If you were an actor, would you rather get an Academy Award, knowing you were chosen for the amount of money your producer could invest in advertising your skills, or a People’s Choice award, where you are chosen because of your fan base? Many actors say they would much rather have the latter award.
In some ways, that’s how Romance Writers roll. There has always only been The RITA awards and the Golden Heart awards. RWA started, in fact, because Romance as a genre was put down by the literati. A club or organization to help romance authors band together and support each other was just what was needed at the time. The group officially started in December of 1980.
Before long, someone thought that an award of some type should be created to recognize excellence in the genre. So in 1990, the first ceremony was held. For decades, this was the top achievement in English romantic fiction. Books are usually nominated by the editor or agent, but authors can nominate themselves. Manuscripts are submitted without any indication of who wrote it. These are judged by other romance writers, but of different genres. No fair marking down a competitor’s work.
Those who get the highest scores in each category are entered into the lightning round, I mean, final judging. And then the winners are selected and announced at the yearly National Conference of RWA. The dinner where the winners are announced is a classy affair and can be a lot of fun. Robyn Carr had me in tears when she told her story of how she started writing and introduced the children she raised while plotting those books.
But modern times call for different strategies. First of all, copyright issues jump up all over the place. Books that are submitted stripped of author’s name are difficult to protect as far as author’s rights go. Also, if you enter the RITA, you have to judge the RITA. What if you are a really poor judge of other people’s writings? What if you just don’t like judging? Now, you no longer have to judge if you don’t wish to.
Now, a request notice will go out with a questionnaire to try to gather enough reader judges. The new scoring system will come with instructions and training to teach the potential judges about Inherent Bias. These steps should improve the results tremendously.
The number of entries allowed into the RITAs has just been reduced from 2000 to 1200. If you think about it, each entry requires 6 judges. Finding 12,000 willing judges is difficult. Even with piling up a few judges with several manuscripts to read, it’s crazy. A mere 7,200 might be doable.
I always suggest to new writers that they enter contests. The opportunity for feedback is not to be missed. But the RITAs don’t come with that option. The secrecy might be needed but it doesn’t generate confidence in how the choices were made.
The big punch is that winning a RITA will do nothing for the author except give them more status in the organization. Publishers no longer include the fact that you are reading a winner of the RITA award on the book cover. Because of that, it’s much nicer to get, say, a Reviewer’s Choice award to display on your web page and tell everyone about. I know there are other local awards that authors feel honored to receive. I’ll look for more information on that for a future blog.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.