An Open Letter to the 2021 Hugo Finalists, Whoever They May Be

DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon in Washington DC, will announce the finalists for the 2021 Hugo Awards in April 13.

Right now, no one except for possibly the Hugo administrators knows who those finalists will be. However, sometime in the next two weeks or so, some of you will receive an e-mail from DisCon III, informing you that you are a finalist for the 2021 Hugo Award and asking you whether you want to accept the nomination. Some of you will have received such e-mails before, for others it will be the first time.

But whether it’s your first or your twentieth nomination, congratulations! That’s awesome.

As a first time recipient of such an e-mail last year, here are a few things I’ve learned:

  1. The e-mail may not look like you think it will. When I got the e-mail from CoNZealand last year, the subject line was “CoNZealand Hugo Awards Confidential”. I was exhausted that day and waiting for two important e-mails, so I scanned right past that subject line, because I assumed it was the convention newsletter. I only opened the mail, because none of the two important e-mails had come yet, so I thought I might as well check out the CoNZealand mail while I was waiting. Good thing that I did.
  2. If you receive an e-mail from DisCon III, please reply as soon as you can whether you accept the nomination or not. If there are questions with regard to eligibility, answer them as soon as possible. The Hugo administrator and their team work very hard, so don’t make their job any harder than it has to be.
  3. The DisCon III team will also ask you to keep quiet about your nomination until the official announcement. Please don’t violate this, because you don’t want to steal DisCon’s thunder!
  4. The period between the time when the finalists are notified and when the Hugo finalists are officially announced can be weird, because while you know that you’re a finalist, almost nobody else does. I blogged a bit about my experiences last year here. Basically, I kept having the niggling fear that there had been some terrible mistake and that I wasn’t a finalist after all or that I only was a finalist because all twenty people who would have been ahead of me had withdrawn. From talking to other first time finalist, I learned that I wasn’t alone in this. And while I can’t guarantee that terrible mistakes won’t happen, the chance that the wrong person is notified about being a Hugo finalist is extremely small. So relax. You really are a Hugo finalist, even if nobody else knows it yet.
  5. You can tell a few people you trust about your nomination as long as you know they won’t blab it all over the internet. Before the official announcement, a handful of people knew I was a Hugo finalist. These include my parents (whose reaction was, “That’s nice,” before turning back to watch a rerun of Midsomer Murders), some folks from Galactic Journey and others in the SFF community, who knew not to say anything before the official announcement, as well as my accountant (because I asked her if buying an evening gown for the Hugo ceremony was tax-deductible) and the guy who repaired my patio, because he just happened to be there, when I got the e-mail. Neither the accountant nor the patio guy are SFF fans, so chances of a leak were zero. They both also probably thought I was quite mad.
  6. One thing I did not do is tell people about my nomination who might be up in the same category. Because I didn’t know who else was nominated (you don’t before the official announcement) and didn’t want anybody to feel disappointed, because I was a finalist and they were not.
  7. Even if you can’t publicly talk about your Hugo nomination just yet, there are still a few things you can do in the meantime. For example, you can update your bio to mention that you’re a Hugo finalist or write a bio, if you don’t have one yet. Important: Don’t upload your updated bio anywhere until the official announcement has been made! In fact, I spent a chunk of the evening after the Hugo finalists had been announced updating my bio everywhere it appears.
  8. In fact – and this is important – don’t upload anything that mentions your Hugo nomination anywhere on the internet, until the official announcement has been made. Even if you set a Tweet or blogpost to go live after the announcement has been made, don’t upload it yet. Because mistakes happen, you accidentally hit “publish” rather than “schedule” or a post goes live too early. I had my celebratory blogpost ready to go in Word, but I only uploaded it with links and a few comments added once the announcement had been made.
  9. Another thing you can do in the meantime is prepare a media kit, if you haven’t got one already. You can see mine here and there are also plenty of pages around the web that tell you what a media kit is supposed to contain. Important: Get permission to use any photos that you did not take yourself.
  10. Another thing you can do is write a press release about your Hugo nomination. It doesn’t matter which category you’re nominated in, whether it’s Best Novel or a fan category. Write a press release anyway. There are plenty of places around the web which tell you how to write a press release. It varies from country to country, so make sure you get the correct format for your country. My press release from last year (in German) is here. Then make a list of the contact info for the relevant newspapers, radio stations and other media outlets in your region. Once the nominations have been announced, send your press release as well as the link to your media kit to those media outlets. The press release linked above netted me two in-depth profiles and a bonus article in two different newspapers, which is much more than I’d hoped for.
  11. Consider whether you want to attend Worldcon and the ceremony. And yes, I know it’s difficult during the pandemic, since we don’t know how or when the ceremony will happen, whether it will be virtual or in person, or whether our countries will even allow us to travel. Nonetheless, get a Worldcon membership, if you haven’t got one already. Like most recent Worldcons, DisCon III offers an installment plan, so you don’t have to pay for a full attending membership right now. You can also start looking for flights, hotels, etc…, though I wouldn’t book anything until we know for sure what’s going to happen. If money is an issue, as it’s for many of us, think about crowdfunding your Worldcon trip, as several finalists have done in recent years. However, don’t start your crowdfunding campaign, until after the finalists have been announced.
  12. If you want to participate in programming, fill out DisCon III’s program participant form, if you haven’t already. Do this as early as possible, so the programming team doesn’t have to find suitable programming for you at the last minute.
  13. Finally, start thinking about the Hugo voter packet.

Finally, here are a few observations regarding what happened after the Hugo finalists were announced last year:

  1. A lot of people will congratulate you. These will be people you expect – friends, peers, etc… – but also people you don’t expect. After the newspaper articles mentioned above came out last year, I suddenly got congratulations from translation customers, various relatives and my Dad’s diabetes doctor among others. Enjoy the experience, thank everybody and don’t forget to congratulate your fellow finalists.
  2. Some people will also not congratulate you and again, some of these will be people you don’t expect. There are several reasons why someone might not congratulate you and most of them are not malicious. For example, some people might simply not have seen the news yet. Or they may not understand the significance, since not everybody is plugged into the SFF community. Of course, there will also be a few people who think that you don’t deserve your nomination. Ignore them!
  3. Your fellow Hugo finalists are not your rivals, they are your peers. You’ll probably know some of them already and if not, you’ll quickly get to know them. And yes, only one of you will get to take home the rocket in the end, but all six of you are amazing and in a way, you’re all winners. This also applies across categories. I met a lot of great people in the SFF community because we were on the Hugo ballot in the same year.
  4. As a Hugo finalist, you will get plenty of e-mails from DisCon III about anything from the Hugo voter packet via the program book to the ceremony itself. Pay attention to those e-mails, send any information requested in time and check your spam folder. You don’t accidentally want to miss something important.

Finally – and this is the most important point – enjoy your experience! You’re a Hugo finalist, i.e. your peers consider you and your work one of the six best in your respective category. That’s amazing, so celebrate!

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6 Responses to An Open Letter to the 2021 Hugo Finalists, Whoever They May Be

  1. What a lovely and informative post, Cora! Thank you. 🙂

    And congratulation on being nominated! (oh wait — that’s a secret for two weeks)

    ((I’m kidding. I don’t actually know. But you deserve it.))

    • Cora says:

      I don’t think anybody except for the Hugo administrators knows who the finalists are yet. Last year, it took a week or two after the nominations closed for the e-mails to go out.

  2. Wishing I was addressed by this post, most likely not. Oh well. Next year I intend to be a bit more aggressive about campaigning. The Martiniere Legacy is now going into a sixth book and there’ll be a seventh of themed short works which won’t be able to be released until November 2022…..

    • Cora says:

      It’s not easy for indie authors, because Tor. Orbit, Saga Press, Del Rey, etc… simply have bigger marketing budgets and get more attention. But fingers crossed for you.

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  4. Pingback: Cora is a Hugo Finalist Again! | Cora Buhlert

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