Do Book “Awards” Influence Your Reading Choices?

Maybe they shouldn’t!

There has been a rise in the number of book awards I fondly call The Shonkys. Since the term shonky is baffling my North American friends, here is a definition;

Shonky (ˈʃɒŋkɪ  )adjectiveWord forms: -kier or -kiest

Australian and New Zealand informal1. of dubious integrity or legality2. unreliableunsound

Word origin of ‘shonky’C19: perhaps from Yiddish shonniker or from sh(oddy) + (w)onky

From the Collins English Dictionary

They are run by (mostly American) companies eager to separate authors from the funds in their limited promotional budget.The authors in turn want to make the reading public think these awards are worth something. Short answer – they aren’t.

A Checklist for Authors and Book Buyers.

If an Award has some of these attributes it may not be A Shonky, but if it has all or most…put your credit card away, Dear Author or Reader.

❏ The Award Title includes the word Indy/Indie or Festival (not every award that has these words in their title is dubious, but check further)

❏ Author can nominate their own books

❏ Author pays an entry fee, often quite hefty

❏ Author even has to pay for their winning certificate

❏ Lots of merchandise

❏ Books entered can be from any year.

❏ Judges aren’t named – or there is no mention of judges at all!

❏ A very short period of time between entries closing and the prizewinners being announced

❏ A huge number of categories – often, as a friend of mine says, very “niche.”

❏ A huge number of “winners, honourable mentions, & finalists” – up to 700 in some cases. No, I’m not kidding.

❏ The company emails the author urging them to enter

❏ You can only find the previous year and the current year’s winners on the award company’s website. (sometimes only show the current year.) This means if you win A Shonky in 2015, Goodreads Librarians can’t find proof to enter it on the award field for your book page if you decide a few years down the track you want to display the award. Or a journalist can’t find a record if they want to write an article about the book or the author.

❏ A difficult to navigate website

The biggest clue of all – you never hear of a book being unplaced!

This doesn’t mean every book covered in Shonky stickers is a bad one. I reviewed two excellent books on Goodreads and I’m very sad the authors became desperate enough to try the Shonky route.

Some authors genuinely think these awards mean something, but an increasing number of authors, desperate for success in a saturated market, are trying to mislead the reading public.

I don’t have many friends who admit that any awards influence them. I asked a friend who is a popular reviewer on Goodreads which awards influence her. She wrote back “Nebula, Hugo, Locus and World Fantasy Awards in SF/Fantasy, the Booker Prize, Newbery, etc.”

Not a Shonky amongst them.

As a Goodreads Librarian I have entered many of these awards in the Goodreads system. But the cynical manipulation by the latest award and concerns raised by another Librarian made me think about what my desire for order was helping to create. Putting it simply – having these awards in the award field makes them appear legitimate. I’m not entering them any more.

I’m not proud of myself but this blog post is an attempt to put things right.

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