and books and I know many readers and authors very much appreciated your awards. 🙂 So pat on the back or not, the winners and even runners up seemed incredibly touched.
These are good questions:
“As a reader do you care which books win? Does it make any change to your opinion or what you buy?
Do you buy into the hype of certain books because they’re “award winning” or do you ignore that entirely?”
I used to pay more attention to awards like the big ones (Nebula, Pulitzer, etc.) until I started venturing online. The more time I spent online, the more I had to prioritize what I pay attention to because there’s so much visual/text clutter online that we’re all trying to keep up with. It’s so overwhelming.
So at this point, I can barely keep up with people’s blogs (and my own, ha, ha!) and I pay zero attention to the awards, especially if (like the EPPIEs) there are a huge number of categories. I don’t buy at all based on who won what.
I have the feeling that the most awards are less of an indicator of quality and more of an indicator of the author’s online presence — those writers who get nominated and win are those writers whose names everyone is coming to know.
It’s not relevant info for the readers, but it’s good info for the individual writers to have. As they start getting nominated for things, they know that they’re becoming known and their marketing is paying off.
There is so much information out there that it is almost impossible to keep up. Authors are doing so much promo that after a while, I wonder if readers tune them out. Yet they have to do that much consistent promo to keep their book in the forefront of the masses.
I do skim blogs and I like to keep abreast of new releases from authors but when authors are super chatty on their blogs or begging for votes for one thing or another, I tend to skim by and move on.
You totally hit the nail with this comment:
I have the feeling that the most awards are less of an indicator of quality and more of an indicator of the author’s online presence
Some recent awards have highlighted this beautifully, which offers very little for readers.
With the exception of the Preditors and Editors Poll (which is a poll, not a contest), almost every writing contest entry passes through a stage of reading by qualified judges. Obviously, no matter how popular a story is, it’s not going to get past judges who say it stinks.
But is that all it is? A popularity contest for that prized pat on the back? Or do these awards really take into consideration that little known fabulous piece of work from a quiet author?
They take that fabulous piece of work it into consideration… if it’s nominated. There are a few major fiction awards (not listed here) who do not take nominations, but depend on a board to nominate. Since anyone can nominate their work or at least get their publisher to nominate in most awards, I would say that “quiet author” needs to speak up more. And why not? If they’ve written something fabulous, why would anyone want to keep quiet about it? Modesty does not figure into business, and while writing is a business that begins with art, it leaves that arena once it enters the “for sale at Amazon” stage. Ah, Capitalism! XD
Or is this authors having to spend money, time, and extensive energy into promoting themselves for the mere chance to be considered?
It’s a little of both. If the “quiet” small-press author just writes a book and sends it out there and then reclines on the chaise waiting for the accolades to roll in, one is bound to be disappointed in the results. Writing is an extremely difficult and competitive field. One has many, many worthy and talented competitors all vying for the few top slots there are, and I have zero (zero, I say!) sympathy for any author who refuses to grasp those facts from the very beginning. Sure, there’s always a few individuals in any group who seem to be charmed that way, where success falls into their laps with the minimum effort, but you can’t count on that, like you can’t count on winning the lottery. You especially can’t count on it if you write for a niche audience, and especially not if your publisher isn’t a big corporation who does your marketing for you. Fiction writing is hard work both before, during, and after the process, and nothing is guaranteed in any stage of it. I think we need more awareness of those facts and less worry about the feelings of authors who don’t aggressively promote their work and yet still expect it to do well. Talent is only half the equation.
Hi there, thanks for commenting!
Such fabulous points and I do have to say that it seems more and more authors are vocal and essential to promoting their books and work. Sometimes I read a great book and I wonder why the author doesn’t have more of an online presence like some authors. I wonder if that affects how “visible” their great book is. Perhaps or perhaps not since I’m not really sure what affects sales the most.
Your comment about work is such a great comment. I usually think the actual writing is so tough and difficult that to produce a fabulous book, their work is done. Relax, have that frozen drink with a straw! But you’re right, in that once the great work is done.. your work starts to get it out there and sold. THe more I read about authors who work their asses off to promote and sell their book, the more I admire their constant dedication to their career. Even more so than those who write something great but let it languish in obscurity.
Work on! I shall buy 😀
I won an award, so I know it’s possible for a writer who’s no good at either yelling or writing sex to win. 😀 I think as long as nominations are open to all but there is also a wide range of judges with the final say, it can be as fair a contest as you can have in a small community.
The drawback I’ve found is that people who feel you did not deserve to win might let you know, and might further be less inclined to talk to you afterward. It makes you wonder if it was worth it to be in the contest, even if you got a few more sales out of it than you would have, otherwise.
It’s difficult to compete against people you consider friends. And difficult knowing that a good number of people disagree with the end results. I hadn’t ever thought about these things before I was nominated. It was an interesting experience to be in a contest, but I’m not sure I’d ever want to be again. I guess it means more to me to be respected and liked among my fellow writers and readers than it does to win awards.
Congrats on the award! Well deserved!!
I didn’t actually think about that side, in which some don’t think it’s deserving. I do sometimes look at awards and think “oh god that book was horrible” so I’m sure someone, somewhere also feels the same about books I love.
Especially in this VERY small community, where everyone knows each other, the competition and hard feelings must get around more. I didn’t even think about that and how sad it’s so bad you’d rather not win 😦
I do wonder if there is a spike in sales after mere nominations. I know I bought some books I had known about before when lists are released but that is tempered by whether the lists are ridiculous (like editors/pre-editors) are smaller and more choosy.
Thank you, Kassa. I know what you mean, because if there’s one thing the past year brought home to me, it’s that two people can be at opposite ends of the spectrum in their opinion of the same book.
Don’t get me wrong. I was thoroughly proud and happy to win a Rainbow, and I think the Rainbow awards will grow in prestige after being established a few years, and that will help promote a lot of excellent novels that might be overlooked. I hope Elisa has tremendous success with it. And I do understand how some people would like to see their friends win or readers want to see their favorite authors win. This was my first experience winning an award, so I wasn’t prepared for the backlash of that. But I do treasure the award, all the same.
As far as improving sales, I don’t know for sure because I don’t know what my sales have been the past six months. It would be cool if an award could be mentioned on a book’s cover, but I’m not sure most small presses could afford to redesign covers once they’re already on the market. I have no idea if it would help sales. I do remember when I was younger, I would often pick up a book that had an award medal on its cover and look it over because of that.
It’s pretty sad there is any backlash over awards. I mean on the one hand I get it because as you said, varying opinions. But I never wish an author ill-will over their award, no matter how much I’m baffled by it’s winning position.
As with anyone’s venture, I wish Elisa’s awards well and hope they give authors and readers what they wanted.
I do wonder about sales just from the perspective of readers actually 1 – following awards. To be honest some awards are so vast I couldn’t tell you who won what but also 2 – if readers think that actually is a sign of the excellence of the book. Which I assume excellence translates to sales. I probably shouldn’t make that assumption lol.
Authors could always put on their site “award-winning” but sometimes that smacks a little too close to “bestselling.” And I always wonder exactly -where- are these authors bestselling? I’ve seen that claim on an author who sold 10 copies and thus was the “bestseller” at their very small publisher. I kind of don’t think it’s on par with say powerhouse bestseller Nora Roberts. But same word right?
Total tangent there so sorry! At the very least, its a pat on the back. So congrats again :D. Well deserved in my humble opinion.
I recently made a sandwich and my mom wanted half. HALF! I almost yelled. Do you realize I sliced those tomatoes myself?
LOL. (And I do not use that bit of netspeak lightly.)
Sounds like snack time between me and the husband.
hehe..I will say I gave her half. She is my mom after all and she was a guest. But I was almost horrified.
I can’t speak to the other awards, since I’ve never entered any of them, but for Elisa’s it felt very much like not just the loudest authors won. My co-author and I don’t know who nominated us for it, but it wasn’t anyone we asked to. The book we won 3rd place in one category with was one with a tiny publisher I won’t name, was only out with them for 2 months in late 2008/early 2009 before we pulled it and though it’s being re-released with a different pub, it won’t be out again for another month and a half. So a small, barely heard of book by a tiny pub by a couple of authors who didn’t actively participate in the contest at all got 3rd place. I think that makes it pretty fair. 🙂
I’ve heard not so good things about the Eppies, but have never entered, nor am I a member of EPIC.
Congratulations on your win!
I won’t comment on any award specifically but I certainly remember some titles at the start of Elisa’s awards that I’d never even heard of! And well I try to think I get around :D.
In this case where popularity counts (even as with Elisa’s), there has to be some loud voices to get your book noticed one, and then for readers to have read it to vote on it. It’s nice that perhaps smaller, well loved books got into the fray for sure.
I do know that for every award system that someone hails, another hates it as a popularity contest. So I doubt there’s a perfect system unfortunately. I’m not here to slam or praise one award group or another but to wonder about the overall affect on them. Do they translate to sales? Do authors even feel they’re worthwhile? Do they feel “slighted” by awards for not winning?
I’ve gotten some fascinating responses really so it seems the jury is still out so far. But either way, definitely congrats on your win!
Unfortunately I can’t offer any insight to whether it improves sales, as the book we won with wasn’t for sale and won’t be again for a bit, so any boost we might have gotten is long since past lol.
I will say I don’t feel slighted when I don’t win, mostly because I’m not real big on checking out such award contests and never know about them until after the fact. I think they’re worthwhile in that if you win one, cool, it means somebody likes your book, lots of somebodies maybe.
Which is why I don’t get the authors who troll for votes all over every social networking site ever invented. If you talk your friends and family and acquaintances into voting for you, where’s the thrill in winning? Isn’t it better to win by merit? That’s my opinion, anyway. I know winning in Elisa’s awards meant so much more because it was completely unknown to us and it was fans who got us there, readers we didn’t know from Adam. That meant so much more than if I’d herded up everyone I know to go vote for me.
Letting people know about contests and awards is one thing, but man, some of the pimping and constant spamming for votes…I’ve unfriended and unfollowed a lot of fellow authors just because I dislike it so very much. If I haven’t read the book, no I will not vote for you. Period. It’s dishonest otherwise.
To answer Fae’s question about whether these awards improve sales, I did a post about a month ago asking this same question and the resposes from authors and readers were that it did not. Here’s a link to the post
Most readers are like me, they don’t buy books based on awards.
I ignore these awards because I find the process flawed and subjective. I have been asked to be a judge a few times but turned the “honour” down because I didn’t think the nomination process was fair and that only the authors who made the most noise about their books (with a few exceptions) ever got nominated (“Vote For Me” signs everywhere) won anything. Most of the time the books that are truly worthy never make it IMO.
Will it ever improve – not when there’s so much subjective judgment in the entire process from start to finish. Sure organizations like Lambda have a much more sophisticated process but it’s still a matter of whether the judge likes that type of book they are reading.
Having said all that, I do pay attention to the Sci Fi awards like the Hugo and the Nebula 🙂 I also like to read about who won the Pulitzer just to figure out if I even know the book. 🙂 Just my two cents.