There are a few things that are currently annoying me about the genre. The one at the top of my list is how so many of us reviewers are so incredibly into the genre in every way, shape, and form, yet we never get to be included in it. We don’t get to go to conferences because of where we live. We don’t get to vote in (many) awards. We don’t have a say. This isn’t a big deal, but it bugs me. Us bloggers are the epic genre fans and it seems rather disorienting to see that we have pretty much no voice, unless we are lucky enough to have enough money to go to conferences, or you live somewhere that conferences set up shop.

Plus, we review. We are genre critics. We analyze, get excited about, pick over all genre books. If anyone should give out awards, its those of us who spend hours and hours on our websites, reading books, stalking authors, analyzing everything. But we don’t. As far as I know, there is no SFF specific “Reviewer’s Choice Award.”

Unless it is due to organizational problems, I cannot fathom why reviewers don’t have their own Reviewer’s Choice Award?

There would, of course, have to be stipulations.

A few I thought off the top of my head: 

1. Nominations and voting would ONLY be open to bloggers/reviewers who post SFF specific reviews at least once a week. This would require someone(s) to check out everyone who nominates and make sure they are following the “rules.” (IE: Look at their website).

(That’s just a random number. Many bloggers post more editorials than reviews, or only post reviews once a month or whatever. It would be a number, or restrictions that would have to be discussed and agreed on.)

2. It would probably need to be a combination of nomination, popular vote, and jury… but maybe not.

3. To include everyone, it would have to be online only.

4. I’d probably have to run a Kickstarter to get money so the winners could have something hardcore to put on their shelves at home. What point is an award if you don’t get anything out of it to show off? I could award people the BOOKWORM AWARD OF THE YEAR, but who cares? No, they have to actually win SOMETHING. Thus, kickstarter.

5. I’d want nominations and awards to be in the SFF genre. There’d be YA categories, PNR, UF, SciFi, fantasy, graphic novels, horror…. But then again, breaking it down so specifically could get messy.

6. What about first books? New authors? Should they get their own award?

The problem with all of this is making it a critical, upstanding award that doesn’t get watered down by being opened up online to “everyone,” but isn’t only for special people and thus obviously somewhat bias. A lot of people have awards, and most of them don’t mean a damn thing. I’d want this one to count.

Is it possible?

What are your thoughts?

30 Responses

  • I’d love to be involved in something like this, and I definitely think it sounds like a worthwhile effort. Also, fun. 😀 I could never claim to be any good at organising things, but if this can happen I’d love to be involved.

  • eligibility is going to be a big issue. Does some sort of ‘reviewer’s club’ get formed and then voting/nominating/etc. is a members only privilege. What are the requirements for membership? Is based on volume of reviews, quality, amount of time/history in blogging, recognition among peers (do you need to sponsored?), etc. This would suggest a need for clear and transparent policies. And you’re not even to the part of selecting a book yet.

    Anyway, it sounds like it could be a good enough idea. It’ll be interesting to see where you take it!

  • I know some blogs will run awards for other blogs, but usually there’s just bragging rights and a small image associated with it, and the closest that stuff comes to giving props for the books they actually read is in the making of Top 10 lists. A reviewer’s choice award would actually be an awesome thing to implement. For some major awards, people in the fandom get to nominate books, but the voting and award-giving is all done by other people and isn’t tremendously transparent. Reviewers play a big part in book publicity, and sometimes in getting books off the ground to begin with, so you’re right that it seems a little odd that there’s nothing we can do to make our voices heard in the giving of actual awards.

    I can’t wait to see if this idea gets off the ground!

  • A couple of thoughts. (I’m guaranteed to have more tomorrow after I’ve slept.)

    -I agree there has to be some sort of qualification to nominate/vote. My immediate suggestion (, and that’s pretty much off the top of my head and may be subject to change,) is that you’d have to be blogging for at least three months. I’d also suggest a minimum post count for the last year (the one the award would be for), 25 seems to be a fair minimum. In that it’s too many to set up a blog just for voting, but not so many as to exclude anyone who has little time for blogging (for whatever reason).
    -I’d also suggest that you’d only be able to nominate a book that you have actually reviewed.
    -There’s an almost endless possibility for award categories. I don’t think there should be too many, but at the same time I think it’s dangerous to dismiss categories. However, one argument for limiting the number of categories I’ve seen is the length of the awards ceremony. So eliminating a physical ceremony removes that problem. I think categories could be a long discussion.

    neth mentions transparency. I agree with that. I think one of the biggest problems with the Hugo award is how much happens in private. So I’m already skeptical that there’s e-mails being exchanged. If it can’t be talked about in blog comments, or in an online forum, as far as I’m concerned it didn’t happen. If an award like this is going to be inclusive it’s going to have to be created, and discussed, in public.

  • I caution against using the number of reviews as a metric. Though I suppose it depends on exactly what direction things go in. The example I would use is Aidan Moore. How many reviews does he write in a year? 2? 5? Whatever the number, it’s not many. But I think few would argue that they would value Aidan’s input into an award like this. Likewise I doubt I’ll make it to 25 reviews this year, maybe not even 20 depending on when the count begins and ends. I would advocate some form of nominating/application process where a lot different ‘metrics’ are used to determine eligibility. And frankly, I’d also advocate for enough flexibility that whatever selection ‘board’ is created can simply agree that someone is eligible even if metrics don’t add up. But, the process would need to be transparent and defendable (though not necessarily agreeable to absolutely everyone).

    • The number of reviews was just an example, and a bad one. I love your idea of an application. Add a $5 fee or something that would go toward the website and awards. Or something. I am looking at other organizations who have awards like this and researching they run.

  • I definitely think there has to be a set metric. Absolutely no exceptions. Once you start with exceptions you might as well have no rules. And honestly, I don’t give a shit about who doesn’t get to vote because they review too few books. (And if I happen to not review enough books in a year, I expect the rules to exclude me from voting. Or even Sarah, whose idea this is.)
    There’s no point in having a “Reviewer’s Choice Award” if you can vote without being a reviewer. The only metric that makes sense to include is number of reviews. If someone hasn’t reviewed enough books (-whatever that number may be), then they should of course have no input on an award given by reviewers.

  • If participating in something like this meant I had to do more reviews, then I would totally just review more books. Count me in.

  • I’ve been looking at the LAFCA website, and I like how it runs. They have a small group who spearhead the whole thing (president, vp, etc.) and then the critics who join are listed on the website, you can click on their names and read more about them, including a public “interview” type thing (what’s your favorite movie, etc.). That would provide transparency. People could see who was voting, read more about them, and all that fun stuff. I think a small fee of $5 would be worth that, as the website would be helping promote the critic’s websites and the $5 would go toward running the website and funding the awards.

    As for categories, I’m stumped. Part of me wants to just do the Hugo categories on a Reviewer basis. Then I think that “best fan writer” wouldn’t be a fair category to add, because we are ALL fan writers and that would be bias voting. Or something. On the other hand, I like the idea of representing all the sub-genres, but that could go on for a looooong time so I think limiting it would be best. Fantasy, SciFi, graphic novels, UF (because a lot of people read it)… I don’t know. What do you guys think?

    Another thing the LAFCA does which I really like is a separate award for new film people… best new (whatever) and all that. I like that idea a lot. That would be more work (running two awards) but I think giving the new authors and artists their own award would be really, really cool.

    And how in the holy hell would I choose who would run this thing with me?

    Anyway, those are my thoughts as of now. Here’s the LAFCA website where most of them are coming from:

  • The “application process” is going to be hard to determine. As far as I know, there isn’t really anything like this out there that I can look at. I’m checking out some other awards to see how they do things and I’ll figure it out and put up my application template when I get that far.

  • I like those categories, though ones to add that leap out at me are Debut, and maybe a YA one?

    • I like the YA category. I’m not sure why YA isn’t represented with other awards, but it certainly deserves its own. Maybe YA fantasy and YA SciFi?

  • Also, cover art. That one is often a big deal to me, though I dunno if everyone agrees…

  • I like the cover art category that Lisa suggested. Cover art has influenced many a read for me. I like the debut author/breakout book idea as well.

    This is a great idea, Sarah and I think you’ll get lots of participation.

    • Cover art is a must. I love cover art, and I also like the breakthrough author/book idea.

  • Well, now I’m all excited for this. I really hope something comes of it; there are some great ideas here!

  • I say go for it. Review awards could only help out both readers and authors. I just have no clue how to go about setting it up — but judging from the comments I think you’ve got a lot of great ideas going around, so I’d love to see what comes of it!

  • I’m sure you’ve already thought about this, but I would assume that there would be some kind of requirements on when the book was published. There are a lot of possibilities for doing that though. You could make it where the book had to have been published within a year of the submission deadline and you could also make it where there had to have been a certain period between the publication of the book and the submission deadline. That would make it where people could not submit something that had only been published a day or two before the deadline. Those are just some ideas I have…not really sure how helpful they are.

  • I don’t have suggestions past what others have included, but I’m totally in. As long as there isn’t too much money involved ($5 sounds awesome), and I would definitely hope my blog would pass whatever metric used, but I would love to help out with organizing/checking blogs/etc.

  • It’s an intriguing idea. I’ll be following this with interest.

    Not that I’m an expert, but your best bet to firm things up might be to really hammer down on what you think the USP of this will be. There are a fair few awards out there already, and if you want it to be something meaningful you’ll have to make it *very* clear how it’s differentiated from the rest.

    It looks like that would be the voting constituency. If the ‘legitimacy’ of the award stems from that then it’s probably worth getting that sorted first and dealing with award categories etc later. The beauty of doing things online is that it’s easy to aggregate a lot of stuff. You/someone could set up a site and people who wanted in would have to submit, say, 15-20 SF posts over the course of the year (relatively evenly spaced, so you don’t get a rush just before deadline day). Those are your ‘eligibility’ posts that establish some sort of regular engagement with the genre so essays, reviews of older books, all good; they don’t necessarily all have to have been reviews of books publish that year/voting period. You can, of course, only nominate a book you’ve reviewed online though.

    Fees can complicate matters. What if someone’s paid their $5 but hasn’t blogged for eleven months? Though I understand why financial support might be nice. Sponsors maybe?

  • You also have to take into consideration what books are eligible and how many of those books your reviewers have read. You can have people nominate what they’ve read, but if everyone’s read the same 12 books, it’s just going to be a popularity vote. On the other hand, if everyone’s read a wide variety, coming up with a shortlist might be difficult.

    Also remember that the judges will need time to read the shortlist of nominees in order to properly vote on the winners. Which means they’ll need access to those books/stories. Unless providing access to the works is part of your plan (like the Hugo voting package), then there’s an added cost for your reviewers both in terms of time and money. The more categories you add, the more books your reviewers will have to read for this award, and the less time they’ll have to review other things. And if a large number of bloggers are only reading and reviewing the award titles, there will be a lot of overlap on blogs and a lot of books not up for the reward that will have to be ignored due to time constraints.

  • Having had a night to think about this, I still think reviewing for at least three months and having reviewed at least 25 books in the eligibility period should be a requirement if this is going to be a reviewer award. I actually think it needs to be that level to avoid anything that looks like gaming the system. I.e. lots of people opening a blog right before the nomination limit just to vote for something. I’d add that reviews in any venue -other than an online store- over 100 words would be eligible. That includes print and online magazines. (Also only allowed to nominate books/works you have reviewed.)
    I’m leaning towards focusing on books at the moment. But as far as I know some Oscar categories are only voted by those who work in that category. That could be a thought, having SFF film/comics/games reviewers vote for those categories. But in my (absolutely not humble) opinion, that is something to consider after the award gets off the ground. I think starting with written SFF is a good focus.

    Eligibilty of works is (pretty) easy. Year of publication. There will have to be some discussion about the US books released in late December, but they are officially released in January, so I don’t see a huge problem.

    That brings me to discussions about eligibility, or anything else really. I think a forum that is open 24/7 is a good idea. You can actually have a forum where only members post, but that is open for everyone to look at. I think that is needed for transparency. All year discussions, and polls on things of dispute.Also a forum for suggestions about nominees would be a good way to get some more obscure titles in front of reviewers/voters.

    I’m not really for a “pay to play” solution. I think a reviewer award would be interesting enough to get a sponsor to take care of the finances of running it. (Jared and Anne at the Kitschies will know more about sponsors, I think)

    Categories: Speaking purely literary first, and essential IMHO:
    -Short story
    -Debut novel

    The last one isn’t really essential, but I think there needs to be an award for older books. The SFF blogosphere already has a “new shiny” problem, so I think an inclusive award needs a counter. (Five years old, and before award when it catches up to that. If it’s only books reviewed being nominated, I think that will work.)
    Categories…Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, and Paranormal Romance. I think an inclusive SFF award need those four for all the books. And also YA. I thhink YA is essential for being inclusive. I think a discussion of if YA needs just one, or all four categories, is good for the forum I suggested.

    And yes, that is a lot of categories. But if this is going to be inclusive, there can be no offline awards ceremony. Any such ceremony will most likely be in the US, and that is just the Hugo Award 2.0.

    • I really like the idea of the “Vintage/classic” category. There are so many great books that are out there that I want to review that are not new releases.

  • I still dislike the idea of a hard line on number of reviews per year, especially if it’s higher. I would value the input of a reviewer who only writes 4 or 5 real well written reviews per year over someone who writes 50+ cookie cutter reviews a year. But that is my opinion and my not reflect what people are thinking on here.

    I’m seeing a real identity crisis in all this on who is a reviewer. On one hand everyone is talking about how they feel excluded from other venues, so it seems like the idea is to be relatively open. But then there is a lot of discussion on how to exclude the ‘non-reviewers’ and such. So, is the award intended to be another club-based award with a membership base, a juried award based on panel of reviewers selected every year, other? I think that the basic identity of the group really needs to be defined before it can move forward in any meaningful way.

    • I’ll assume, because we have been online friends for over three years, that when Sarah says “Reviewer’s Choice Award” that is what she means. -What I have suggested only excludes people who are not reviewing books. And frankly, without that exclusion of non-reviewers the name Sarah has suggested is meaningless.
      -Can you please clarify, Sarah, if this is going to be reviewer award or not.

      • I think it should be a reviewer award, but I agree with Neth. It leads to identity issues. I’m not incredibly fond of having a “special club” type award. Those already exist and I hate them. My primary concern is, if it’s open to “everyone” then what makes it such a fantastic award?

        I don’t know. I think Neth is onto something. It needs an identity before it can move forward. Yes, I want it to be a “reviewer” award, but “reviewer” is a lot of things, and honestly, some of the opinions I trust the most are people who post mostly editorials. If it’s a reviewer award, it excludes the editorial people. Maybe it should be a “blogger” award? But then I could run into the “everyone involved makes it meaningless” thing that was pointed out to me yesterday.

        Maybe this whole thing is impossible.

        • A reviewer award is by default a “special club” award. Being a reviewer award is what nakes your suggestion about an award special. If you remove “reviewer” the award will be the same as a lot of other awards, There is already a lot of open awards
          I honestly don’t see any way of defining reviewer that doesn’t include looking at if people review. Anything else will just be a “friends of….X”. (Like the Hugos being a “friends of Worldcon award”.)
          I know what I say about this tseems very final, and can seem dismissive. But you should not give a fuck about what I say, and not what Neth says either.
          Try to think about how it looks from outside. If it’s called “Reviewer’s Choice Award”, and there is someone not reviewing being a part of that, it will look like an insider thing, with the only criteria that matters being that you are a “right person” for anyone who is not included in what is going on.

          If you want a “SFF blogger” award, you have to define what SFF is, and what blogging is. (If I had posted a cobver reveal for each cover, I could have done over 30 posts in a week. -Is that enough to be qualified?) And there will never be agreement. If you say reviewing a SFF book, you can go by what is published as SFF. That removes a lot.

          It’s not really hard to define “Reviewer”. You just have to set a metric, and stick to it. I have already given my suggestion as to where that border lies. I have no problem with with I suggest not being final (of course), but I think it’s something taht needs to be decided on first.

          And to cover that, there is several people who don’t review who I think have important voices in SFF. But some of them are working in the publishing industry, either as authors or for an imprint. I think a reviewer ward should be voted on by reviewers. But if anyone has a definite metric beside that, I am willing to listen.

  • neth

    Don’t dispair Sarah. I have a lot of experience dealing with these sorts of logistics from work on a boardof directors
    My aim is to get people thinking on identity and goals before jumping into the details of the awards.

    It’s certainly not impossible but it won’t be easy either. And you’ll never please everyone. But I still think it’s worth pursuing.

  • Yep, don’t give up on it just yet. All of the responses thus far have been pretty positive, so that’s a good sign. Clearly there’s an appetite for something like this 😉

    You could look at ‘length of service’ as an eligibility criteria. If you’ve been blogging/reviewing regularly for less than a year (say) at the start of the eligibility period you get to nominate but not a final vote, and once you’ve hung about and served your time you get a full say. It does at least avoid the seemingly tricky ‘post limit’ problem, but does impose another slightly arbitrary boundary. It’s ultimately about what you want it to be, and which selection criteria fits that best.

    Are you aware of the Not The Booker prize at the Guardian books blog? They seem to be wrestling with some similar issues, so it might be worth a look –

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