Pick Me! The psychology of popularity contests for writers.

and the winner is

Just look what you've won...

If you’re friends with any writers on facebook, or you follow any on twitter then you’ve seen the new rash of high schoolesque popularity contests that have recently sprung up around the internet.

These well-meaning (I assume) competitions are for such glorious and inspiring achievements as “Best fantasy cover for a book released in January.”

“Best title for an urban fantasy set in New Orleans without vampires.” and other ultimately trivial matters over which the author rarely, if ever, has any control or power over.

The contest is inevitably decided by hoards of cyber fans and friends following links to the contest page and liking their friend’s cover, title, or blurb the best. Thus, whoever has the highest number of active, link clicking fans – wins.

popularity contest

And the prize goes to... The guy with all the followers!

Rarely does a blogger hold a contest and ask for everyone to vote on the best actual book or story. Those contests are secret contests, decided in private and announced after a winner has already been chosen. Those contests result in “Best of” lists, and occasional prizes, awards and lucrative publishing contracts. Those contests are decided by people of importance. (Often self-importance, but that’s another post.)

judge not, lest ye be judged

Yes, the truth is, penguins decide all the important contests.

I’ve looked on, and sometimes even voted, as my published writer friends have announced, promoted, won, lost and participated in these various popularity contests and often wondered what the appeal is. There’s no prize. There’s no reward. There is only angst.

Don’t us writers have enough of that?

So, I decided the time had come to find out. Even though I am not published, and I don’t have a sparkly cover, flashy title, or pitch perfect blurb to be judged and voted on by the great internet masses, I found a popularity contest that didn’t care.

This contest is actually about words, 100 words to be exact. And, well, being a word slut… It seemed appropriate that I use it to make my popularity contest debut.

I sent in my submission. I waited to hear that it had been accepted. I got the news that it was live. And then… I totally flaked. I couldn’t ask my friends to vote for me. What if they didn’t like my piece? What if they thought it was complete rubbish? What if they liked it, but they liked someone else’s better. Shouldn’t they vote for that other person?

My ego demanded that I post the contest, that I beg for votes, grovel if I had to. My integrity refused. Finally after a long internal battle a compromise was struck. The message went out.

“I’ve entered my first ever popularity contest – My ego wants to ask you all to vote for me. My integrity refuses to allow me to tell you which piece is mine. Go on, give them a read, see if you can spot my work, and if it impresses you sufficiently, vote for it!

And that is where I left it. And that is where is shall stay until the contest is over, or until my frail writer’s ego breaks under the strain and shouts from the rooftop which title is mine, demanding that my true friends go and vote for it, whether they like it or not.



Filed under Marketing, Writing

2 responses to “Pick Me! The psychology of popularity contests for writers.

  1. Ha! I admire your restraint–maybe it be repaid by lots of deserved votes 🙂

    • thinkbannedthoughts

      Jenny, It’s not restraint so much as fear. I’m one of those introverted extroverts. I love putting myself out there, I just want to do it with a bag over my head 😉

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