General Interest

Locked Best Blurb Books Contest

I think it’s great that Blurb is doing contests. However, I wonder if the current contest trend of online "public voting" is the right way to select finalists…

 I’ve entered a couple of photography contests that use online public voting (and have watched several others from afar), and it always seems the people with the most friends, and the most email addresses win.

Contest promoters try to prevent voting fraud by only allowing one vote per person, but there are numerous ways to vote multiple times without being able to be tracked. And, the more votes you can scrounge up for yourself, the better your chances.

I’ve seen some very good entries get pushed out of the competition (and some truly bad entries take their place) solely because one person was better at drumming up votes than the other. It had nothing to do with the quality of the entry. (Just look at the fiasco created by Lenovo’s "Win Your Dream Assignment" competition.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that public voting creates an atmoshphere of competition to see how many votes we can round up, as opposed to seeing how many unique visitors actually like your product. It’s no longer a competition to see who’s product is best. it’s a race to drum up votes.

The best product doesn’t win, but the most prolific vote-getter does.

Is this really the best way to choose the Best Blurb Book?

Posted by
HoltWebb
Sep 20, 2009 8:55am PDT
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HoltWebb
 

Oh, by the way, I just found out that if we want to enter our book in a Blurb contest, we have to purchase our book first. I already own a copy of my book. So do my friends.

My book costs me over $80. That, on top of the entry fee, amounts to a considerable investment — especially in a contest where the finalists are picked by online public voting.

Are Blurb’s contests just a way for Blurb to sell more books?

Posted by
HoltWebb
Sep 20, 2009 9:10am PDT
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HoltWebb
 

The best way to choose Best Blurb Book is to have a juried panel of qualified publishing and design experts vote on them under a set of guidelines. But really – Blurb is hosting a contest with the public as the voters because they want to sell books. Blurb is a business and they need as many eyes on their site, and dollars in their online store as possible. The best and cheapest way is by word of mouth. Lets face it – sites like Twitter and Facebook that have lots of eyeballs have had a hard time monetizing their service. Blurb has an actual product to sell – they just need to have as many people exposed to it as possible. Anyway – I’m not a huge of fan of contests when it comes to design of anything. “Most popular” is useful in some instances but when it comes to design… I’d rather listen to the experts in the field.

Posted by
sheviche
Sep 22, 2009 3:22pm PDT
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sheviche
 

Great feedback, everyone. Because this is the first time ‘round for this competition, we’re listening extra hard for improvements we can make next time. 

Based on what I’ve read in the posts above, there might be some confusion as to how we arrive at the top books. Our About page explains:

The contest is open to all registered Blurb members and is conducted in two rounds: In the first round, all entered books are made available for public voting. In the final round, the top 15 vote-getters in each category are judged by a panel of experts on the basis of: cover design, strength of the photography, subject matter of the book, page layouts, editing and sequencing, emotional impact of the overall book, with each criterion receiving equal weight.

So, we’re talking two rounds of voting: the first being by the public and the second and final decisions by a panel of expert judges who as photographers, photo editors, etc. know what to look for.

Anyway, keep the feedback coming. We cannot wait to see all of the books entered into the contest.

– Kathy

Posted by
kathybad
Sep 23, 2009 9:06am PDT
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kathybad
 

So Kathy, and what about having to order another copy of the book? Have the author to buy another copy of the book or can be the book just sold once in this period of eligibility? In other words, the rule of the contest do not specify if the order of a copy of the book has to be a purchase order by the author or by any other buyer through the Blurb bookstore.

When I go to the contest page, on the right there is this box:

"Eligibility

Any photo book created in 2009 and purchased between September 17, 2009 – October 22, 2009 at 11:59 pm (PDT) is eligible for the contest if it fits one of the categories below. See How It Works for full details."

So I clicked in the "How it works" links and another text  poped-up where this was written:

"Already have a Blurb book that you created in 2009? Order a copy to make it eligible for the contest, then go straight to Step 2!"

So, one copy of my book has just been ordered by someone thorugh the Blurb Bookstore a few days ago and the sale is in progress right now, so the book should be elegible for the contest, right? But I still cannot enter this book into the competition, so I would like to have the permission to enter it in the competition as an order of a copy has been issued within then timeframe specified in the contest rules.

As the other people said here, this is a way to Blurb.com to make money (I understand and I have nothing against making money, this contest is excellent marketing campagin by the way), but what is the difference if myself or another person orders a copy of my book, Blurb is earning the same money for all copies no matter who has posted the order of a copy, right? For the benefit of Blurb and myself I have marketed my book and sold a copy just a few days ago, so it is fair enough that books ordered recently have the right to enter the contest because this is what Blurb is interest in by doing this contest, so why my book is still not ellegible if I met the rules?

 I appreciate a quick answer on this from you Kathy or from anybody of Blurb staff, please.

Best regards,

Cassio.

Posted by
CASSIO_ALE
Sep 24, 2009 2:46pm PDT
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CASSIO_ALE
 

Hi Cassio,

I just checked our contest rules here and under Submission Guidelines you’ll find the answer:

The Submissions must be original works of authorship, created and entered by the Contestant.

So, the backend – the code that brings up the contest books and hooks into the voting – was built following the rule above along with our other guidelines. This means that there is no way at this time to make a change like this and allow books to be purchased by non-authors and then entered into the contest. 

I will make sure that the team working on this contest knows that you would like this feature/option. Unfortunately, it won’t happen for this contest, but we’ll be sure to consider it when/if we do this again.

– Kathy

Posted by
kathybad
Sep 24, 2009 4:32pm PDT
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kathybad
 

Hi Kathy,

 thanks for the reply. However, I have analysed the phrase you mention: "Submissions (the books), must be original works of authorship (yes fair enough, of course, can’t be a reprodution of somebody else´s book), created and entered by the Contestant (very clear, the Contestant must be the Author, so I must enter only my own books, created by myself, evidently).

I still can’t see where does it links to anything that restricts the book being eligible for the contest only if the author asks a new copy himself. The act of asking a copy does not automatically enters the book into the contest, it is clear that the book has to have been ordered within the period specified, but still does not cleary denotes that the copy is the author´s copy, The author enters the book into the contest in a different step, not during the order act itself. it is a totally separate operation.

I understand that the contest is lauched, but if you do not fix this, Blurb will have trouble. I am just trying to show a fair point of view. So, I feel like "betrayed" by Blurb, I liked it since the first minute and since then I have been saying good things about it to anybody that asks about printing photos and making photobooks. Considereing fixing this for a next contest is not the answer I was expecting from Blurb. I really trust that you can postpone the voting startup and fix this quickly by changing the criteria of the software that lists the eligible books (I bet that a simple software patch can fix this rule accordingly – sincerely this does not sounds like a strong excuse). You can even do marketing on that, sending email to the customers recalling them to the Contest and clarifying the criteria – you would be just making it match with what it is already written in the Contest Rules.

I do mean it seriously. Could you escalate this in the Blurb organisation, please?

Cassio.

Posted by
CASSIO_ALE
Sep 25, 2009 10:53am PDT
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CASSIO_ALE
 

Hi Cassio,

Really sorry to hear that you feel like you’ve been betrayed by Blurb. Definitely not our intention. This contest is for our customers first and foremost. You guys create some awesome work, so what better way to recognize all of this wonderful creativity than by rewarding the best stuff. And correct, we are trying to get the word about Blurb – good ol’ viral marketing – so again, another reason why we are trying this kind of contest.

You make some excellent points, but as I mentioned above, restructuring this competition to accept books entered and/or ordered by a non-author of a book, is not as easy as a code change/patch – it’s a pretty complicated back-end change. If it were easy, we’d certainly think about doing this. At this point, we realize it is a lost opportunity for us and you. You better believe we’ll reevaluate this before launching our next contest.  And for sure we’ll rewrite the rules so they are super transparent although I still maintain that the language "must … be entered by the Contestant." is pretty straightforward.

If you have any further questions about this, please do not hesitate to write into customer support and ask for me.

Again, thanks for your thoughtful feedback.

– Kathy

Posted by
kathybad
Sep 30, 2009 10:50am PDT
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kathybad
 

I too disagree that "must…be entered by the Contestant" is pretty straightforward.

Another person could buy a book and I could still enter it in the contest.

Of course, blurb wants more books to be sold.  They will only allow those to vote who come to their site and register.  We basically recruit potential customers for them.  I guess for the relatively low cash prize, it is a very cheap marketing campaign!

 

Posted by
friend1979
Oct 1, 2009 11:56am PDT
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friend1979
 

So even though I have published a book this year and already bought a copy I can’t enter it without buying another copy?

Hmm. Not very good and seems rather unfair really.

 

Posted by
cbnewham
Oct 9, 2009 6:01am PDT
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cbnewham
 

By no means does "must…be entered by the Contestant" mean I must pay for a book myself to be eligible. 

Simply speak to your lawyers and that will be made abundantly clear.  I don’t "enter" the contest by paying money.   I spend money to obtain a copy of the book.  I must then perform a separate process to "enter" that book into the competition.

That phrase clearly means that no one but me can choose to enter my books into the competition.  I always assumed that ANY sales during the target period would qualify a book.  It is only by reading this thread that I found out that my books were eligible because I the author had to pay money for them to be printed.  My "customers" don’t count according to blurb’s software.  Think about that one for a minute and let it sink in.

I don’t see that as a "betrayal", simply blurb screwed up the legal description of their contest and created a negative customer experience, and possibly legal issue by enticing users into thinking they could participate in a contest, then finding out it required a fee equal to the cost of one book paid only by the author.  Blurb’s programmers spent weeks ot months designing the backend according to months of internal discussions.  The result of this managed campaign is how the contest is being run. The fact that the rules describe a different situation, is just poor editing and review with your legal/publishing department.

 

Granted, along the way somebody should have questioned the logic of turning the contest’s nose up at commercial customer sales vs. traditional vanity sales to authors.

 

Posted by
royalef
Oct 27, 2009 10:37am PDT
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royalef
 

I’m getting a bit frustrated by the contest.  How is the order of books that are displayed determined?  My book is in the family catagory.  Every time I click on family the same books show up on the first page.  My book is burried around #230-245 (depending on when I refresh my browser).  Are they ranked by number of views, comments, votes or something else?  Can anyone shed any light on this for me? 

Posted by
AdoptionLove
Oct 28, 2009 2:35pm PDT
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AdoptionLove
 

Hi.

Entries are displayed by entry date, which is why your book is always on the same page.

Hope that helps.

– Kathy

Posted by
kathybad
Oct 28, 2009 5:09pm PDT
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kathybad
 

Very interesting discussion.  Thanks for your feedback Kathy.

Posted by
AdoptionLove
Oct 29, 2009 10:20am PDT
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AdoptionLove
 

I completely agree with Holt’s initial post. However, I also understand Blurb’s thinking. What a great marketing campaign and a perfect way of paring down thousands of entries to 45. Think of all the free advertising those authors are drumming up while hunting down votes! Genius!

But the first portion of the contest does indeed boil down to a popularity contest. I was very pleased with my measly vote count until I took a look at one of the lead books.  350 votes? I mean, the book is nice… but "best book"?  I’m afraid the pool of contestants the judges will have might be a bit disappointing. I’m not saying I have the "best book" (aren’t I?) but there’s no way I’m going to be able to rope in 351 people to sign up for Blurb in order to vote.

So we’ll have to take this contest with a grain of salt. Maybe we should call it "Best of the popular books" or "Contest of people with the best advertising skills".

-Danica (grumpy loser)

Posted by
barreaud
Oct 30, 2009 12:26pm PDT
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barreaud
 

I was just told by someone in Customer Support that "the location of the book on the site is not related to your placement in the contest."  In an earlier reply to this thread Kathy mentioned that the book is showing up on the same page because of the entry date.

 

Then why does my book change pages and move as far up as 16th place and then another day show up in 27th place (on a different page)  Doesn’t this contradict both of the answers from Blurb?

Posted by
carriep
Nov 1, 2009 6:02pm PDT
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carriep
 

Hi,

I think I can clear things up here.

If you are viewing your book by category (family, travel, pets, or all) – it’s based on entry date (date that your book was entered into the contest).

If you are viewing by "most views" or "most commented," the results will change based on user activity.

Hope that helps.

– Kathy

Posted by
kathybad
Nov 2, 2009 9:47am PDT
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kathybad
 

I still think it’s unfair to require a book be purchased to enter a contest. Yes, you receive something for your money (a book you worked hard to design), but those of us who made big, expensive books might not be able to afford to purchase our book — making it difficult or impossible for us to enter.

And, no matter how you spin it, "popular vote" has very little to do with how much the "public" likes a particular book. It has almost everything to do with how many friends you can get to vote for you. Not a very truthful way to select a quality work. Even if you do have professional judging in the second round, that doesn’t mean that the finalists were the best or even the most popular. It’s a nice idea, in theory, but it really doesn’t work right in practice.

Posted by
HoltWebb
Dec 18, 2009 9:03pm PDT
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HoltWebb
 

Can this really be called a Public vote?
You have to become a member in order to vote so when voting you are a member of the community. Therefore it’s not the general public. None of my friends want to join Blurb although they appear to admire my photography. I certainly have a lot of lovely comments here since I joined. But that won’t help me sell books or win this competition.
In any event the book I received was very good quality and I would vanity publish again.

Posted by
dreidesq
Jul 30, 2010 9:57pm PDT
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dreidesq
 

Hi dreidesq,

Thanks for the feedback and I’ll pass this info along. This contest ended almost a year ago so I will be locking this topic from further posting.

-Craig

Posted by
csm
Aug 2, 2010 8:30am PDT
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csm Icon_staff