When AAR conducted its first Annual Reader Poll for the best in romances published in 1996 things were a lot different on the web. AAR was one of the few online sites devoted to romance readers’ views, and one of the only sites to offer reviews written by readers. Facebook was limited, there was no Twitter, there were no blogs devoted to romance, there was no goodreads, Amazon was in its infancy, there were no eBooks, and romance authors had yet to take to the web in full force. All of this limited the information – the buzz – available to romance readers, meaning the readers who voted in the first AAR Annual polls were exposed to a more limited set of romances. My how times have changed.

Over the past few years as we’ve tallied the votes in the Annual Reader polls we’ve noticed more and more books nominated in each category, often making it difficult to name a “winner.” Many readers have expressed problems filling out their ballots over the past few years, and have commented in the forums, in emails and private messages to us, and in comments in the actual ballots that they wish we would provide a list of nominations.

Before the 20th Annual Poll began some of us at AAR talked about the need for changes in future polls, feeling the format might no longer be viable. But because we felt the 20th Annual Poll was such a major milestone, we decided to put off any decisions until later this year. Unfortunately, the trends we’ve seen in recent years became even more exacerbated this year, and we are unable to name a winner in any of the categories!

What? No winners? Well, no winners in the Poll that closed on Sunday, February 7. If anything, the number of titles and characters selected in most categories increased exponentially from last year. We were left with no clear winners. So, we’ve decided to do what many readers have asked for all along: we are going to have a runoff vote.

We’ve tallied all of the votes you submitted – removing the obvious ineligibles such as books published first before 2015 and books that do not fit into a category (because no matter how much you love one of J.D. Robb’s In Death books, it’s not an European Historical). Once we arrived at a list of valid votes, we arrived at the titles – or characters – that received at least 5% of the votes in each category and have placed them as “nominees” in a final runoff ballot. Instead of an open-ended format, the runoff ballot simply lists the top nominees (rather like the Academy Awards). When you go to the ballot you will be able to vote for one of the nominees. This time there’s no pressure to vote in a certain number of categories; you may vote in one, two, or all categories. It’s completely up to you.

Thanks to all of you who voted in the first round. We hope the runoff format will make it easier for people to vote, and will generate some great selections. The runoff poll will be open until March 17th at midnight.

A few things to note:

(1) The “nominees” in each category garnered approximately 5% of all votes in a category (in some cases much higher than 5%).

(2) The number of “nominees” varies across categories. A few categories (category romance comes immediately to mind) had very few votes. Other categories had a lot of votes, with numerous titles or characters getting a substantial number.

(3) Lee discovered that Lucy Parker (LinnieGayl’s definite choice for “debuting author) had previously published another another name (Elle Pierson) and had a book with a 2014 publication date, making her ineligible for debuting author. Otherwise, she would definitely be on the ballot (see here:  http://www.amazon.com/Elle-Pierson/e/B00MDA5QGI/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1455880140&sr=1-2-ent)

Ready to vote? Click here and head to the final ballot.

LinnieGayl