Another Vanity Award: The 2010 Creative Spirit Awards

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Is it irony or coincidence that, only a few days after blogging about vanity awards, I should be spammed by one?

Perhaps you have, too. It’s an outfit calling itself the 2010 Creative Spirit Awards.

The 2010 Creative Spirit Awards
Celebrating the Creative Spirit in Books, Film, and Music!
The March 1st Early Bird Deadline is approaching fast!
If you haven’t already submitted, we invite you to submit today!

It’s every Author, Musician and Filmmaker’s desire to generate notoriety, credibility and buzz about their work, and winning this significant award is the vehicle in which to make your creation stand out as the exemplary work it is. To further help winners achieve this recognition, following the close of the competition, press releases with information on the Creative Spirit Award™ Winners will be sent to key book sellers, film and music distributors, and other sales and marketing entities.

Being a Creative Spirit Award™ winner will inspire confidence in buyers, distributors, readers and prospective clients that Creative Spirit Award™ winning productions are of high quality and worthy of their attention.

The Creative Spirit Awards™ celebrate the individual artist as well as their work through a panel of judges who have excelled in their respective fields. As such, awards are only presented to those filmmakers, musicians and authors who create fresh, standout, and exemplary creations in their field. Each work is judged solely on its own merits and not in competition with other submissions. The Creative Spirit Awards™ honors its winners with Platinum, Gold, or Silver Awards.

Googling “Creative Spirit Awards” reveals that many blogs and websites have posted this announcement, some with approving commentary. But a visit to the Creative Spirit website turns up a number of red flags.

The award, which is in its “inaugural year”, offers dozens of categories in which film makers, musicians, and writers can enter (often a signal that an awards program is a moneymaking scheme).You can submit your work with the click of a mouse–in fact, that’s the only way to find out how much the entry fee is ($50–high fees can also signal a moneymaking venture)–but you must send payment first, and only once your payment has been logged and confirmed will you receive instructions on submitting your materials. Now, I’m not suggesting that this is a ploy to take your money and run–but speaking for myself, I’d be a bit reluctant to pay for entry without actually being able to enter.

Creative Spirit promises that “[o]nly industry professionals will make up the judging panels in all three competition categories creating a total and unique peer-based judging system.” Those industry professionals aren’t named, however, and that’s a problem. The prestige of an award or competition has a lot to do with the prestige of the sponsoring organization (more about that later), but also with the credentials of the judges. If you don’t know who the judges are, you have no way of knowing whether they’re as qualified as the award sponsor claims–or even if there are judges. And the people you will want to impress if you win won’t know either–so they may not be very impressed.

Also, you don’t actually win anything. Competition winners are eligible to receive a trophy (still being designed, so sorry, no photo), but oh dear–receipt isn’t automatic. If you want one of these “exquisite statues” (the Awards page says they’re created by “the same skilled artisans who create the Golden Globe Awards”), you must order it. Also from the Awards page: “After judging is completed, winners will be alerted…and instructions on how to order your statue(s) and other merchandise will be included.”

I don’t know about you, but if I won an award (and hey–I have), I’d be just a tad surprised to discover that I had to send away for it. Granted, there’s no explicit mention of money here, but it’s a fair bet that if winners want a trophy, they’ll have to buy one. And if the trophies are moneymakers for the awards sponsor, that’s a powerful incentive to identify a lot of winners (which would explain why the email solicitation promises that “[e]ach work is judged solely on its own merits and not in competition with other submissions”), which in turn is a strong indication that these are not, in fact, the rigorous awards they claim to be.

The opportunity to spend money doesn’t end with trophies. Platinum and Gold winners (but not Bronze winners) can participate in Creative Spirit’s Ad-Share program.

Available only to Platinum and Gold winners, each artist will be able to advertise their award-winning project in specially designed full page, full color Creative Spirit Awards™ advertisements in some of the top industry magazines. For a nominal fee per month, the image of your book, CD, or DVD cover will be featured as a Platinum or Gold Winner along with four lines of text below your image which will be comprised of 1) the title of your work, 2) author, musician or band name, or producer and/or director name, 3) the publishing company, production company or studio name, and 4) the work’s website address. There is no minimum or maximum monthly enrolment meaning you can advertise your award-winning work for one or twelve months.

This is very similar to the advertising that some self-publishing companies offer as part of their a la carte marketing services (here’s an example). The costs can be high–and there’s little evidence that such ads are effective.

So let’s recap. A brand-new award with no track record, no named judges, an entry fee that must be paid before you can actually enter, trophies you probably have to buy, and probable solicitations to buy other things as well. Sure sounds like a vanity award to me.

According to Creative Spirit’s About Us page, “[t]he competition was created by award-winning industry professionals, and not by a corporation.” Its domain is registered to Dav Kaufman, self-published novelist and writer/director/producer of two indie films. Casting no aspersions on Mr. Kaufman’s achievements, that’s not really the kind of organizational sponsorship that lends prestige to an award.

All in all, it’s hard not to conclude that the main purpose of these awards is to make money for Mr. Kaufman. Caveat creator.