Sometimes, success is about talent. And sometimes it's not.
As I've mentioned, I am participating in a particular short story contest. In this contest, writers post their entries and voting is opened to the public for two weeks. In the first round, voters can vote once for their three favorite stories. The ten entries with the most votes go on to the final judging, with editors choosing the finalist for inclusion in the anthology.
I worked hard on my entry and allowed myself to think that perhaps, just maybe, enough people would read it and like it enough to vote for it and put me in the top ten.
Twelve hours after the contest opened for voting, they posted the voting stats. And I was stunned to see that a bunch of entries had 30, 40, and even 50 votes. The majority, however, had 2-10 votes.
I was absolutely stunned. Could these high numbers really be the result of people who had read all the entries and chosen their favorites? After all, half of the 88 entries went up on the last day. A brief Google search suggested that maybe the high numbers were a result of promotion -- sending out pleas via email, Facebook, Twitter and blogs to go vote for the writer's story. That's not to say those stories weren't well written (most of them are great -- I know because I've read most of them) but I find it hard to believe that that many people had a chance to read that many 5000-word stories in the first hours of voting.
When I saw those numbers, I panicked. I hadn't told anyone about the voting yet. I only had two votes (but in truth, this made me feel good deep down because these were anonymous readers who read and liked my story enough to vote for it.) But in order to have a shot at the top ten, I knew I'd better start selling myself, and hard. So I did.... here, FB, emails, friends and neighbors, and so on.
And it makes me feel terrible. I would rather it be about the writing. I'd like to be in the top ten because my story is one of the best, not because I have the most friends and followers. I know I'm naive. I know that this is representative of the industry -- and society -- in general these days. We all know promoting yourself is key.
Think ABNA. Think American Idol. Popular votes are everywhere. When you open things up to the popular vote, it becomes a popularity contest and may or may not have anything to do with talent. Wonderfully talented people sometimes go unnoticed because they don't have the presence.
But for all my ranting, I am realistic. I still need votes. (But thank heavens they've taken the vote count down, otherwise I'd be watching that they way I watch my comments and followers count!)
If you haven't voted yet, I'd appreciate it if you could head over here, read a few stories and cast your vote by Feb 28. You do not need to register on the site to vote and you can read as few or as many stories as you like. My story is "Intent and Intensity" (#74) and is a modern take on Sense and Sensibility. I really appreciate it. And if you've voted already, a great big thank you.
But I'd also like to know what you think. Do you have any thoughts on popular votes in contests, whether in writing or singing or anything else? Are they a fair way of assessing talent?