If Readers Are Choosing …

Nominations are coming in for the Clive Staples Award for Christian Speculative Fiction—a very exciting happenstance. Eventually all the nominations will be arranged alphabetically and listed in one place.

For now I’m collecting the nominations and posting them over at the award site (here and here). To be honest, I’m surprised at the growing number of books.

Surprised, but pleased. Fans should want to see a book they liked receive recognition.

However, as the list grows, I can’t help but worry that we’re going to end up with an exhaustive list rather than a Best of the Year list. Maybe that’s OK.

But I want to avoid something that I think will water down the Clive Staples Award—making it a popularity contest, not a genuine “readers liked this book best” award.

Popularity contests work like this: someone nominates a book he likes, then he or the author or both solicit votes from their friends, whether they’ve read the book or not. The contest, then, does not measure the popularity of the book but of the people asking others to vote.

In contrast, a true Readers’ Choice Award will involve only readers who have read the selections and who understand the standards for good fiction. They vote for the one book they thought qualified as the best of the year.

The rules for voting for the Clive Staples Readers’ Choice Award are simple. Participants must have read at least two of the nominated books.

Last year the requirement was to have read one, meaning that friends who weren’t really speculative fiction readers could still participate, though they hadn’t read any of the other books nominated for the award.

So this year, to encourage participation from the reading public and not just from authors’ fan bases, we’ve added a second book requirement.

Consequently, the logical thing, as I see it, is for authors to encourage they fans to read at least one of the competitors’ books in order to be eligible to vote. :-p

After all, if Readers are choosing, then they should be reading the books in order to make an informed decision, don’t you think?

Published in: on May 13, 2010 at 4:43 pm  Comments (2)  


  1. Oh dear, the popularity prospect strikes again, and after I’d used the Clive Staples as a model for the Marcher Lord Press contest to look at. It’s a tough nut of a problem: how do you make the contest as open to people as possible while avoiding the seeming bias of a dedicated circle of family/fanclub?

    Actually, I’m not sure there’s a viable solution: people will ask people they know to vote. That’s a given. And eventually the hurdles you put up will require a panel of experts, which prevents the contest from being a true “people’s choice” award. There’s a lot of grassroots efforts in all elections, whether it be the movies’ “People’s Choice” or a political race.

    As for this specific example, perhaps it’d be best to emulate MLP (wow, did I just type that???) and take all submissions, but then only offer ones to vote for based on a criteria as set by those who run the awards process. That would prevent a voting list too long to handle but still make it a people’s choice. Of course, that’s just a suggestion; I’m not sure what the ideal process is (and not really sure if there is one!)


  2. Michelle, I think requiring the voters to have to read a certain number of the nominated works should reduce the popularity factor.

    One thing I didn’t anticipate last year was people making a book their top choice and then their second choice and their third choice. I didn’t count those, but this year I may use that as a disqualification. People voting like that are trying to stack the vote, more interested in seeing their favorite win than in seeing whether the one they liked is the same one everyone else liked.

    I’ve thought before about what you suggested—having the Readers’ Choice part narrow the field, then some qualified judges making the final decision. If we go to monetary prizes (which I envision doing at some point), then I think we may need to take that route.

    For now, I think we’ll see if the two book requirement makes a difference. Next year I may up it to three books.

    The difficult part of this is that I really, really need the authors to spread the word to their networks about the contest. The authors who I know did that last year (because I’m on their mailing list) were wonderful. They didn’t say anything to solicit votes even. Just mentioned in a humble way that they were nominated and that voting was taking place.

    Still, fans were fans … 😀



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