The last day or so has brought a great amount of fodder for blogging. The more that came up, the more these things felt connected and the more I knew I had to say something.
I’m a fine print reader. I’m one of those people that does read the contest rules and regulations for anything. I read through all 100-some pages of my mortgage before signing the dotted line, and I had no problem calling my realtor and lender for every single question I had. I like to know what I’m getting myself into.
So last night, when I checked out the contest going on by GoodReads and the Independent Book Bloggers that gives book bloggers the chance to win a free trip to BEA (including airfare, hotel, and convention access), I read the fine print. And I tweeted about being a little nervous reading the fine print for this contest because it mentioned that the sponsors could use my entry, including my post content, without credit or compensation. There are any number of reasons this makes me nervous, but I ran the wording by someone who is savvier about legalese than myself, and I was informed this was fairly standard wording. Except — she couldn’t see what I was seeing. The terms I copy/pasted to her weren’t the ones on the website. In the few minutes between mentioning something on Twitter (and having a couple other people mention it), the terms changed. I’m not going to talk about what they say because that’s been addressed right here.
Honestly, they’re not that different than any other contest terms. The thing is, so few people READ the terms that when you do read them and see something like that, it’s jarring and makes you stop and think a little bit.
After thinking about the way the terms were now laid out, I decided to go ahead and enter the contest. I’d love to head to New York City and BEA for free. I love the networking aspect of the event, even if the show floor does little to nothing for me. As soon as I hit “submit” on the entry, though, I began to feel weird about doing it. I scrolled through a number of the other entries, and I began doubting more and more my decision to enter.
The contest is set up in two rounds: the first allows anyone to vote through their favorite blogs. Starting April 10, bloggers can campaign to earn votes, and the top 15 entries in each of the four categories will then be judged by a panel on a number of criteria, including writing quality, analysis quality, design, tone, and reader impact.
In short: it’s a popularity contest to start, followed by a real evaluation.
I sat on my entry for a few more hours, thinking about the work involved in promoting my blog among the other hundreds of YA blogs that entered. I sat on my entry thinking about having to spam my readers and my Twitter followers and whoever the heck else I could think about to vote for me. I sat on my entry looking at the other bloggers who have far greater followings than I do.
I took my entry out of the contest.
The only thing I could think about was the impending drama to come from this sort of set up. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think that the things which come up in the blogging world are necessarily drama, and addressing it that way belittles some of the legitimate issues worth talking about when it comes to blogging. But I’m not going to lie: my chest got tense thinking about how my Twitter and my Google Reader will look starting April 10 as people begin begging for votes in this contest. And why wouldn’t people try to get them? It’s a free trip to BEA and to NYC.
This leads me to talking about the bigger issue, which is envy. I sort of addressed this in my post about blogging stats and how it’s important to remember you’re doing what you’re doing because you’re passionate about it, whatever the reason behind it is. It’s hard to remember that sometimes, though, especially when you’re so eager to be a part of something big.
Being a part of a big promotional event is neat. It feels like you’ve been chosen because of something that makes your blog special and unique (even if sometimes it’s simply stats). When you’re not selected to be a part of something, it feels like you’re not good enough. It’s easy to find yourself envious of those who were picked, and it’s way too easy with social media to not only find yourself obsessing over who did get to be a part of something, but to also find yourself lamenting and devaluing your own work because you weren’t. Where one blogger gets something exciting — whether they asked for it or it just happened — another one doesn’t. It’s not fair, and there are going to be feelings on both sides of the equation.
I invited everyone to read Sarah’s post about this topic where it comes to the In My Mailbox meme because she hits it perfectly. While I do think In My Mailbox has a genuine and good purpose behind it, it does get people worked up quite a bit.
I’m not comfortable begging people to choose STACKED over another, equally worthy blog. I’m not comfortable, either, when we’re given an opportunity — one we may not have chosen to be a part of but were instead selected to be part of by some reasoning beyond our knowledge — and people find themselves judging us or themselves as more or less worthy. Because the truth is, we’re all here doing something good and we’re all doing something different.
Even though I’ve pulled my entry for the BEA contest, the anxiety of it hasn’t left me because I know there will be hurt feelings all over the place. It’s the same kind of hurt people have when they don’t get the latest ARC or promotion. What makes it challenging to keep doing what we’re doing with camaraderie and without the hurt feelings is that we ARE all working toward a common goal (spreading the word of great books) and sometimes, the rules and decisions are ones completely out of our hands. The decision makers don’t always take the implications of their contests or their promotions into consideration before they put them out there.
And the thing is, they don’t have to.
It’s our responsibility as bloggers to stand up and choose whether or not we participate. It’s our responsibility to decide whether or not we’re going to let ourselves get anxious or nervous about them, too. It’s our responsibility to speak up and speak out.
We blog because of the freedom it allows us. The only way to keep it free is to remember we have the right to say no thanks and we have the right to step out when we’re not comfortable with how things are going.
That’s the fine print, and we get to write it ourselves.