On September 1, I received the happy news that LOST OASIS, book #8 of the Zack Tolliver, FBI Series had won a silver medal in the Readers Favorite International Book Contest in the category Fiction-Mystery-Murder. As categories go, that is a massively large one, to my mind, which makes the award even sweeter. But this is a massively large contest, with thousands of entrants and an enormous number of categories. It is the elephant of contests.
I enter my books in very few contests, but have entered this one twice, and placed twice. There are conflicting views in the literary world regarding this contest, and many others, for that matter. Even The NY Times best-seller list has been challenged as being manipulated by certain large publishers. It seems no icon is safe these days!
I return to this particular contest, not because I have placed in it (although I won’t discount that as an emotional impetus), but because of the way it is scored. The reviews from Readers Favorite are written by, well, readers. You never get the same reviewer twice. Nor is a great review guaranteed, although they claim not to publish reviews under 4 on a scale of 1 to 5. In private, they submit a critique based upon five categories, which I won’t go into now.
The point is, to my mind, that readers, not professionals or paid judges, assess the work, which is pretty much the same way another valued evaluator, Consumer Reports, operates. And the Readers Favorite contest is judged the same way as their reviewing system, but by several readers who affix the work with a number score. Those scores are averaged, the final score is compared to a number affixed to the awards range, and the job is done. If there are no scores high enough for any of the five winning categories, there are no winners in that category.
Similarly, if there are no scores that match a particular place, that medal is not awarded in the category. So, for instance, you might have a gold medal winner, no silver, but three bronze winners and two finalists (all due to ties). My first award, a bronze awarded for Canaan’s Secret in 2018, was one of three bronze medals awarded in that category. For my money (and yes, there is an entrance fee, although not a substantial one), a medal awarded as the result of such a system is much more meaningful than the opinion of a one judge, as in many contests.
My preference for this democratic model of selection isn’t new. I entered publishing with the same idea, to let the consumers decide the quality of my work rather than an overworked and swamped acquisitions editor. Amazon and similar sales platforms offer this opportunity––publish it, put it up on the shelves, and they will come…or not. I often wonder how many great writers left their work and careers gathering dust on some editor’s desk before the digital revolution.
Of course, I do not know how many entries there were in my particular category of Fiction-Mystery-Murder, yet the spread of the category and the popularity of the genre compels me to believe there must have been quite a few. Yet I entered the contest not to solidify my faith in the quality of my own work, for I am content in that respect, but to introduce my work, and the enjoyment of it, more widely.