Monday, February 14, 2011

Has Social Media Destroyed the Value of Honest Competion?

Vicki here to let you know that I am writing this post on Saturday because I want to get it down without knowing if I’ve won a Bookie award or not.

As I posted last week Negative Image was a finalist for a CBC Bookie award for best thriller/mystery/horror. I am writing this Saturday night after a really pleasant afternoon at Aunt Agatha’s bookstore in Ann Arbor MI. I was there with Sharon Fiffer and we had a great time (sadly Barbara D’Amato had to cancel)

It’s been an interesting experience, to say the least, but I am forced to conclude that I can’t see any value in any competition that depends on number of friends you have or how high-tech those friends happen to be. Unless it’s a number of friends contest.

As competition began building my main competition and I started facebooking, tweeting and whatever-ing. No doubt she, like me, was writing everyone in our address books. My friends, I am very happy to report, mustered behind me and really pulled out all the stops to let their friends know.

Which is kinda my point. Vote for me because you liked the books, you can even vote for Negative Image because you liked my other books. But cast a vote because the person who sits in the cubical next to you is the wife of someone who once came to a creative writing class I gave? What does that mean?

A writer I know and respect told me I was demeaning myself and my books by partaking in this sort of a contest. He said the book should be judged on its merit and nothing else. To which I replied – you’re right. But this is how the game is played and if you don’t play you’re left behind in the dust.

Some might say this is democracy. And it is how democracy has always been played – the person who gets to the most meetings, who knocks on the most doors, who hands out the most flyers, has a good chance of winning over the person with the best ideas. But at least in truly democratic countries – so far – the number of votes an individual can place is limited to ONE.

With social media we’re entering a whole new world. I have more than one vote. I have one vote for every computer I own. I have extra votes if my friends have multiple computing devices. And I have waaaay more votes if I have friends who can manipulate their computer to allow multiple voting.

Same with many traditional book awards that are given on the basis of write-in votes. Are they judging the best book? Or the most popular person? Should you be allowed to vote for a book if you haven’t read it and all the completion, at least in the final round?

I am not comparing the competition for a bookie award (what a hideous name) to voting for a county’s leader. But – who’s to say it won’t come to that some day?

Anyway, it’s been a very interesting experience. I generated a lot of buzz for Negative Image and I know some people read the book because I brought it up or they read about it on FB or Twitter.

If anyone was offended by getting several messages from me, I do apologize. At times I wondered if I was going overboard. Between e-mail and FB and Twitter and DorothyL and my friend’s mailing lists I am sure some people felt they were under a barrage.

I will, however, never, never do this again. If my books are good enough to garner recognition so be it.


Anonymous said...

I think the experience introduced you to the "real" world and you now need to understand the price you need to pay for success. You will not succeed if you write bad books. Equally you will not succeed if you right good books that nobody knows about.

I disagree with your blog & I am sad you have promised never to do it again. Firstly it demeans the large number of people who came out to support you because we believe in you. ( Are we equally soiled by this behavior?). Secondly think of all the blogging, book promotions, etc you do draw attention to your work...... is this demeaning too?

I think your friend gave you poor advice. The attention you drew to your work was obviously effective. I will wager that the initial sales of your new book will be considerably higher as a result.

Priscilla said...

I sympathize, Vicki. BSP goes against my grain, but then I was raised with the values of the 19th century, not even the 20th. Promo has changed dramatically with the Internet but maybe it's still possible to pick and choose the venues? Guest blogging on a well-regarded author site, for instance, where his/her readers may find our books of like interest. Yes, I do think many vote for awards because they know the writer, not necessarily the latest book. I'm not sure awards are crucial to readers though. Ross Macdonald never won an Edgar for any of his books, although he did get a Grand Master at the end of his life. It's still the game of getting people to read our books and say "wow".

Donis Casey said...

Something similar happened to me with an Oklahoma Centennial award back in 2007 - people voted for their favorite OK themed book, and I did everything I could think of to get people to vote for me. I had the same reaction that you are having, but if nothing else, the word was spread. (I didn't win, BTW,but I came in such a close second that they gave me a specially-struck silver medal. This is why it's helpful to have as many cousins as I do.)

Tammy Kaehler said...

I appreciate your honesty and comments about this process--and mostly, your input on how it made you feel. I think it's a tough balance to strike ... do you simply tell people about your nomination? Do you let them know they *could* vote for you? Or do you actively campaign?

My impression of your experience is this: it's a totally different thing to suggest people might like to read your book than to ask them to vote you prom queen. And I get that!

I appreciate your insight, especially because I'm a new author embarking on my own promotion journey. Thanks for your story!

Janice Hally said...

You ABSOLUTELY had to let fans, friends, colleagues and everyone you could know about your nomination!

"Social media" networking, whatever we call it is ABSOLUTELY for that purpose.

If there was a problem, with this internet vote, it was that people could vote multiple times, and so if an author has a crazy teenager on side, who is willing to sit and refresh their browser and keep clicking for hours on end, then that author will win.

What's important, actually, is that people are made aware of the shortcomings of the voting system so that the people in charge can sort it out, and if they're not willing to take action then the public can be alerted to the worthlessness of the award. I think this is what we should be concerned with.

In this case I think it looks like there is more honour in the "shortlisted for" tag, anyway if that's any consolation!

The BSP is horrible to have to do, but if you have to be out there shouting about yourself. Authors are SO alone.


Vicki Delany said...

Thanks, Janice. You make me feel better.

Cheryl Freedman said...

I’m glad that this exercise in “literary democracy” generated buzz for you, Negative Image, and your other books. And I don’t think you (or the winner, for that matter) demeaned yourself by participating. You were just letting people know that the contest existed. You never told people to vote on multiple computers or to essentially spam their friends, asking them to vote for you. And people will always abuse the system when the system allows – even encourages – abuse. FB, Twitter, and the like just make it easier to do so.

I think it’s the CBC that has demeaned itself by sponsoring the Bookies. Worse – but not surprisingly – the CBC, through this “award,” also gravely insults genre fiction books and their authors.

At least, the CBC’s Canada Reads competition is legit, with each book’s evangelist having to defend his/her choice. The Bookies are a travesty…and symptomatic of what the CBC has become in its frantic efforts to reach an audience that commercial radio and TV serves perfectly well...and without public funding, to boot.

Sue Pike said...

I think Cheryl is right. This is more about CBC's shortcomings than anything else. The contest not only demeans the genre, it encourages unhealthy competition among peers.