So how does all this work?

This year’s ENnie Awards was a huge success, due in no small part to our awesome fans and volunteers. For that, I extend my sincerest thanks to everyone who has supported us. If you haven’t seen the winners yet, I recommend checking out this page. Make sure to click the links and visit the publisher’s sites and support them so that they can continue to create awesome RPG products.

Today, I thought I’d give everyone a little “behind the scenes” peek on how we do things at the ENnies because I thought people may like to know a little bit about the process.

How do you receive products?

There are two ways we receive products; either physically or electronically. Every year at Gen Con, we approach publishers and either remind them that they can submit their products at the ENnies booth for the next year, if they’ve heard of the ENnies, or, if they’ve never heard of us before, tell them about the ENnies and let them know they can submit at Gen Con. This will not only give the judges ample time to review their products but it will save the company itself on shipping; it really is in the best interest of the publisher to do it. Some publishers take us up on that offer, as you can see from the submissions page, and some do not. Some want to but don’t have any copies left to submit, which is great for them so I don’t complain.

If a publisher is shipping physical products to the judges, they can use the pre-printed labels on this page to put on their boxes. The publisher can also download, from the same page, a PDF version of the submission form that they can print out, fill out, and include with each box. They then ship the products to each judge and Hans Cummings, our Submissions Coordinator. Quick note: A publisher can also fill out the electronic form first, before sending any product, if they so desire.

If the publisher is submitting electronic products, they first fill out the electronic form. At that point, they need to do two things; send the product via e-mail to the Submissions Coordinator and pay their entry fee of $5 for one product or $10 for two or more.

How do you keep track of products?

When someone receives a physical product, whether it be a judge or the Submissions Coordinator, they update a spreadsheet we use to keep track of submissions. There are two benefits to doing this; one, it lets other people know to expect a package soon and, two, we can make sure that everyone receives the products the publishers have sent and don’t have to worry about missing products.

When the Submissions Coordinator receives an electronic entry, he will also update the spreadsheet. He will then upload the product to a Dropbox that each judge has access to. They can then download it, updating the spreadsheet when they do, and start to review it.

What then?

At this point, each judge reviews products in their own way. It is left up to them to determine how exactly to do that. We have a private Google group set up for them to discuss products amongst themselves, which they are using right now to get to know each other and discuss how to proceed. They have been given a date by which all of the nominations must be finalized in order to give us time to prepare them for announcement to the public and for the voting booth. Submissions are usually slow and steady until about February/March, at which point they seem to come in waves. We remind publishers throughout the year to submit their products as early as possible to allow the judges ample time to review them but we still have publishers who wait until close to the submission deadline. This year, the deadline is May 13, 2012.

After the submission deadline, the judges have roughly two to three months to come up with a list of nominees. Discussions throughout the year help but these last few months will see a large increase in communication as judges come to a consensus on products. Once the deadline for said consensus is reached, I take that info and prepare for the announcement to the public.

So how come some categories are non-existent during the final nominations?

We get this question a lot. For example, if you look at the list of 2012 categories, you’ll see Best Software. But if there are not at least five quality candidates that the judge’s deem worthy of a nomination, then the software that is nominated will get rolled up in to the parent category of Best Aid/Accessory. This is why we want so many people to submit. We would rather have a category of all miniatures for Best Miniature. But if we don’t get enough, we have to make it a Best Miniatures Product category instead. So if you see a product you like, contact the publisher and ask them to submit! If they don’t submit it, the judge’s can’t review it and possibly nominate it.

What happens after the nominees are announced?

At this point, the judge’s job is effectively done but mine gets tougher. At this point, I start the process of getting the voting booth ready with Luke Withrow, our Technical Guru. He goes to great lengths to make sure everything is up and running and works properly both on the voter’s end and on the back end.

I also encourage as many people as possible to run for the next year’s ENnies judge and update the website as the applications come in. I also make sure people know they can nominate any publisher for Fan Favorite Publisher and post the form online for it.

After voting, I take all of the winners and compile them. I create all of the material; the nominee’s certificates, the winner’s certificates, the booth flyers, and the ceremony program. Throughout the year, I also work with Gen Con on the logistics of the booth, ceremony room, etc. and we finalize the process. I get all the paper printed up at my local Office Max and Sandie, my wife and the Volunteer Coordinator, and I go through and frame all of the winner’s certificates. We also put labels on the medals I order for the winner’s as well as separate the nominee’s certificates out to make it easier to pass them out at Gen Con.

All of this, electricity for the booth, setting up the cocktail reception, printing, frames, medals, and other things such as flying Russ Morrissey to Gen Con are why we charge submission fees and have a Silent Auction as well as the Dream Dates; it’s not cheap.

What do you do at Gen Con?

After picking up the badges for the ENnies staff and judges, the staff sets up the booth. The first morning of Gen Con we then walk around and hand out nomination certificates, congratulating the publishers, getting to know them if we don’t already know them, and generally saying “hi.” I admit that I get an absolute rush being in the dealer’s hall that early the first day of Gen Con. Once the hall opens, and after I work my booth shift, I usually walk around and look for products to create packages for the ENnies Silent Auction. We ask for items from publishers and usually they are really nice and more than willing to donate to the cause.

Before the ceremony, Sandie and I put the packages together and then take everything to the location of the ceremony/silent auction and get things set up. Hans and his wife, Maria, are also there to help. Eric Stearns is also there to set up the audio for the ceremony.

The next day and the day after, we roam the hall talking to publishers, congratulating the winners, and asking people to submit product because it makes it easier on them. After the hall closes, we wait for a while for submissions and then pack up and head out.

So there you have it. That, in a large nutshell, is how the process works. It’s a lot of work but completely worth it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them.

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