A couple of weeks ago Dear Author received a number of emails congratulating us on being nominated for different categories of the BBAW, the Book Blogger Appreciation Award. (THANK YOU! to those who nominated us). This award was set up by a blogger by the handle, My Friend Amy, last year and burgeoned into a great event for 2009. As a blogger who has run contests and the tournament, DABWAHA, I know how difficult and challenging this must be to run and it certainly deserves kudos for that.
The award program is in its nascency. Over 1,000 nominations were made and anyone could self nominate. Emails were then sent to the nominees which told them in which category they were nominated and then asked for three things:
- five posts that exemplified the category
- Other Social networks you use to promote your blog
- Any challenges or memes you host for the book blogging community.
The five posts would then be judged by a panel and you would be shortlisted but you could not be shortlisted in more than one category. When the initial notices were sent, we were given about 72-24 hours (it varied from nomination to nomination) to return our top five blog posts in the various categories.
The categories were confusing and duplicative. While Amy was very receptive to email queries the information was sparse. For example, Dear Author was nominated in Best Reviews and Best General Review Blog along with a few other categories. Frankly, there are simply too many categories (an issue I have with the Romantic Times Awards). We collated our reviews/posts as best as possible but there was no time frame limitation or content limitation (i.e. the post could be a guest post and not one authored by the specific blogger).
Over the weekend, a blogger noted that one of the nominees, nominated in several categories, was someone who took money for a review. This blogger was offended by the notion that a blogger appreciation award would include someone who took money for review. The response of BBAW was this blogger would not make it past the judging panel but that the blogger would not be removed from consideration.
This raises a host of concerns, none of which are related to the issue of paid reviewing, which I will get to below. First, there was some suggestion that the blogger had self nominated. If you are going to accept self nominations, I don’t think it is appropriate to reveal who self nominated and who did not. Second, if the blogger’s nomination is so easily dismissed in the judging panel it seems that it is not just the content that the judging panel is considering. In other words, what if the paid reviewer blog posts were stellar?
The entire thing came full circle when My Friend Amy posted about the Dark Side of Twitter and how public criticism of the BBAW caused her to react hastily. She commented that that the original blogger did not have Amy’s best interests at heart or the blogging community when making the criticisms and that “I didn’t have money on the line, only my reputation. Sadly, I know that I have lost this with some people I respect.” The fact is that Amy’s reputation is not tied to criticism of BBAW because if that were true, it would make the inverse also true: that the success of BBAW inflates Amy’s reputation. I am certain that BBAW is not intended to glorify or defame one person, but rather celebrate the success of the community.
As with any new and emerging entity, there are growing pains. Criticism of the BBAW is not criticism of Amy personally but rather of a public entity meant to represent something for the book blogging community. In order for it to be robust and meaningful award, it must withstand criticism.
For all these reasons, Dear Author has withdrawn itself from BBAW, not because it isn’t a worthy award or because we don’t support community blogging but because the award is something we just would not feel comfortable accepting if we should win (I know that sounds presumptuous because against 1000 nominations with heavyweights like Ron Hogan, Sarah Weinman, Smart Bitches and the like there was a very good chance we wouldn’t even be shortlisted).
I don’t know if I agree with the exclusion of paid reviewers or whether I agree with the inclusion. The blog awards are for things as diverse as the best “meme” and the most extravagant giveaways. I can’t imagine why a paid reviewer should be excluded from something like that. It doesn’t appear that all the categories are devoted to reviewing, indeed, many are not.
I don’t know what BBAW is purported to represent or the guidelines by which content/blogger/nomination is judged. I suspect that as time goes on all these things will become transparent. Ultimately, we simply do not know enough about the award and what it stands for and who it purports to represent to be able to participate.
Tomorrow, I am going to blog about book reviewing and money.