People Pissing in the Pool

I’ve been struggling with this for a few weeks. After communicating last week with the authors who are signed up to participate in this year’s eFestival of Words Virtual Book Fair, I’ve come to the conclusion that just being direct is the only way to handle this.

I started the eFestival of Words in 2012 as a celebration of independent publishing and eBooks. I wanted it to be a way for authors and readers to connect and celebrate all of the wonderful books being produced in the independent publishing and small press community. And I still believe in that idea. Indie publishing has allowed countless authors to bring their unique vision to readers. Works that might never have been given a chance in the traditional publishing model have found homes and audiences through digital indie publishing.

A central part of the festival has always been the awards program. The program was designed to be a peer-nomination process, where authors could recognize their peers who are doing exceptional work. And I believe, through the hard work and dedication of the volunteers who have helped me over the years, that we have done that.

However, there have always been authors who believe that the rules do not apply to them. Authors who think they can game the system for their own personal agendas or benefit. While I don’t claim we have always prevented every case, for the most part we have managed to keep the corruption from infecting the awards.

That is, until this year.

Before anyone asks: no, I am not going to name names. Doing so would only cause more grief and drama. In addition, because I believe some individuals are using fake information, I don’t want to “name” individuals that may, in fact, be innocent and whose name is being used without their knowledge.

I have over fifty ballots that are bogus. As in, the contact information on the ballot doesn’t match the contact information on the author site, and when I use the contact information on the author site to request additional information, I get a response that says, “I didn’t complete any ballot.” And some of them have been downright hostile because they think I am spamming them or something, but it is apparent someone used the author’s name and a fake email address to complete the ballot. 

Some of the nominated books are names that have cropped up in other awards controversies, and I have reason to suspect some of the usual suspects or their supporters are involved.

In addition, I was emailed a screenshot of a private Facebook “indie marketing” group where some authors were agreeing to nominate each other. But the email was sent from a gmail address with no additional information. 

Basically, there is so much corruption and wrongdoing going on this year that I cannot in good conscience move forward with the awards.

The thing that is killing me the most is that, as much as I love the festival, I suffer no delusions regarding the value of the awards. The New York Times isn’t running the list of winners. Amazon isn’t giving special placement to nominees. This was a small awards program that was supposed to show support to our fellow authors. Its been killed by spiteful, selfish people who see everything as an opportunity to promote themselves at all costs.

At this time, the show, shall we say, will go on. After discussing the matter with the authors who are participating, we will still hold the virtual book fair this year as scheduled. We will simply not be hosting the awards.

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