When I checked this morning, The Beggar’s Opera was out in front in the Giller Prize Reader’s Choice. Tanis Rideout’s brilliant Above All things was in second place and Aga Maksimowska’s wonderful Giant was in third. The lead has been switching back and forth daily; CBC Books tweeted yesterday that it looked like a photo finish.
Now I saw a few comments on the CBC website this morning which implied there might be cheating. Those comments were posted on August 28th (when my book wasn’t in the lead) so I’m not exactly sure who they were directed at. One commentator, however, said he or she couldn’t figure out how a book with hardly any presence on social media could rally so many troops.
Since almost all the authors are active on social media with twitter accounts and websites and blogs, I don’t know who that was aimed at. But I suppose the possibility of cheating on an internet contest is always there and I know it’s easy to get caught up in these contests.
I remember during the CBC Bookies contest when some followers posted comments on another contending author’s Facebook page urging others to cast multiple votes. One bragged that she had voted until she was shut down by the CBC website (and that she intended to do it again as soon as she could get back on).
I think what surprised me wasn’t so much that those posts were put up; it’s that no one said, “that’s not fair.” Instead, they asked to be emailed instructions!
Obviously, people can get a little carried away. For example, I couldn’t help but notice when I was looking at the Readers Choice comments this morning that there were a number of “thumbs downs” beside books (including, but not restricted, to mine) that other readers had recommended. And I found that puzzling. Surely people can “like” someone’s book without having to “dislike” someone else’s? This is not a “zero-sum” game.
I think maybe people need to stand back and try to remember why CBC and Giller ran this contest in the first place. It was to get people talking about books, and to celebrate Canadian literature. These are all fantastic books; there’s no need to “thumbs down” any of them. As far as I’m concerned, they’re all winners.
If I’m out in front at the moment, it doesn’t make my book the best, it simply means my supporters have been more diligent about voting than someone else’s. (Although that can, and probably will change, before this contest ends.)
But I agree that there should be a more transparent way to determine the Readers Choice Award than through a daily vote that requires readers (and authors) to engage in what essentially amounts to an endurance test and which opens up at least the prospect of on-line cheating.
What I really loved about the original nomination process for Reader’s Choice was that people had to register with CBC and post a comment as to why they liked the books they were nominating. It meant a lot to me, in those circumstances, when The Beggar’s Opera snagged second place behind Vince Agro’s The Good Doctor.
One of the commentators on the Reader’s Choice website suggested CBC should require voters to register their email addresses to vote, and that strikes me as a really good idea. If it was done for the nominations, why not for the vote? It would certainly remove any concerns over the credibility of the contest. If the ultimate vote also required comments about each book that was being voted on, it would also provide readers with great information.
I think readers are hungry for that. When I learned that CBC Books decided to turn the Readers Choice into another Bookie type contest, I decided that instead of campaigning actively for my book this time, I’d promote all the books. I posted up the synopses for each of the Top Ten here and and talked about the differences between genre and literary fiction; I even guest blogged on CBC Radio.
From the thousands of hits I got, I know readers are interested. I’m sure they’d love a contest where they felt their opinions really mattered.
But for now, the contest stands. Just remember, the rules are one vote, once a day. And let’s see some votes for people who aren’t front-runners, shall we? Here’s a plug for Missy Marston from Ottawa, and Sheila Dalton (another CWC mystery writer), as well as Yejide Kilanko and Rob Sawyer (also with Penguin Canada). (I’d love to see a photo finish!)
Clarification: Interesting that a comment posted below suggests that if I wasn’t campaigning, someone must have set up a computer program for me to take the lead in this contest because I wouldn’t have it otherwise. I’m not sure whether I should be amused or offended, but I will clarify what I meant.
By “not campaigning,” I meant that I didn’t do what I did in the CBC Bookies when I emailed hundreds of people every day and posted daily Facebook status updates, pleading for votes. For one thing, I don’t have the time right now, and secondly, I didn’t like doing it.
What I did do was send out details of the contest in my monthly newsletter which goes to hundreds of people, both clients and book clubs, urging them to vote for their favourite author. I also work in a hugely supportive office with around 200 agents, most of whom tell me that they have been voting daily. And of course, this blog gets lots and lots of hits. I think if you Google “Giller Prize” and my name, you’ll probably find I’ve been all over social media about this contest but I’ve tried to encourage people to vote for the book they loved, even if it wasn’t mine.
So I certainly wouldn’t assume that my votes (or anyone else’s, for that matter) are the product of cheating. I was simply pointing out that CBC should perhaps consider other ways of running these contests to deal with a concern flagged on its website a few days ago.