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EBooks Getting the Shaft from Writing Awards

For romance writers, the RITA is the equivalent of a writing Oscar. This year there were changes to the qualifications for the RITA awards including one that effectively eliminates ebooks from competing. The RITA contest will not be open to any book that is not “mass-produced by a non -Subsidy, non-Vanity Publisher in print book format.”  ¬†What does mass produced seems to exclude print on demand books which how ebook publishers fulfill their orders.

I’ve also been told that the Lambda Awards which recognize excellence in the GLBT field explicitly excludes ebooks but will accept self published books.

These awards should be about quality of the book and not print runs and formats.

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

18 Comments

  1. Cat Grant
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 18:28:49

    Not surprising. They don’t even want to let e-published authors into PAN.

  2. Carrie Lofty
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 18:55:12

    The annoying double standard is that if you’ve been published by a recognized epub with a novella or novel, then the guidelines determine you’ve already been published, which excludes your first print release from being entered in the Best First Book category:

    Bst First Book: A full-length book entered in any of the other contest categories. To be eligible, the author (or authors in the case of a writing team) shall not have had any other novel or novella previously published in any format.

    I know at least three people in this position, barred from participating even though the first book that disqualified them wouldn’t have been eligible anyway. Had my 2007 short story “Sundial” been a few thousand words more, it would’ve disqualified my print debut this year without mt knowing it.

    I’m a big fan of RWA and I don’t mind rules. But they really have to make some hard decisions soon and be consistent.

  3. Joan/SarahF
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 18:55:24

    This just makes me sick. I’m pretty much only reading ebooks right now and some of them are the best romance I’ve ever read. Seriously. Not that I think Anah Crow’s Uneven is ever going to win anything–it’s too edgy–but it should. Ditto Joey Hill’s Natural Law before it went to print.

    And the Lambdas? God forbid non-gay people win the Lambdas. Because I think the rationale there might be different from the rationale that the RITAs are using. Slash isn’t “real” gay fiction, right? Sigh. Maybe one day a good book can just be a good book, no matter who writes it?

  4. Gina Black
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 20:06:15

    Yes, it hits all my fairness buttons. Hard.

  5. Anion
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 20:59:54

    Yet another example of what a waste of time and money the RWA is in general. This is outrageous and shameful discrimination, and there’s nothing the larger membership can do (or rather, those who want to do something; obviously there is a segment of the RWA membership who also believes that those horrible books with sex in them have nothing to do with real romance, because sex is never romantic, apparently) because the RWA board quite simply doesn’t give a fuck. All the RWA does is collect dues and hold some contests and a convention; they offer absolutely nothing to writers that they can’t get elsewhere for free. (Yes, even chapter meetings. You can put up a free notice at your local ibrary or whatever, and probably get the exact same mix of skills and knowledge leve;s as you get from RWA.) Being a member of the RWA did not assist me in my career one bit, not even a tenth of a bit.

    Ooh this shit makes me so mad.

    Incidentally, EC does print runs, not just POD. Not that the RWA cares. All they’re concerned with is the shame of letting those dirty books into their precious contests. It’s like high school. Only worse, because RWA members ACTUALLY PAY TO GET TREATED LIKE SHIT.

    Sorry, everyone. I’m going away now to get drunk and try to calm down.

  6. Ann Somerville
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 22:48:11

    Ah, fuck ‘em.

  7. MD
    Oct 31, 2008 @ 23:11:19

    I agree with Ann. Fuck ‘em.

  8. Ann Somerville’s Journal : Funny things/nice things/weird things
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 01:29:39

    […] this stupid organisation which dislikes erotica and m/m books so much that it twisted its award rules to absolutely ensure no one writing such sordid material could be nom…. Fortunately, I care as little for the Romance Writers of America as they do for pretty boys […]

  9. Sparky
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 06:44:35

    Pfft, these restrictions hurt them. I am left with the impression that either a) they take money from print publishers they don’t want to offend or b) they are technophobic troglodytes who wish only to read stoires carved onto stone tablets

    Either way, it makes me doubt their judgement abilities and, therefore, the value of the award

  10. Lolita Lopez
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 07:46:14

    Every time I think about joining RWA something like this happens. It’s irksome. As a primarily e-published author, I would like to belong to some kind of support organization. EPIC seems largely useless if their lack of response to all the e-publisher meltdowns and mistreatment of authors is any evidence. RWA doesn’t want me because I write naughty books. What a mess!

    I guess I’ll just keep my money and rely on my local and online writing and critique groups.

  11. Randi
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 09:18:31

    Good thing I don’t rely on awards for new books. Sorry authors, but I rely on places like Smart Bitches, Dear Author, and oddly, the Amazon recommends, for new books.

  12. Diana Peterfreund
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 09:35:29

    I’ve been a member of RWA for going on seven years, and a board member of various chapters for four years running. I still think the RITAs are bullshit. A few years judging excellent manuscripts that mysteriously did not final taught me that, as well as the fact that no one respects an award that’s given out twelve times a year. If they let whoever they wanted enter, and then only gave out ONE novel award, then maybe it would receive the type of attention that the Hugo, etc. gets. But to have a hundred or more finalists and twelve awards? Come one. That’s like a “participation” ribbon at a third grade soccer game.

    It doesn’t have anything to do with sex, either. I read lots of sexy stories that are finalists in the RITAs. From small presses too!

    But I don’t think that says anything about the value of RWA. I’ve never seen ANY free enterprise or library writing group that can match the value of the meetings and conferences and networking opportunities provided by my local chapter. I wouldn’t be published if it weren’t for RWA.

    The contest rules are bunk, but then again, so is the contest. I’m not a member of RWA for the RITAs, and a lot of people who “finalled” last year weren’t members of RWA either, so I don’t see that the two are necessarily dependent on each other. Joining RWA for the RITAs is like joining the SAG for the SAG awards. Not the point.

  13. Sharon Cullen
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 10:36:25

    Exactly why I left RWA. Each decision they makes reaffirms my belief that I will never be a member again. Don’t even get me started.

  14. Jody W.
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 11:08:08

    (Yes, even chapter meetings. You can put up a free notice at your local ibrary or whatever, and probably get the exact same mix of skills and knowledge leve;s as you get from RWA.)

    While I am very uncomfortable with some of the things coming from RWA’s board right now, I disagree with this. It could *possibly* happen, if a miracle were to occur, that an ad in the paper would result in the awesomeness that is my local chapter, but I highly doubt it. For starters, so many writers are prejudiced against the romance genre, you’d have to deal with that when you don’t in a local chapter. There may be other prejudices in RWA chapters, but that’s a big one right there you don’t have to tackle.

    Maybe some romance writers have had success with this method, which is fabulous, but the value of the local chapter support system currently in place via RWA for romance writers cannot be dismissed this handily.

    Whether or not a good local chapter is enough to keep authors dealing with those other prejudices I mentioned in RWA is another story.

  15. Anion
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 14:50:46

    Sorry authors, but I rely on places like Smart Bitches, Dear Author, and oddly, the Amazon recommends, for new books.

    Why is that odd? I love my Amazon recommendations and check them/wishlist them/buy them all the time. :-)

    And again, if you’re happy with your local chapters, that’s just great. I still don’t see how joining the RWA makes the members any better than any other group of people who decide to start a crit/support group for aspiring romance writers, but I’m glad you’ve had such great experiences.

    Too bad I also know any number of people whose chapter members ignored them, made fun of them for being epublished, told them they weren’t writing real romance, skipped over their work in crits, refused to allow them to participate in certain events, literally talked about them behind their backs…I could go on and on. So yes, I can dismiss local chapters this handily. Just because you had a good experience doesn’t mean everyone does; just because you don’t think anyone would have come to an “independent” romance writing/critique group doesn’t mean they wouldn’t. Is a great local chapter a benefit? Absolutely. Is RWA the only way to get together a great group of romance writers? Absolutely not.

    I don’t mean to imply here that being an RWA chapter means the members are all rude and cruel. Obviously they’re not; it would be ridiculous to claim such a thing. But for that reason I don’t see why a group of dedicated writers automatically becomes better the minute they become an RWA chapter. It’s a crapshoot, and in the case of RWA membership, an expensive crapshoot.

    As you said:

    Maybe some romance writers have had success with this method, which is fabulous, but the value of the local chapter support system currently in place via RWA for romance writers cannot be dismissed this handily.

    *shrug* Maybe some romance writers have found their local chapters to be valuable, which is fabulous, but the possibility of finding a group of like-minded writers through less expensive methods which do not discriminate (while still happily taking the money of epublished writers, I might add) also cannot be dismissed so handily.

    People become published in all other genres, all the time, without the benfit of the networking opportunities or whatever offered by the RWA. People become published in romance without that benefit all the time too. People can be RWA members for 20 years without ever being published. The RWA is not a magical passport to publication.

  16. Jody W.
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 16:39:23

    I didn’t dismiss alternate methods of finding a writer’s group outside of RWA; I merely said that I disagreed that a romance author could “probably get the exact same mix of skills and knowledge leve;s as you get from RWA” by putting an ad in a paper or at a bookstore. I also pointed out that whether or not one could deal with any other prejudices that lurk in RWA and its membership is another story.

  17. Jules Jones
    Nov 02, 2008 @ 17:29:46

    This isn’t a new development. The rules kept out ebooks last year, which is probably a good thing, because otherwise I might have been tempted to see how well the RITA judges coped with an m/m/m romance involving a human and two dolphin shapeshifters, and a consensual power exchange D/s relationship with nary a forced seduction in sight.

    Though in fairness, I will point out that at least two of the sub-genre chapters within RWA would have been perfectly happy to let me enter the book in their chapter contests for published authors. One required printed galleys to be supplied for the judges, the other was happy to take the ebook file itself.

  18. Lynn Reynolds
    Nov 04, 2008 @ 17:13:36

    I can’t imagine a sillier rule, particularly when more and more people are buying books online, a system which is far better suited to publishing each book on demand (POD) as opposed to storing thousands of pre-printed books in warehouses. Now that the great Oprah herself is proclaiming the wonder of ebooks, adding a regulation like this looks particularly outdated. It makes me wonder if some mainstream publishers are doing a bit of behind-the-scenes lobbying of the RWA and other writers’ organizations. Because to be fair to the RWA, they aren’t the only writers’ organization coming up with increasingly byzantine rules to exclude writers who work with small presses or e-publishers.

    This whole situation reminds me of the music industry panic that began about ten years ago, as record company executives began to realize online music buying was going to supplant purchasing of pre-recorded CDs. Their various lawsuits and challenges didn’t stop people from embracing the ease of online downloads, and weird writing award rules won’t stop readers from buying POD or ebooks. Shockingly, consumers don’t really care how many copies of a book have been printed in advance. And soon, they probably won’t even care whether it’s available in their local bookstore. They’ll just order it from Amazon or some other online site.

    I agree with you, Jane. Any writing award should be an award based on the quality of the writing, not on the efficiency (or massive inefficiency) of the publisher’s inventory system.

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