Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Beauty contests for books

Vicki’s post yesterday was a timely one since we’re now in the middle of “Awards Season”. For the next 2-3 months, every time you turn around, they’ll be announcing yet another award. Last night it was the Grammys. Does anyone think that had anything to do with who actually was the best? (I think Lady Gaga should have gotten a Grammy for Best Entrance to an Awards Ceremony.)

First let me say that I agree that the contest Vicki was involved in had anything to do with whether any of these books was good or bad. (My first question is how the heck did they come up with the list of nominated books? Did anyone actually read them? Were the nominees pulled out of a hat?)

Most of the awards ceremonies are popularity contests. The Oscars certainly are. Lobbying has already begun on those, believe me. This contest was just a poor cousin to that.

The reasoning behind giving awards is very cloudy as well. Most groups give out awards to get profile in the media. It creates buzz. It gets the public interested in the award winner and the nominees. How many movies have enjoyed a successful second release when they’ve won an Oscar?

Bottom line: it’s all about promotion.

Now I’m with Vicki when she says that she felt uneasy asking people to spread the word and vote for her book, even though a lot of the voters probably hadn’t read it or anything else by her. Playing this sort of popularity game is enough to make any person with scruples feel uneasy. But Vicki is also correct in saying that this is how the game is played. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. Vicki was handed an opportunity and she took it. Whoever won this Bookie Award can now add “Award-winning” to any promotion they do. Will this make their book any better? No — but it will sell more copies.

I’m sure any author would be happier if their book won an award based on its merits, not because of how many friends the author has. This particular award means no more than that, period.

What’s sort of sad is that this award seems squarely aimed at genre fiction. What the underlying story is here is that the nominated books weren’t thought to be worth anything more than having them in a popularity contest. Is it just me or does that actually smack of contempt?

I don’t know if I’d want to win an award like that.


Vicki Delany said...

Thanks Rick. I am struggling with this. As to how the nominees were selected? By social media, of course. I heard about it from one of the other nominee's facebook posting asking for nominations and I asked my daughters and close friends to nominate me. Just five people or so, and voila I find Negative Image is nominated. So, I hate to say, it was no honour to have been nominated. I like your conclusion. Yes, this puts genre fiction right down at the bottom again, unlike the Canada Reads books where people had to actually DEFEND their choices.

Rick Blechta said...

I've still been thinking about this a lot, and I've come to the conclusion that this wasn't any sort of contest except "I have more friends than you do". Viewed from that standpoint, you were right to pull out all the stops to get those votes. Maybe it's best to think of this as nothing more than a chance for some free publicity. Anybody who's in the contest gets free publicity. The winner gets the most publicity.

Works for me.