BBAW – My Personal Experience

by Sarah on September 2, 2009 · 19 comments

j0406206

I’m sure many of you have read the posts on various blogs regarding the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a brief summary:

My Friend Amy started Book Blogger Appreciation Week last year. The idea is for it to be a community building exercise for book bloggers and also recognize particularly worthy blogs through the distribution of awards. Anyone can be nominated for these awards, and anyone can nominate themselves. The controversy which erupted over the weekend concerns the nomination of a blog which allegedly takes money for the reviews they write. Rat’s Reading and Book Binge blogged about this and suggested that this is unethical and that the blog should be disqualified. My Friend Amy declined to do so. As a result, Jane from Dear Author has opted to withdraw her blog from BBAW and SB Sarah is considering doing the same.

I totally understand and respect Jane and Sarah’s points of view. I thought about withdrawing my blog but chose not to do so. So far, my experience of BBAW has been mixed to say the least. I hesitated writing about my personal experience of the BBAW nominations for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I thought it would come off as sour grapes and would negatively impact on my chances at winning in the categories for which I’ve been nominated. Secondly, I think the basic idea of BBAW is wonderful, but its execution leaves much to be desired. I realize by writing this post I may well destroy any chance I have at winning, but if one is really discounted on the basis of expressing an opinion, then it’s not something I would want to be associated with in any case.

When I first heard about BBAW, I thought it was a brilliant idea. I registered for the event, volunteered for an interview exchange, and filled in the nomination list. The list of categories certainly gave me pause as some are confusing. It’s hard to define what speciality some blogs have. We’ll take The Book Smugglers as an example. I like their blog and wanted to nominate them in at least one category. I was unsure which one to choose. I eventually went with YA on the basis that they review a number of Young Adult books, and did a great job during their Young Adult Appreciation Month. On the other hand, they also review a lot of speculative fiction and romance, so defining them as a YA review blog is not entirely accurate. To be frank, I’d have a hard time defining my own blog. I review a lot of romance novels but I also read a number of mysteries and YA novels. Also, my blog is also not exclusively a review blog as I frequently write opinion pieces on a variety of book and blog-related topics.

As mine is still a relatively new blog, I had no expectation of receiving a nomination. It wasn’t clear on the site whether a blog needed to be nominated once or several times to be included on the long list. When the nomination e-mails started flooding in, Twitter and Blogland were abuzz with excitement and people mentioning their various nominations. At first, I was simply delighted to see so many blogs I admire receive recognition. People were genuinely thrilled and that was lovely to see. After a couple of days, though, the cynical side of me kicked. It seemed as though absolutely everyone had made the long list – except me. Yep, I had (at that point) received zero nominations, so you can interpret my cynicism to be sour grapes if you choose. It was rather like being part of a class of 35 and being one of the two people not invited to a party. Even if the rational side is genuinely pleased for those who were nominated, the emotional side wonders what you did wrong not to be included when it seems just about everyone else was.

Nominated bloggers were asked to submit links to five posts which they felt best reflected their blog’s eligibility to win an award. The deadline was the 21st of August. On the 20th, I received an e-mail from BBAW saying that I had, after all, been nominated for an award, but they hadn’t been able to contact me. Note: I registered for the event, so my e-mail address should have been on record, plus I have a contact form on my site.

To be honest, my reaction at that point was mixed. Had I received notice at the same as everyone else, I would have been excited. As it was, I wondered if I’d bother submitting five posts for consideration at such short notice. In the end, I did, out of respect for the person who was kind enough to nominate me in the first place. Within a couple of days, I received notice of another category nomination. Oddly enough, one blogger mentioned she’d nominated me for a category for which I’ve never received a nomination letter from BBAW, so go figure. Also, I nominated Jill Shalvis for Best Author Blog. When she blogged about her BBAW nominations, she never mentioned receiving a nomination in this category, which makes me wonder if she even received a nomination letter for it. Furthermore, I have yet to get contact information for the person I’m supposed to exchange interviews with. I’ve e-mailed the BBAW team but so far, still no interview information.

To conclude: I support the idea of BBAW but I feel the nomination process is flawed and the organization chaotic. If over 1000 blogs made the long list anyway, and people could nominate themselves if they felt so inclined, why not have all book bloggers enter themselves in the categories they feel best reflect their blog? Alternatively, the long list could be confined to those blogs which receive at least five nominations in a particular category. In other words, make it open to absolutely everyone, or make eligibility for the long list more exclusive.

I realize BBAW is a work in progress. I admire Amy and her friends greatly for the enormous time and effort they put into this. I know they’re probably overwhelmed by the large number of blogs nominated this year in comparison to last year and will work to improve the system for next year. This is why I don’t want to withdraw my blog from BBAW. Like the RITAs, BBAW can only be improved from within. As the basic concept is a good one, I’d hate to see it disappear because Amy becomes disillusioned by negative reactions to this year’s event.

{ 19 comments }

Kat September 2, 2009 at 13:05

Yep, I tend to agree with you. I think the sentiment behind BBAW is well meant, and if it’s a bit disorganised, well, that’s what happens in real life. As I don’t expect to win, it bothers me not. I’m chuffed we were nominated at all.

I don’t have a problem with self-nomination. I think if you genuinely believe you deserve an award then you should nominate your blog.

I agree there should be a minimum number of nominations before a blog is officially nominated. I think this would reduce the effort required to notify bloggers and also to judge the entries.

The Twitter exchange between Jane, SB Sarah, Maili, Robin and others (I think you, too, Sarah?) was more interesting because they brought up lots of shades of grey. The Rat’s Reading post links to that blogger’s opinion on blog tours, affiliate links and ARCs. I’d argue that his stance is more extreme than most book bloggers’. I also feel that for categories like “Best Writing”, for example, it shouldn’t matter if a review was paid for or not. If it’s a blog about books and demonstrates fantastic writing, well, give it an award.

Meghan September 2, 2009 at 13:20

I’m sorry that BBAW hasn’t turned out to be a great experience for you so far. The problem is definitely that there were too many nominations and not enough people able to send out notices and search for email addresses (as far as I can tell). Everyone is a volunteer and only has so much time. Last year it worked better because there were fewer bloggers and most of them knew most of the others; this year there are so many and it’s physically impossible for everyone to know everyone else. For the most part this is a good thing, especially in judging panels, but it’s definitely an ongoing process. I’m pretty sure the rules are going to be firmed up next year and there will be a number of nominations that a blog has to receive. Even though I think a lot of the frustration going around is a bit of a tempest in a teapot, it will lead to better awards next year and I’m glad you still plan to participate!

Leontine September 2, 2009 at 14:11

Hi Sarah,
I have been following it all from the sidelines. I love the BBAW and what it tries to do only, right now, I feel it is missing structure to give it a fabulous festive feel. Though I must say that from these debates going on everywhere the BBAW can only grow stronger. I think Amy never in a million years expected so many nominations and I also think that with what she is trying to do; celebrate the blog community, the organization should have started as early as perhaps May to have it all clear on the rules, to the point and everyone ready for the nom’s to pour in. Now it feels disorganized, still, I talk in hindsight and from experience one can grow and I think Amy and Co will learn from this year!

I will say that I have received a few nominations myself and though I was excited at first and really appreciate it, the happy feel has diminished somewhat along the way. I don’t think I’ll make the cut in any category but as exhilarating as it was with the initial nominations I don’t want to forget I am blogging to give a voice to my passion for the romance genre. Want to add my 2 cents in the blogging pot and talk with all these diverse people who have the same passions.

Now the debate regarding nominations and BBAW rules, while necessary, gets center stage while that is not the point of this week. I really hope that next year the BBAW has evolved and we can all enjoy this great initiative :D

Sarah September 2, 2009 at 16:59

@Kat I was distracted towards the end of writing my post and completely forgot to address the paid reviews and self-nomination issues.

As the BBAW rules did not explicitly say a self-nomination was not permitted, I can’t see how Amy could change her mind about that now. She probably assumed (as did I) that no one would be crass enough to nominate themselves.

The same goes for paid reviews. If nothing was initially said against a blog which accepts payment for reviews, how can the BBAW team now turn around and disqualify the blog on these grounds?

@Meghan BBAW is a fantastic idea and I understand the organizers did not anticipate such a huge number of nominations. Hopefully, everyone can pool their ideas and improve the nomination system for next year’s event.

@Leontine Your excitement over your nominations is justified. One of the reasons I hesitated to post this was because I didn’t want to negate the genuine joy of those who were nominated – especially those of us who didn’t expect to receive one. The BBAW nomination rules certainly shouldn’t be changed in relation to this year’s event. Hopefully, Amy and her team will continue BBAW next year and work on a more streamlined, transparent nomination system ahead of time.

Keishon September 2, 2009 at 17:00

Like I said at DA, the execution was flawed. I just hope Amy knows that this is *not* about her but about the process. Take this as a learning experience and keep on trucking, baby. She shouldn’t be taking this so personally. It’s called growning pains. Next year, just be ready to rock. I got one nod for my blog as well. No, I didn’t nominate myself for it. Probably after my comments, I’ll probably be blacklisted.

Sarah September 2, 2009 at 17:04

@Keishon Our comments must have crossed! I also hope Amy realizes this is not a personal criticism of her or the hard work she’s put into BBAW. I’m rather hoping neither of us will be blacklisted!

Maili September 2, 2009 at 17:09

What Keishon said. Including the blacklisted bit. (laughing)

Sarah September 2, 2009 at 17:17

@Keishon @Maili There might be a certain cachet in being blacklisted, mind. So far, I’ve only ever been banned from my mother’s local after a particularly raucous St. Patrick’s Day. Oh, and a cinema. For throwing popcorn. I’ve never been banned online. The best story I ever heard was a friend of mine who was banned from a cloth nappy forum. How does one achieve that?

katiebabs September 2, 2009 at 18:46

What I love about BBAW is the sense of community and joy. The week the BBAW noms were given out, it felt like the Oscar noms and everyone was so happy. From BBAW I have found a whole new slew of blogs that I have added to my Google Reader and now will take me a week to read through. I have become a hermit due to Google Reader.

I voted on a panel for one of the nominations and I can say the way Amy and her crew have handled this is very professional. There are bound to be some things that need to be fixed. Look at other awards given from other institutions. An example are the Oscars. After 80 years, they still have hiccups with the way they do things.

Wendy September 2, 2009 at 19:19

I fall somewhere in the middle. I do think some people are taking the whole BBAW way too seriously. People were squee-ing about their nominations like Nora Roberts or Linda Howard had personally called them on the phone. Then there’s the other side of the coin, which I also don’t totally agree with.

Certainly BBAW is a nice “recognition” and it’s a fun way to highlight some of the different book blogs floating around on the ‘Net – not just in Romance Bloglandia. That said, will it ever be representative of the entire book blogging community? Extremely doubtful. Do you know how huge the Internet is? How fluid it is? How fast people seem to come and go? Also, holy crap on a cracker – how much WORK would that be for the organizers?!?!

So I chalk the whole BBAW exercise to a “nice idea.” Not everybody is going to love it, and that’s fine. Certainly it’s a HUGE project, and I have no doubt that Amy started it because she thought it would be “cool.” But now, like most things in Bloglandia, it’s erupted into an annoying clusterf*ck.

Interestingly enough, I originally toyed with the idea of opting out because the whole “you can nominate yourself” thing bothered me. It also smacked a bit of a “popularity contest” and frankly, I hate popularity contests. People scoff, but I don’t blog in the hopes that everybody is going to lurve me (some people don’t like my blog – and that’s cool. There are blogs that I don’t like – so I don’t follow them). But ultimately I didn’t withdraw because I did not nominate myself. That means, someone did. And that was really nice of them, so thank you anonymous nominator – LOL. So yeah, I submitted my 5 posts. If I final – fine. If I don’t – fine. My self-worth isn’t hanging on the outcome.

Sarah September 2, 2009 at 19:45

@katiebabs @Wendy
My criticisms of BBAW focus solely on the nomination process, not the integrity of the judging panels. I’m with Wendy on disliking the idea that people can potentially nominate themselves. Say, for example, Blogger A has been nominated in four categories. She’s absolutely thrilled, and rightly so. Blogger B has also been nominated in four categories – three of which were self-noms. Frankly, I find that situation offensive to Blogger A.

Basically, if BBAW is to allow self-nominations, make it official. The RITAs and the Golden Hearts are based on authors submitting their own work. If I recall correctly, there’s a limit of 1000 entries per contest. A similar system could work for BBAW. It would also have the added benefit of bloggers assigning themselves to categories which correctly reflect the content of their blog, rather than asking them to voluntarily opt out of certain categories after the fact.

Alternatively, long list nominations could be dependent on a blogger receiving a minimum number of nods in a particular category. I could see both systems working.

heidenkind September 2, 2009 at 21:07

I’m sorry the experience has been so frustrating for you. I know I nominated you for an award, so that is troubling that you’re not receiving your nominations–not just for you, but for everyone who took the time to nominate you! I do like your idea of people who want to participate nominating their own blogs and then the judging panel deciding who might get what. The nomination & award system does seem really chaotic and overwhelming for Amy and the rest of the judges, and that’s certainly not good for the bloggers either end of the nominations process.

I totally missed this kerfuffle (what a shocker! I’m always missing the drama), but I agree with Wendy that people are taking this a bit too seriously. Like DA & SBTB withdrawing because some bloggers get paid for their reviews–there was nothing in the rules that said it was for non-profit or non-professional bloggers. So what’s their deelio? CTFD

Robin September 2, 2009 at 21:19

@heidenkind

Like DA & SBTB withdrawing because some bloggers get paid for their reviews

I just want to point out that this is NOT why DA withdrew, and as far as I know, SBTB has not withdrawn yet, merely put up a poll asking its readers their opinion on the question. There’s an explanation of the DA decision here: http://dearauthor.com/wordpress/2009/09/01/dear-author-on-withdrawing-from-bbaw/

Karen Scott September 2, 2009 at 23:33

I originally thought the nomination comment was spam. I then found it was genuine, and treated it like I would a meme, nice, but not really my thing thus I ignored it.

It has been said before that I’m not a great joiner, and I saw no need to change that status quo.

Janet W September 3, 2009 at 17:50

@Sarah … I’ve never been thrown out of a local … hmmmm, is a bar a local? Might have to amend that statement! I definitely haven’t been tossed from a cinema :) … Banned online, yep, check. But I was in good company so that’s OK :D

Sarah September 3, 2009 at 20:12

@Janet W In my defense, I was very young at the time of both incidents. Naturally, I’m a model citizen now!

Rebecca September 4, 2009 at 18:44

Hi Sarah – Just found your blog, and I enjoyed your post – it was extremely informative – bravo! I’m one of those bloggers who is looking at this whole award thing from the outside in, and I think YOU should get a pat on the back for dishing out the honesty. The idea of a blog award gives me a case of the giggles, and I especially laugh at the chain-letter style awards that bloggers pass around to their buds. Sure, it’s nice and all, but I reminds me of friends passing notes in high school, and I *shudder* at any hint of a clique-y atmosphere. I sincerely hope your post didn’t sink your award-ship in the future, but I say be happy to be on the outside. It’s a nice place to hang.

Sarah September 4, 2009 at 19:07

@Rebecca I’m not a clique person myself. Love your blog name, BTW!

Janet W September 8, 2009 at 02:23

Goodness, I just voted … but only the categories where I recognized anyone: they were few and far between. I had no idea there were so many blogs that I had heard of not :D

Previous post:

Next post: