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Popularity Contests

July 2, 2009

I have to admit I am guilty of this as well as many others. A writer friend of yours asks you to vote for their story, poem or book in a contest. Without hesitation you follow the link and place your vote without reading or even looking at the other entries. I have done this with the intentions of helping a friend and hopes of the favor being returned one day. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often.

Despite this fact, I detest contests where you choose the winner. I think they show a lot of bias. If you’re not popular enough, what’s the point of entering. Now, I’m not saying every person falls in this category, but let’s face it. A lot of writers do.

I have entered a few contests where judges didn’t exist and the most votes wins. The votes I received were from friends. I can only recall one maybe two times where I received votes from someone I didn’t know. I feel this can be unfair for someone like me. I’ve been published several times but are not widely known by most writers. So, how could I beat the odds? Not enter at all unless the winners are chosen by judges and not by popular vote.

Do you think contests by popular vote are fair for all writers? Do you enter them?

Andrea wants to thank Annie for the inspiration for this post. I hope you did well in the Editors Unleashed contest.

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  1. July 2, 2009 10:23 am

    I’m usually a bit of an anti-authoritarian type who eschews gatekeepers and judges in all their forms, but when it comes contests, I do think that we need judges, even though judges themselves can be flawed. Writing contests ought to be based on merit, not popularity. I’ve found myself in situations where I’ve been asked to vote for someone in a writing contest. I wasn’t told, “Follow this link, read all the stories, and then, if you think my story is good, vote for it!” No, I was told, “Follow this link and vote for my story!” The criteria for judging writing talent shouldn’t be based on the number of friends and family a writer has.

  2. July 2, 2009 10:50 am

    What an interesting topic! I don’t vote on those things, and if I were to vote, I’d try to read the stuff first to see if its worthwhile to be voted- regardless of friendship.
    I find too sites like Helium, which depends on votes, pushes the same thing- popularity not good writing. My article was pushed lower so another article, with misspellings and all got first place.
    Its frustrating.
    Thanks for the insight into these online contests.

  3. July 2, 2009 4:39 pm

    Totally agree, Andrea. Book *sales* are and should be popularity contests. After all, stuff that isn’t popular isn’t going to sell.

    But editors and publishers don’t take on manuscripts according to who votes for what on the Internet. They use their skills, experience, and judgment to find writing of the highest quality *that they think will sell well.*

    So, is the point of contests to see how many friends you have, or is it to identify great writing?

  4. July 2, 2009 6:05 pm

    Hi Andrea, *blush* thanks! I am just glad I got SOME votes – I am such a “Narelle No Friends.” I nearly didn’t enter the comp BECAUSE it as a popularity contest. I am afraid I have never gotten into the whole voting thing of Big Brother or other reality contests – never relly watched them.
    thanks for posting this – as i am now sure that I am not the only one who thinks this way.


  5. July 2, 2009 7:46 pm

    I entered the same contest, with no real expectation of winning anything. I was more looking for exposure.

    What I found interesting is the Grand Prize Winner took the time to PM with thoughts on the story. Nobody else did that.

    Popularity contests as a way of judging writing isn’t the best way to go. That they balanced it with an Editor was somewhat mollifying…

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