SCI FI Wire has a rather startling article on just how much it would cost to ‘buy’ a Hugo.

After all, last year it only took 17 votes to get on the ballot if you happened to have an eligible short story, and anyone can vote as long as they pay the fee to join the World Science Fiction Convention. This year it costs $50, so if you do the math (17 votes x $50), that adds up to a cost of just $850 if you want to fund voting privileges for you and 16 friends. (That assumes voting levels stay the same as they have been for the last two years.)

Once you’ve theoretically bought your way onto the ballot, buying a win would (also theoretically) be harder, but still seemingly within the realm of possibility. It costs about 10 times as much as a nomination, though, and presumably is more difficult to both organize and conceal, since more votes are involved. In 2008, you would have needed 176 in the “cheapest” category of Best Fanzine for a win (and you would have to have been eligible in that category). That adds up to a more sizable $8,800.

They even have a break down of how much it would theoretically cost to garner a nomination or win in each of the categories:

Best Novel: Nomination $2,000, Win $18,640

Best Novella: Nomination $1,700, Win $15,750

Best Novelette: Nomination $1,050, Win $14,640

Best Short Story: Nomination $850, Win $16,250 (BEST NOMINATION VALUE)

Best Related Book: Nomination $900, Win $11,750

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Nomination $2,200, Win $19,100 (SUPER BARGAIN!)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Nomination $1,200, Win $16,850

Best Editor, Long Form: Nomination $900, Win $12,900

Best Editor, Short Form: Nomination $1,750, Win $14,000

Best Professional Artist: Nomination $1,000, Win $15,300

Best Semiprozine: Nomination $1,900, Win $13,550

Best Fanzine: Nomination $1,300, Win $8,800 (BEST WIN VALUE)

Best Fan Writer: Nomination $1,200, Win $11,900

Best Fan Artist: Nomination $950, Win $9,250

It’s all a little scary when you think of how important the Hugo’s are to the SF world. Now, how to make $8,800….

  • Kevin Standlee January 20, 2009 at 9:36 am

    That article, while technically accurate, ignores a lot of things. For example, it presupposes knowledge of the exact number of nominations it would take to make the ballot in a given category. It also presupposes that patterns of unusual voting would not be noticed. Furthermore, if an obvious clinker showed up in the nominations, interest in voting in that category would certainly increase, significantly increasing the cost of “buying” the award.

    There do appear to have been attempts to “buy” the award in the past. At most, they have led to dubious nominations and nominees finishing in last place in the final ballot.

    Of course, as Chairman of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee, I would actually prefer if a larger percentage of the existing membership actually bothered to cast their ballots. There are thousands of people already eligible to nominate and vote without paying anything additional (they’re the members of Anticipation and Denvention Three), but only hundreds of them will exercise that right, which is a pity.

  • aidan January 20, 2009 at 11:37 am


    Thanks for dropping by and clearing some of these things up. I figured the folk behind the Hugo’s had some sort of a safeguard against this kind of thing.

    When you mention than only a handful of the eligible voters actually cast their vote, have you ever thought of changing the voting process and allowing other people to vote (especially those in the media) without having to pay the $50 fee? I know myself, and many other bloggers, would love to be involved in the process, but can’t necessarily justify the cost.

  • Kevin Standlee January 20, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    It’s not that there’s a specific safeguard. It’s that the pattern of voting that would be indicated by all but the most subtle of fraudsters is something that would certainly be noticed by the electorate, even if the administrator didn’t see 200 identical ballots from the same PO Box paid for by consecutively-numbered money orders and with names that bear a suspicious resemblance to a sequence taken from a random page of a telephone book.

    Regarding broadening the vote: Every year, many times, many people have proposed allowing anyone who wants to do so to vote for no cost whatsoever. Even I — a horrible radical who is perceived as trying to Destroy Us All by some people — wouldn’t go that far, although I have at times proposed lower costs for voting WSFS memberships.

    There is already a fairly notable award in the SF/F field that allows anyone who wants to vote to do so without payment of any fee: The Locus Awards. They do give more weight to subscribers’ votes than those of non-subscribers, but other than that, they are open to the public.

    The Hugo Awards are not “awards from anyone who is interested in SF and Fantasy,” although I’ve been accused of trying to make them so. They are awards presented by the members of the World Scicence Fiction Society (which means the members of the World Science Fiction Convention, because the only way to join WSFS is to join Worldcon). The rules for the awards are established by the members in an open, democratic process in which every single member may propose, debate, and vote on changes. There is no Secret Cabal, no Shadowy Board of Directors, no Mysterious Award Judges making the decisions. You don’t elect representatives to WSFS — it’s every fan for him/herself, like a New England Town Meeting.

    To be honest, only a small number of the thousands of members of WSFS take an active interest in the governance of the Society; however, they’re all eligible to do so should they decide to get active. And so far, those members of the Society who do take that active interest have shown little inclination to take actions that would reduce the cost of joining WSFS significantly below its current level.

    So in order to get what you propose, you’d have to actually become a member of WSFS and start attending its annual business meeting (held at Worldcon) and convince enough like-minded people to do the same. We actually have an article about the process of Changing the Rules on the Hugo Awards web site at so that people can see how to do it. But there’s no easy or cheap way to make changes — and that’s intentional, because governing documents are not supposed to be easy to change.

  • Cheryl Morgan January 20, 2009 at 1:33 pm


    You mean something like this?

    Sadly this is unlikely to happen. In order for the WSFS constitution to be changed you have to have a vote at the Business Meeting two successive Worldcons. Currently that meeting has a substantial majority in favor of keeping Hugo voting expensive and exclusive. If people who want change don’t start attending Worldcons to make their voices heard, no change can occur, and if people don’t care enough to spend $50 on voting they sure won’t care enough to actually attend the convention.

    The Hugos are very democratic, in that anything about them can be changed if the members of WSFS wish it. But you have to join WSFS first.

    (OTOH, at least joining WSFS only costs money. Joining SFWA to change the Nebulas would be much harder.)

  • Fred Kiesche January 16, 2013 at 8:45 am

    You also need to get that gaggle of fans organizaed, on point and focused. Might be easier to herd cats. I speak from experience in participating in one online SF-related newsgroup where a substantial number of fans of a specific set of author’s/one publisher cry every year “Let’s get so-and-so a Hugo this year! All we have to do is vote!”

    And every time the cry goes out into the wilderness, the results come back…negative.

    I can see (maybe) a studio doing this. But fans? Easier to herd those cats.

  • Stefan (Far Beyond Reality) January 16, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Never mind, I just noticed the link in your article. Didn’t realize this went back to 2009. I thought you’d been plagiarized!