I was going to post a long rant today about the Preditors & Editors annual Readers’ Poll, but quickly realized I was spitting into the wind. I suppose I was just getting a little tired and cranky from being solicited for a vote by every writer’s forum and blog I’ve visited in the last couple of weeks. Here’s the shorter and, hopefully, more balanced version:
It’s all very egalitarian. Anybody can nominate, anybody can vote, and everybody can change their votes as often as they like until the polls close.
So, to coin a phrase, “when everybody’s super, nobody will be.” There’s no minimum standard of quality or criteria for evaluation. Your story doesn’t have to be very good or by some measure better than anybody else’s. Guy with the most friends wins. As near as I can tell, all you can say after you’ve won Preditors & Editors is that you’re a pretty good networker. Yay you.
This isn’t to say the P&E folks don’t deserve kudos for trying to shine some much-needed light on internet-based publishing and for trying to generate some fan buzz. That’s a good thing. It could be better.
Did I vote? Sure. I actually found a couple of stories that I’d read during the past year and thought were pretty good. Were they the best of their kind? I have no idea. There were a ton of stories on each nomination list, with a few more nominated every day. Even if I wanted to do a side-by-side comparision, or check out an unfamiliar story, just to be fair, I wouldn’t have had time.
If there’s a desire to make the poll actually mean something, a couple of changes might help:
1. Limit nominations, preferably based on some qualitative criteria, and close the nomination window after a reasonably short period of time. Editors could be solicited for nominations of the best piece from their respective publications.
2. No vote-changing. It complicates gathering and counting votes, encourages nominees to lobby for votes, and in my opinion, damages the credibility of the whole process. If the slate of nominees is fixed, there’s no need to change a vote in the event a cooler or better-lobbied story comes along.
That’s my take, for whatever it’s worth. In the absence of a perfect system, take a look at the P&E site and cast a vote or two for some deserving internet publishers and publishees.