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2009 RITA/Golden Heart Contest Controversy: Ebook Authors Need Not Apply

This past fall RWA announced its new RITA / Golden Heart eligibility rules. I actually blogged about it when it was announced but apparently authors did not pay attention/read the rules/understand what they were reading.   

The new rules are thus:

Contest Rules Specific to the RITA

Books entered in the 2009 RITA contest must:

 ·                    Have an original copyright date (printed on the copyright page) or a first printing date or a first North American printing date of 2008.

 ·                  Not have been previously entered.

 ·                  Be mass-produced by a non-Subsidy, non-Vanity Publisher in print book format.

 ·                  Meet the requirements for the category in which it was entered.

 ·                  Be a work of original fictional narrative prose.

http://www.rwanational.org/cs/contests_and_awards/rita_awards/contest_rules

This means that books that are print on demand are not eligible nor are books that are published by what RWA considers to be a Subsidy or Vanity Publisher.   So some authors who are members of PAN submitted their books and now are out the contest fee and cost of the copies of the books (around $250+ for some) because the books submitted are not “mass produced.”   

This has led to some hard feelings and authors pulling out of the contest as judges and generally stirring up a lot of controversy.   I guess my feeling is that if an author is PAN member then she should be able to submit books to the RITA contest.   An online petition can be found here in support of changing the rules.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

49 Comments

  1. Angela James
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:28:58

    apparently authors did not pay attention/read the rules/understand what they were reading.

    I don’t think this is exactly true. I think, yes, some authors didn’t realize the rules had been changed to this effect. But there remained a lot of confusion because the RWA president further clarified “mass produced” as:

    A message from Diane Pershing, President of RWA

    The phrase “mass-produced” as it pertains to the RITA contest, is intended to define eligible books as those that are produced in sufficient quantity by the publisher to be offered for sale to the trade (booksellers and librarians) at standard discount rates and returnable. As the term has caused some confusion, the RWA board, during its meeting this past weekend, formed a task force to study the language further, but current rules and interpretation of those rules remain in place for this year's contest. Contest rule changes-’if any–never apply to contests in progress and are therefore only considered during the July meeting.

    The bold is mine. The problem is that POD books can still fit this definition. I don’t think RWA fully understood or realized this was the case when they further “clarifed”. And I don’t understand offering quantitative numbers of what would qualify as a further qualification because why does how many books are produced determine whether a book can/should be entered into the RITAs?

    I have a lot of respect for the women who make up the RWA board year after year, though I don’t always agree with their decisions, especially those regarding epublishing. And I wouldn’t want to be in their place of setting policy, because I know you can’t make everyone happy. But I have a lot of frustration in not understanding exactly why this had to be added to the RITAs. I sense that’s the source of a lot of frustration in the authors this affected, because no one has really come forward publicly and said “this is why we did it”. Sometimes, offering the reasoning behind a decision can diffuse a lot of the frustration with even an unpopular one.

    I guess my feeling is that if an author is PAN member then she should be able to submit books to the RITA contest.

    I agree. There’s already a bar set for PAN, as well as publishers. As long as both are met…

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  2. katiebabs
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:31:49

    What is considered to be a mass produced book? one-thousand, five- thousand?
    So, if you have a print book not published in the US, you still cannot qualify?

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  3. Alessia Brio
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:42:38

    That sense of belonging, of validation, can be so important to those authors who are looking to RWA for a stamp of approval. However, I’ve yet to see statistics that show RWA awards (or membership, for that matter) are in any way important to an author’s career. It’s just a tired, old club that is struggling to maintain its exclusivity — like a stodgy country club fighting to keep out minorities.

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  4. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:43:36

    @Angela James That was probably a glib statement by me. I think you blogged about it at the time as well. It’s kind of late in the game to make any changes this year and the authors will have to swallow the loss and move on and try to effectuate change for the future.

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  5. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:49:28

    @Alessia Brio I don’t necessarily agree with your assessment of RWA. Having been to Nationals twice now I can see it being very helpful to a writer in the sense of the community she can draw from it. When I was in private practice and I went to my annual seminars, I always came home reinvigorated by being around those who understood the same struggles that I did. In some sense, I got more emotional lift and motivation than anything else. I get the sense that is what happens for members of the writing community who attend RWA.

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  6. Angela James
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:52:16

    However, I've yet to see statistics that show RWA awards (or membership, for that matter) are in any way important to an author's career. It's just a tired, old club that is struggling to maintain its exclusivity -’ like a stodgy country club fighting to keep out minorities.

    I don’t agree with this, though. RWA is an organization of “us”. It’s an organization made up of its parts, and the parts are, for the most part, wonderful, enthusiastic, supportive men and women who love writing, publishing and romance. I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of local RWA chapters (as well as be a part of some of the online chapters) and the members are just amazing. Really, I don’t say that to pay lip service or be a rah-rah girl. I say it because I believe it. I love visiting those chapters and talking to them about epublishing. The members are insightful and always interested in the information I share. There’s nothing tired, old or stodgy about them. Those chapters provide a real service to their members.

    I think that, as an industry, we have a right to be frustrated with some of the changes and attitudes we’ve encountered over the past years. But I don’t think our frustration can justify writing off the individuals and the individual chapters in an organization in a dismissive way. That’s not the right thing to do either, especially not to gain our own respect.

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  7. Angela James
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 13:54:51

    It's kind of late in the game to make any changes this year and the authors will have to swallow the loss and move on and try to effectuate change for the future.

    Yes, I agree, but this kind of discussion can be healthy for future decisions about the RITAs. I think it’s okay to make a “bad” decision if are willing to later say that you were wrong and would like to amend that decision. We’ve all been there, in some way or another.

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  8. Gina Black
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 14:02:48

    There’s also be Golden Heart hole, where writers–like me–no longer qualify to enter because we have a book put out by a non-vanity, non-subsidy publisher BUT we don’t qualify to join PAN, and we don’t qualify to enter the Ritas either for the reasons in the post.

    Very vexing.

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  9. Alessia Brio
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 14:04:00

    Didn’t mean to imply that the members can’t benefit from the sense of community. I know that to be true in other venues. No reason it can’t be true of RWA (and, yes, I am a member — so that I can belong to Passionate Ink). My comments were directed at the “regime.”

    *stepping away from the keyboard now*

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  10. Jane
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 14:12:06

    @Alessia Brio I’m of two minds about e authors and RWA. First, ebook publishing and print publishing are two different animals therefore is RWA capable or does it even want to embrace both?

    Second, If RWA is capable and does want to embrace both, then the change has to come from within. The “regime” is one voted by the membership. If there are large numbers of ebook authors that want representation, they need to organize and vote in a member onto the Board where they have a voice.

    If RWA is not capable and/or does not want to embrace both models, then ebook authors will have to find their own organization that is designed to protect and promote their books like RWA is designed to protect and promote the books of print authors.

    I don’t think it is necessarily a snub for RWA to not be that organization since its origination was in print.

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  11. Rebecca
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 14:31:43

    Are those authors going to be reimbursed the cost of entering? And will the RWA return to those authors all those copies of the books they bought for the judging team?

    Also (not knowing a thing about this) why do the authors have to send copies of their books to the judges? How many judges are there? The cost alone of must stop people from applying for the awards.

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  12. Anion
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 14:52:05

    @Jane:

    I don't think it is necessarily a snub for RWA to not be that organization since its origination was in print.

    Except they allowed epublishers onto their “Approved” list when they had one, and they allow ebook authors who’ve passed a certain earnings level join PAN.

    They don’t call themselves “Print Published Romance Writers of America” or “Paperback/Hardcover Romance Writers of America” or “Mass-Produced Romance Writers of America” or even “Dead-tree-book Romance Writers of America” (wink).

    They call themselves Romance Writers of America. Their very name implies that it is an organization for ALL romance writers.

    It is not.

    SCREW the RWA. Membership in that silly organization is completely unecessary for publication. You can still be published without them, and you can still have a great career without them. There is not a single speck of information they provide regarding the industry or publishing or writing that you cannot get online without spending your own hard-earned money to be judged by them.

    You want companionship and a community? I totally get that. Hand out flyers, or hang out in one of thousands of online communities designed for writers.

    Sure, they apparently give a great convention (although I’ve never gone, and somehow still managed to get an agent and publishing contracts anyway, go figure). But perhaps they should admit that’s all they do for their members (with very rare exceptions. They took a half-assed stand against Esnips, but I don’t see them actually doing much to prevent online piracy elsewhere; they certainly do nothing at ALL outside of their “Approved list” to help their members evaluate agents or publishers, or read or understand a publishing contract. Hell, even that gaggle of infantile buttkissers over at EPIC offer a sample contract and explain it) and focus simply on that.

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  13. Romance Writers of America don’t love e-books | TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 16:06:06

    [...] No romance for any of the above, and certainly no romance for e-books. Poor little things, rejected by the Romance Writers themselves. Dear Author pointed this out. [...]

  14. Mireya
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 18:29:47

    I do think it is about time epublished authors and their publishers start considering creating an equivalent organization. In six years I’ve been reading about the romance industry, epublishing keeps getting smacked down … over and over and over and over and over again … If I were an author, God knows that I would have started rallying about it. I can be annoying and obnoxious that way. Will it be an uphill task? Hell yeah, but I think it would be worth it. I don’t see any changes in RWA happening any time soon, they are set in their ways, they try to please everyone, particularly the established big named print authors (no offense, I love romance), they are too BIG. It’s like the government, too much red tape, too many people “lobbying” for this or for that…

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  15. Bree
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 19:20:05

    My frustration is more about the double-talk than the exclusion. I think the RWA has the right to define “Published” however they and the majority of their membership feel is best. If that excludes epublished authors…so be it.

    But for crying out loud, just admit it. I’m an epublished author, and if the RWA had sent me an e-mail saying, “Epublished authors will now be counted as unpublished again and can enter unpublished contests and the Golden Heart,” then I might have renewed my membership. Because at least that’s honest. Blunt and maybe not very warm-fuzzy feeling, but honest.

    Instead we have countless contradictory and often confusing rules that set the bar just high enough to exclude without seeming exclusive. And as more epublished authors reach those bars, it seems like the only way to keep trying to keep everyone happy is to raise them a little more.

    Everyone’s not going to be happy. So I just wish the RWA would make a decision and stick to it, with consistent rules that define “Published” and “Unpublished” without this weird “Sometimes published but sometimes not and always published on alternating Fridays but never when the moon is full.”

    It just feels dishonest to exclude people while writing chiding letters telling everyone that we’re all one big happy family. Or to ask someone to judge the RITA because they belong to PAN, but disqualifying their books from competing in the RITAs because PAN is no longer published enough.

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  16. Nadia
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 21:52:15

    I have to agree with Bree & Anion. Every year, there seems to be some kind of ebook v. print book controversy, and I’m a bit tired of the contradictory and weird rules, which BTW seem to change every year.

    Jane — I agree that RWA National is a great opportunity to connect with other writers, but a huge majority of RWA membership cannot attend the annual conference for various reasons. So other than RWA National, I don’t know what other things RWA does that benefits its membership, and I’ve been a member for years. I’ve gotten FAR MORE out by reading Dear Author, SBTB and other blogs by industry professionals such as agents and editors, and they’re all free and open to everyone.

    P.S. I’m speaking specifically about RWA at the national level. Local chapters may provide some additional benefits for an extra fee of $25 – 35 / year.

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  17. Donna
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 01:03:00

    I think it’s important to note the distinction between PAN eligible and RITA eligible. With PAN, it’s the author who must meet the guidelines defined by the RWA. With the RITAs, the book itself must adhere to certain requirements, one of which is this “mass-produced” thing, which is STILL causing confusion.

    I didn’t really think of it until it was laid out that way for me, but yes, this is why some judges for the RITA have books which aren’t eligible to be entered in the contest they’re judging.

    Honestly, I don’t think the RWA Board is trying to exclude epublished authors from entering the halcyon realm of the published. I think they just don’t want those shabby POD books in a contest meant for shiny, nice NY-produced books.

    But hey, rest easy. They’ll still keep your money.

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  18. Leslie Dicken
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 10:17:16

    I agree with you, Bree. If epubbed authors are not eligible to enter the RITAs then why aren’t they eligible for the Golden Hearts? How is that fair to leave them trapped in that no-mans land?

    I’ve belonged to RWA for ten years and gone to eight conferences. I finalled in the GH in ’06 and am now published by three smaller presses. I don’t bother to try to enter the RITAs – not worth my time and money. But I think the rules should be fair for those who do want to enter.

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  19. katiebabs
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 10:22:47

    Authors have to pay to enter the RITAS?

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  20. GrowlyCub
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 10:49:47

    I’m not a writer, just a reader, but I find it mind-boggling that a person is good enough for PAN and to judge such an ‘important’ contest, but not good enough to enter it? That’s utterly ridiculous.

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  21. Nadia
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 11:06:33

    None of the RWA-sponsored writing contests are free. You must pay the entry fee and mail several copies of your book or ms (partial).

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  22. Vanessa
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 11:42:31

    I’m in the minority here because I believe when people choose their path of publication, they must also take the consequences of it. What makes a POD author believe her books meet any definition of mass-marketed?

    I’ve been offered contracts with several e-pubs which would probably earn me PAN status, but I’ve chosen to say thanks but no thanks because I want more. And if that means I’m never able to join PAN or enter any of the contests, then that’s the price *I* pay for *MY* choice.

    I just wish others would start accepting the consequences of their choices and stop blaming others.

    I’ll be renewing my RWA membership this year and going to the conference. That’s my choice too, just as it’s yours not to renew or attend.

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  23. Gina Black
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 12:02:16

    Well, Vanessa, that’s all very well and good, but RWA has this habit of changing the rules during the race. When I chose an epress for my book, I was still able to enter my non-published manuscripts in the GH. Then they changed it. The good news was I qualified to enter my epress/POD book in the Ritas up until . . . they changed it.

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  24. Donna
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 12:04:19

    I've been offered contracts with several e-pubs which would probably earn me PAN status, but I've chosen to say thanks but no thanks because I want more. And if that means I'm never able to join PAN or enter any of the contests, then that's the price *I* pay for *MY* choice.

    I absolutely agree with this, Vanessa, which is why I am probably one of the few epublished authors who would readily accept having the RWA tell me they consider me unpublished. As it stands, I am neither published nor unpublished, and that leaves me feeling disenfranchised.

    But that’s not my complaint here.

    My problem with the RITA rule change is not that it was made, but that it is confusing. As Angie James said in her first comment, the criteria set forth by Diane Pershing to clarify the rule change do not necessarily exclude all POD books. And I feel the new rules need to be made perfectly clear, especially if the RWA plans on keeping the entry fees of those disqualified.

    I find it completely understandable for the RWA to want to exclude POD books from the RITA. I feel the Board considers these books of largely substandard quality, and I wouldn’t argue otherwise, since I have seen some that made me want to cry. But I do protest letters from the President, calling for an end to the schism between “us” and “them”, when things like this are happening.

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  25. Anion
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 12:07:04

    @Vanessa:

    What makes a POD author believe her books meet any definition of mass-marketed?

    Nobody said they believed their POD books meet any definition of “mass marketed”. What they did and do believe is that when RWA says “RWA members must earn over a certain dollar amount to join PAN, and PAN members may enter the Ritas,” that the RWA will not then slip in an extra rule to exclude certain authors based solely on the format in which their book was produced, without publically discussing the matter or opening it to a vote.

    What they believe is that the RWA, having taken their money and declared them “professionals” by virtue of having reached a certain earnings level, would not openly discriminate against them for no discernable reason.

    What they believe is that you cannot make a blanket statement that all POD books, regardless of how well-reviewed they are or how popular, are simply not good enough to compete in the Ritas; and that conversely all books which have print runs, no matter how small or amateurish the publisher, are good enough.

    I’m glad you believe those among us who joined the RWA in order to compete in the Ritas, before this exclusionary rule was added (which was recently, and without fanfare), deserve the “consequences” for writing the books they want to write for the houses or formats in which they are the most comfortable, and for believing the RWA board would not sneak in exclusionary and discriminatory rule changes at the 11th hour.

    BTW…how exactly were you offered contracts from epublishers to whom you didn’t submit? Because surely, thinking epublishing is “less than”, as you state above that you do…you wouldn’t have submitted to those houses, right?

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  26. Bree
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 12:20:09

    I just wish others would start accepting the consequences of their choices and stop blaming others.

    Vanessa, I would accept the consequences of my choices if I could figure out what they were. I think the point being made by several people here is that when they originally made their choice, the consequences were spelled out and they accepted them. Then, sometimes in the space of only a few months, those consequences they had accepted changed. And I don’t think it’s unfair to be upset about that.

    And really, that is my only complaint. I would like the RWA to stop trying to make everyone happy and flat out state what they believe the consequences of accepting a contract in epublishing should be. If they did that, maybe they wouldn’t have to keep changing them.

    I’m not in the market for validation or approval for my choices. I’m not looking for someone to tell me I’m worthy. I just want a straight answer that doesn’t contradict the one I got last week, which contradicts the one I got last month.

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  27. Vanessa
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 12:27:07

    RWA has this habit of changing the rules during the race.

    They didn’t change this rule during the race. It was changed beforehand and noted in a number of places where any RWA member could read it.

    They’ll never make everyone happy. That’s just a given.

    BTW…how exactly were you offered contracts from epublishers to whom you didn't submit? Because surely, thinking epublishing is “less than”, as you state above that you do…you wouldn't have submitted to those houses, right?

    Because I worked as a reviewer, I got to know several e-house editors. They requested some of my material when they were starting up (only one is still in business) and I declined the offer.

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  28. Jody W.
    Jan 16, 2009 @ 13:35:09

    It is my understanding that individuals who read the new rules and called the office or contacted the Board to find out whether they could enter — so as to avoid lost fees, etc — were not given consistent answers.

    Moreover, authors who were able to enter a small press book in the RITAs last year were disqualified this year. I think that is what people mean when they say the consequences changed mid-race. Perhaps the RITAs are important to them, for whatever reason, and when the RITA rules changed in 2007 to include some small press books, they decided to accept that small press contract. The book came out in 2008. They proceeded to make money and increase their readership instead of watch the manuscript gather dust, which–nice! But when the RITA rules were changed AGAIN in 2008…

    It’s not just a matter of a book being epublished, anyway, so much as NOT mass market and the fact that there is no clear definition of its use in this context. The language should be concise enough to avoid this kind of confusion. I believe there are plans to revisit it, which is a relief–although that doesn’t mean anything will change.

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  29. Charlotte Boyett~Compo
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 16:05:29

    I dismissed my membership to RWA years ago when they first started screwing over e-book authors. I certainly didn’t want to belong to any organization, pay my hard-earned money to anyone who considered me a redheaded stepchild. They didn’t support me so I damned sure wasn’t going to shell out my money to support them.

    There is another avenue you might investigate if you feel the same way.

    If you write in the speculative fiction subgenres of alternate history, fantasy/dark fantasy/erotic fantasy, supernatural/paranormal, horror, paranormal/dark romance, sci-fi/futuristic, urban fantasy, or magic realisim, we’d love to have you at IWOFA (Infinite Worlds of Fantasy Authors). We are over 360 strong and growing. We don’t charge you to belong. We won’t make you feel unwanted. If you are published…print, e-, subsidy, or self, we welcome you and we will SUPPORT you! You are important to us and we will extend all courtesies to you.

    Look over our webpage at http://www.iwofa.net and join us. Promotion is what we are all about.

    Charlee
    Founder of IWOFA

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  30. Liddy Midnight
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 17:45:37

    .
    I have a different kind of heartburn with the exclusivity of the RITAs:

    Having a smaller pool of entrants diminishes the value of the award.

    Today, winning a RITA means that your book is the best of a restricted group of romance novels.

    Remember those cute Venn diagrams in math class? Here’s the HUGE circle that contains every romance publication of the year. Now, down in the lower corner, here is the LITTLE, TEENY-TINY circle containing the books that are eligible to compete for the RITA. You could be the best of those!

    Hell-O? Who wants to win that? If you won a RITA, wouldn’t you want the satisfaction of knowing that your book was the best of all the books (of similar genre and sub-genre) out there?

    A fabulous book is a fabulous book is a fabulous book, whatever the medium of publication. Whether it’s self-published, from a big-name print publisher that gave it a huge print run (and BTW, I know that some trade paperbacks are not returnable, so who tossed that into the definition?) or only available in digital formats, if it’s the best damned book published that year, shouldn’t it be recognized? Oh, and let’s add that it might be written by an author who’s ::gasp:: not a member of RWA.

    That’s what bothers me.

    Things like this make me long to be a goddess and in charge of things. But that’s not happened so far and I’m not willing to invest the time and effort to run for office and effect changes, so I generally keep my gripes to myself. (Hey, I’ve got books to write. And lots more to read!)

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  31. Karen Templeton
    Jan 17, 2009 @ 18:39:04

    Not that I feel the RITAs are perfect, by any means (although name me one award that is), but I believe someone said there were something like 8000 romance novels published last year, in all formats. The RITAs are limited to the first 1200 books entered. Which granted, is only a percentage of all the books published (although by no means a “teeny tiny” percentage). But the logistics of running a contest with 8000 or more titles is absolutely mind-boggling. And logistically impossible.

    I know there’s been criticism of the five-judge system for each book, but since there’s no way the entire membership can read every book, that’s about the fairest way to narrow down the entrants at present. (And just letting folks toss out their faves for nomination wouldn’t work, since the “big” books are bound to get more votes — a LOT more votes — than an indie pub’d book that’s only reached a hundred readers.) As currently structured, each judge gets several books to read and score (and no, it’s not a popularity contest, since it’s not as if the folks in Houston boxing up the books know which authors know each other — I’m judging eight books this year and don’t even know by name ANY of the authors). But even if the judging pool were opened to include the non-published members (not likely, since the award has been established as a peer award), making up judging packets of 40,000 books in a matter of weeks would be an absolute nightmare. They’re simply not set up to run a contest on that scale — and what writer’s organization would be?

    And before someone suggests converting to all e-books for the contest — that would mean all the judges would have to be willing to either read on their computers or buy a dedicated reader. Not gonna happen.

    In any case, even if every single romance novel published in any given year were judged, judging is still subjective, and there would still be the same complaints because someone’s fave didn’t make the cut — which would be even less likely since the field would become so much larger…assuming every publisher or writer would be willing to enter. Even if there were no cap on number of entries, you can’t force people to pay a fee to enter a contest, and you can’t possibly run a contest of that size without charging something to cover the expenses involved.
    As long as we ARE dealing with print books, somebody has to sort and pack those suckers, and there will be shipping charges. Since none of that is free, neither is the contest.

    Since reading is such a personal experience, having five — and then another five — judges actually AGREE on a book’s being award-worthy is no small feat. So while the system is still flawed, it’s not entirely horrible, either…even if some readers still won’t “get” why any particular title won in any given year. Just the same as people don’t always agree on Oscar or Golden Globe or Emmy winners.

    Let me just say, though, that I do NOT agree with the constant flipflopping on the qualification issues. That definitely needs to be settled, and soon.

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  32. Liddy Midnight
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 07:56:27

    .
    Karen, I was using a bit of hyperbole to make my point.

    Any idea where that figure of 8,000 romance novels came from? My WAG is that it falls short of the true number. Does it include releases from every digital publisher? Does it include books from self-published authors and those who used vanity presses? Yes, a lot of those 8,000-plus are going to be also-rans as far as any award is concerned, but they should be given a shot. I believe there will be some gems in that lot.

    If an organization like RWA is made up of both published and unpublished writers who pay the same dues and supposedly have the same privileges of membership, then the organization should extend its inclusionary policies across the board.

    I recognize that no contest can permit 8,000 entrants in printed copies. The logistics are beyond most organizations’ capabilities. Or are they? Think about how much money those 8,000 entrants would bring in and the power of barcodes and computers. I’ll bet a small investment in infrastructure would be able to handle it, given a budget of close to a half a mil — think QVC and Amazon, both of which handle far greater numbers of items daily.

    Limiting participation to the first however-many received is more fair than winnowing the numbers by excluding books based on their publisher OR author.

    Or how about categories for epublished books? The RITA awards show has been trying to emulate the Oscars. Why not extend that to include “indie” recognition?

    And permit digital entries of any book! Those would be cash cows for the organization, if they can be entered and judged in digital formats. No postage, no warehouse needed, just a computer with a large hard drive. That could conceivably be run with minimal additional staff, located wherever. Maybe encourage the use of digital copies by reducing the entry fee for those who “go green”. Many print-published authors have ereaders and are comfortable using them (Roberta Gellis showed me hers at RT last year and was enthusiastic about its portability, ease of viewing and storage capacity).

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  33. Myra Luz
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 09:34:28

    LM: No postage, no warehouse needed, just a computer. Maybe encourage the use of digital copies by reducing the entry fee for those who “go green”.

    That would make too much sense, Ms. Midnight, and is so PC it is positively scary to ‘older’ minds. Please don’t muddy the waters by being reasonable and making statements that confuse those ancient, closed brains that simply can’t process all these modern, new-fangled notions! They have a hard enough time understanding the DVD-R! An e-reader? Great googly moogly! The horror of it! The inhumanity! Quick, call the postman to come get these boxes and boxes of dead trees!!!!!

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  34. Karen Templeton
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 10:06:37

    Liddy, I believe that figure (don’t remember where I heard it) is fairly all-inclusive.

    However, there would always be fees involved, even if the contest were to go all electronic at some point, for the tabulation/distribution involved (divvying up the entered books). Since that’s true, you’d never, ever get every published romance (however one wants to define that) into the contest, since not every author is even interested in taking part. And the larger the numbers entering, the less likely some people are to enter. In theory, winning “best” out of a category of 1000 instead of, say, 100, is more prestigious, but I guarantee you many authors would feel they’d be throwing away their money in a contest that huge. So the likelihood of ever having a truly all-inclusive, completely representative contest is very slim, in any case.

    And RWA isn’t QVC or Amazon — the organization might be large, but the office staff is very small. Yes, many print pubbed authors have readers — but many don’t. So there’s the extra nuisance of assigning e-books only to those judges who have readers or who are willing to read 6-8 books on their computers. And if more e-pub’d authors enter than there are judges with readers…

    It’s just not that easy.

    And I’m going to be very frank, here — while I don’t necessarily agree with all the current restrictions (esp. with e-books), and while I’m sure there are indeed some gems among the self-pub’d books, I’ve read far, far too many self-pubbed excerpts that are hideously subpar to be comfortable with the idea of a free-for-all. Sorry, but not everyone with a story idea can write…but anyone with the wherewithal can self-pub. So think of some of those restrictions as way of pre-screening entries, to at least some degree. As a judge juggling my RITA reading around my own deadlines and other obligations, I want to know the books in my packet have been vetted in some way before I get them. Call me a snob…or call me practical. But the fact is, if the contest were completely open — and still on a first-come, first-served basis — the finalist base could very possibly be REDUCED because books must earn at least a certain grade to qualify. And while, yeah, I’ve rolled my eyes at some of the traditionally published books I’ve gotten in my packet in years past, NONE of them has been anywhere near as poorly written as MOST of the self-pubbed work I’ve seen.

    Sorry to play devil’s advocate here , but having seen the RITAs go through God knows how many changes over the past fourteen years — and heard many of these same arguments — I’ve accepted that it will never be all things to all writers. Not that changes can’t, or shouldn’t, be implemented, to make things more fair/balanced, but neither do I believe everyone who’s self-published his or her first attempt at writing a novel should be allowed to enter.

    Ducking tomatoes now…:)

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  35. Myra Luz
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 10:14:06

    Self-pubbed is one thing. Books published by reputable publishers like Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, et al is another. By punishing all eauthors, you’re punishing an entire industry. Many of those authors are just as good ….. if not a whole lot better…..than many of the traditional print authors whose work I’ve tossed against the wall.

    And don’t mistake it, guys. It is punishment no matter how the heck you try to sugarcoat it. How dare those upstars eauthors take money out of the pockets of the traditionally published. Who the heck do they think they are?

    Ah, the wave of the future??????

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  36. Karen Templeton
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 10:21:58

    Myra — first off, not every book is available in e-format yet, although I’m sure that will happen in the near future. Also, although — for instance — my books are available in e-format from Harlequin, I don’t have access to those files. (And no, my own Word file doesn’t match, since I don’t input my line and copy edits into my own file once it’s sent to my editor.) So my publisher would have to send the e-books — and how are they supposed to know which formats to send, since at present there’s no universal format?

    Or maybe — being, you know, an old fogey who doesn’t get all this newfangled stuff — I’m missing something?

    However, you also can’t force judges to either read six or more complete novels on a computer screen, or plunk down several hundred bucks for a reader. The first is an issue of comfort, the second financial. Age — or unwillingness to “progress” — has nothing to do with it, since plenty of younger people who would die without their Blackberrys and iPhones and MP3 players don’t have, or don’t want, ereaders.

    Ten, or even five, years from now, things may be very different. But during this transition phase, we can only work with what — and who — we have.

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  37. Karen Templeton
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 10:25:37

    Thought I was clear — not lumping e-pubbed authors in with self-pubbed. At all.

    But the call, as I understood it, was to allow *anyone* with a book available to the public to enter. Don’t agree with that, never will.

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  38. Jody W.
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 10:45:22

    I do understand why the RITAs cannot allow electronic entries at this time. Authors online (who are more likely to be comfortable with digital reading) are not representative of the available RITA judges. When ebook readers are more commonplace, I hope the RITAs can shift that direction. I know anyone who loves their ebook reading method would probably love to be able to judge using that method. But that may not be for awhile.

    That being said, I hope the current issue with the RITAs doesn’t boil down to the common misconception that small press books are lower quality since they “weren’t good enough” for NY and thus shouldn’t be allowed to take up spots in the limited RITA pool. Alas, I am seeing rumblings that support this in other places. Not pointing fingers here, though! FWIW, it doesn’t appear to be about erotic romance so much as it does small press/”bad” career choices. I understand the need to draw a line somewhere for the RITAs, but I don’t agree with the current, and very confusing, litmus test.

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  39. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 11:47:29

    When ebook readers are more commonplace, I hope the RITAs can shift that direction. I know anyone who loves their ebook reading method would probably love to be able to judge using that method. But that may not be for awhile.

    But what if those ebook authors are willing to provide a hardcopy?

    That’s an issue I’d have. if it meets the requirements for romance, and the author is willing to pay the money to provide hardcopies, I see no reason why RWA shouldn’t allow it.

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  40. Jody W.
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 11:51:07

    Shiloh, it’s because of the possibility the text of the book may be changed. I don’t think there’s any way RWA could guarantee this wouldn’t happen, even if they made authors sign a paper saying it wasn’t changed. I gather it’s a legal thing. But I am not on the Board, have never been on the Board, will likely never be on the Board and am not speaking for the Board.

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  41. Keishon
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 12:11:33

    Heh. The RITA award means more to the author than to the reader. I could care less about such an award. Other reader’s opinions carries more weight (for me) than a award judged by five people, submitted by only those who can afford it. Just my two cents. Disregard as usual.

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  42. Charlotte Boyett~Compo
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 13:24:40

    ANY award means more to the author than to the reader. It means more to the ones giving it than it does to the reader.

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  43. Janet Miller/Cricket Starr
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 13:50:09

    What I find bemusing about all this is that they fully expect us small-press published PAN members to judge the RITA when they won’t let us enter our books.

    I’ve already said that if this situation exists next year, I will not judge and I will encourage as many people as I can to join me. If they really believe that the problem is that there aren’t enough judges so that small-press books can’t participate lets see if they can live without small-press judges.

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  44. Liddy Midnight
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 19:56:53

    Karen, no need to duck tomatoes from me. I lob too many preposterous suggestions out there to ever criticize anyone else for what they may say. Especially if they’ve thought about it and present their arguments with logic and clarity.

    Shiloh, I think that’s the crux of the problem with RWA’s position.

    And if the concern is over altering text, then make the penalty high. If you’re caught altering the text of your e-published work for entry in the RITA (even if you don’t final or win), you forfeit your membership — drummed out publicly, although the PC police probably have serious heartburn from that idea — and can never rejoin RWA or its chapters.

    When dealing with those who slam small press publications, a good response is to point out that a lot of the works published there are not picked up by NY because the marketing folks don’t think the appeal is broad enough to warrant their investment. It most likely has little to do with the quality of the writing or the storyline. How wrong the marketing gurus can be is evident in the paranormal and erotic romance sub-genres, both of which took off in the small press world before NY jumped on the bandwagon.

    Janet/Cricket, that’s an interesting data point. RWA is much more interested in what the small press authors can do for it than what it can do for those dues-paying, contest-judging small press members. Someone told me not long after I joined (more years ago than I care to think about) that RWA offers a lot more for the unpublished than it does for the newly-published.

    Has anyone seen any figures on how the membership of RWA breaks down, in terms of those published by small presses and big publishers? I expect that balance is going to tip one of these days.

    Now that will be interesting to watch. Will the small press authors take up their torches and pitchforks, yank the board off its dais and take over? Or will they knock down the doors as they stampede out, taking their dues and their vibrant ideas across the street to form Writers Unashamed of Small Press Romance (WUSPR, pronounced “whisper”)?

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  45. Shiloh Walker
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 20:49:45

    Shiloh, it's because of the possibility the text of the book may be changed. I don't think there's any way RWA could guarantee this wouldn't happen, even if they made authors sign a paper saying it wasn't changed. I gather it's a legal thing. But I am not on the Board, have never been on the Board, will likely never be on the Board and am not speaking for the Board.

    I’m sorry, but IMO, that sounds like a bunch of bull.

    If it’s a legal thing, then legal stipulations can be placed to assure the fairness/consistency across the board.

    Excluding ebooks just because they ‘think’ it might be ‘easier’ to cheat is anything but fair and consistent because it’s showing a slight towards epubbed authors.

    Most epubs would probably be delighted to provide hardcopy, thus removing the author from the equation.

    Hardcopies could be printed by a third party.

    Sorry, but it sounds like some reason concocted out of nothing just to keep ebooks from being submitted and no amount of sidestepping will change it.

    As somebody mentioned, make the penalty high.

    Request a volunter who will randomly compare hardcopy to ebook copy and make it clear that an additional hardcopy and ebook copy must be submitted for this very purpose.

    Using that as a reason is insulting. It basically makes it out like any and every ebook author may very well be out to cheat so we’ll just exclude them all.

    I’m sorry but RWA does need to catch up with the times. More and more print publishers are accepting electronic copies of manuscripts. More and more agents are accepting them.

    Sooner or later, RWA is going to need to do the same. Resisting it only makes the organization itself seem like an old curmudgeon who’s screaming high and loud, I won’t change and you can’t make me. If they don’t want to read ebooks in ebook format, that is FINE. But if it’s made available in print format…that’s not so fine.

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  46. Jody W.
    Jan 18, 2009 @ 21:21:51

    I don’t know, Shiloh, that’s just what I’ve been told when I asked–that they open themselves up to legal issues if they allow authors to print their own copies. That’s why the RITA rules last year (and I think for several years) stipulated that paper copies had to be issued by the publisher. Last year entries met the 1200 cap and then some.

    For 2008, as we all know, the rules changed again to say it had to be not just issued by but mass produced by the publisher, presumably in response to whatever happened last year, which was — the excess of entries? Complaints from judges about the entries? Complaints from authors who didn’t get to enter? I don’t know and I don’t remember any rumblings. Certainly nothing like this.

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  47. Emmy
    Jan 19, 2009 @ 07:03:37

    What Keishon said. RWA and the RITAs are strictly there to give authors a chance to brag about being the best amongst themselves in a very narrow set of circumstances. Readers couldn’t care less. I’ve never paid attention because I mostly read GLBT authors, and they’re not allowed in the hallowed halls either.

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  48. Donica Covey
    Jan 19, 2009 @ 16:22:45

    I have not attempted to join RWA, enter their contests, etc. I don’t feel comfortable offering to give my hard earned cash to an organization that views myself and other eBook/POD authors as the red headed step child. When I first began writing I had an intense desire and respect for this organization but as I became further into this business and my career I was hit with some upsetting and dismaying treatment by those who are “real” authors as opposed to my “silly” hobby. I was even told point blank that I wasn’t an author and could never be taken seriously as long as I was with an eBook publisher.

    RWA might have been advantagious for some, as for me, I don’t think they’re worth my time or effort. Hopefully the attitudes will change especially seeing as how many “Big girl” publishing houses are now offering eBooks. Guess none of us can be taken seriously, huh?

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  49. Do we care who wins the RITAs this year? : The Good, The Bad and The Unread
    Jan 27, 2009 @ 09:40:37

    [...] reader hasn’t really said anything yet. So I thought I’d see what readers think about the current RWA ruckus. Yes, I’m a writer, but I’m a disinterested party, as I’m not a member of the RWA, and I don’t [...]

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