Sunday, March 20, 2011

The art of getting noticed

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Okay, it is awards season time. Or in many cases, it is award nomination season. People who subscribe to magazines, go to conferences and belong to any number of other groups are being asked to nominate their favorite books of 2010. Lots of genres be it crime fiction, romance, women's fiction, young adult etc... Lot of chances for authors to be recognized for their work.

In theory, I love the idea of awards. In theory, people read lots of books and then nominate their absolute favorite ones for said awards. Would I like to be nominated for an award? Would other members of this blog? Sure. Lots of authors I know if a variety of genres would love to make the short lists. Who the heck wouldn’t? But I am having a serious problem with the not so subtle, but trying to look subtle, campaigning going on for spots on nominating ballots. I am seeing tweet after tweet and blog post after blog post and one face book message after another which all amounts to shaking hands and kissing babies in order to get someone’s vote. People are setting their hair on fire trying to get noticed and I’m getting ready to douse them with a very large bucket of water.

Is this really what it takes to get nominated?

God, I hope not. But a very sad part of me that was terrible at going around asking my classmates for signatures when running for the seventh grade student council is pretty sure that these tactics work. Authors doing very public “You like me? You really, really like me enough to nominate me?” messages to their friends on social media forums in hopes that other people will see the message and decide to add their book to the list of nominees will probably see their efforts pay off. The authors that are not so good at those tactics will fall by the wayside. The funny thing is the authors that are being up front and honest about it don’t bother me at all. If you tweet saying that your short story in X publication can be considered for nomination, chances are I will check out your story and think about nominating you. But if you are going to try to be subtle and tell me you can’t believe that lots of people are nominating your book for X award, I’m going to chuck a shoe at my computer screen.

Maybe this all bothers me so much because a small, na├»ve part of me that wants these awards to really mean something more than being a personal popularity and political strategy contest. Last year I wrote a post asking if awards matter. Most people said they only mattered to publishers, which might be true. Maybe we as authors are so desperate to capture our publisher’s wandering attention that we feel the need to set our hair on fire and jump up and down asking people to love us. Maybe that is why self-publishing is so appealing to so many.

God only knows. All I know is that I’m going to grit my teeth for the next couple weeks and wait for the campaigning to pass. Of course, I might be the only one bothered by it. Maybe I’m just out of sorts this week. What do you think? Are the authors you tweet or facebook with asking for your vote? How do you feel about all of this?


Gerald So said...

I see campaigning as a necessary evil. In an ideal world, everyone's writing would be recognized on its own merit (and only truly qualified leaders would be elected), but in reality there is no purely objective measure of writing quality. There's so much out there, it's better to take the steps to be considered for an award than to wait for someone to independently discover your work.

Steve Weddle said...

Campaigning for awards is clearly the way to go if you're interested in building your platform.

And doing so through social media is essential in networking your product with consumers.

Joelle Charbonneau said...

Gerald - I agree that there are a lot of books out there and that a reminder that your book was out last year isn't a bad thing. It is the tone in which people do it that gets me irked. If you are honest and say "Hey - remember my book was out last year. I'd be grateful if you considered it for X nomination" I'll applaud you. If you pretend you aren't bucking for my nomination when you clearly are you are just going to piss me off.

Steve - ha!

Mike Dennis said...

Very interesting post, Joelle. You don't see this subject come up too often. In fact, it prompted me to include in this comment my request to you to nominate my noir novel, The Take, for best first novel at this year's Bouchercon Anthonys. It came out in November 2010, so it's eligible.

Like you, I'm usually pretty shy about this stuff, but I put a brief plea on my website, and if you were to do this for me, I would consider it a huge favor.

I do this only because you only get one chance at a "best first novel".

Dave White said...

A reminder isn't bad. A constant Please RT stream on your twitter feed is bad. I don't mind a person saying "Hey, just so you know...." But I do mind, everytime there's something out there about you, a person going with "Please RT: MY BOOK WAS OUT LAST YEAR AND IS ELIGIBLE FOR..."


Dave White
2 time Shamus Award Nominee

Dave White said...

Oh, I forgot:

Derringer Award Winner
Strand Critics Award Nominee
Million Writers Award Nominee

31 year wiseass

Fiona Johnson said...

I think awards are just another way to get noticed in this dog eat dog world. All awards, not just for writing, tend to be a bit of a popularity contest and therefore should never be taken too seriously.

However, if this is another way to get publicity and then turn that into sales..then go ahead!

It can get annoying when someone keeps asking to be voted for...but it's a hard world and unfortunately, you can have loads of talent but if you don't shout it might not get noticed....sad, but true.

Sarah M. Anderson said...

I'm in an odd place in this regard, hoping and praying (quietly, to myself only) for the Golden Heart announcements this weekend. There is no campaigning for this, before or after. I don't mind one or even two 'vote for me' notices, but when it becomes whiny and demanding, it turns me off.

Gerald So said...

I'm with you on tone, Joelle. A lot of writers aren't the best promoters of their work, as proven by their choice of how to promote. It's best to be true to oneself in promotion because eventually one has to back up the hype.

Barbara Monajem said...

I have to grit my teeth to do self-promo, but I must admit that if an author whose book I have read and enjoyed asks for votes, I happily go and do it.

So I guess I have mixed feelings. I've been entering contests, though, because no campaigning is involved. The judges read your book, and if they like it, yay! you've found a new reader.

Libby Hellmann said...

Actually, I dont think awards mean a whole lot to publishers. I can think of too many award winners and nominees who were subsequently dropped by their publishers. Which, of course, is not a great thing. I think of awards as the recognition we get from our peers en lieu of money and market support from our publishers. It won't get you a latte at Starbucks, but it might just warm your soul instead.