Friday, April 28, 2006

Fixing The RITA

There's another dust-up brewing online over the RITA judging, the most interesting being Jamie Sobrato receiving a comment that her Blaze novel had "no strong romantic elements." Basically it wasn't a romance. Intriguing since last time I checked, Harlequin required books in the Blaze line to be romances. But what do I know?

Now I'm not very well read in the Blaze line, but I find it hard to believe that they all suck so bad that not one was capable finaling in the RITA the last couple of years. Which begs the question is the RITA process broken?

Personally, I think broken is the wrong word. More like flawed.

I used to pay attention the RITA. Now though, with so many authors online and blogging, the "process" of how a book wins a RITA has been demystified for readers. Frankly, an award where the author has to enter their work (plus pay a fee) in order to "win" doesn't mean much. What about those authors who choose not to enter (for whatever reason)? Am I to believe that their books are somehow inferior? No. Because I've read many awesome books that never finaled. Why didn't they final? I don't know because RWA never publishes a list of all the books that were entered to begin with. So maybe that super-fantastic book I gushed about for a solid month wasn't even entered. Maybe the author is saving her money to buy groceries or pay her electric bill. Maybe the author isn't a member of RWA and could care less. Who knows?

Being Queen Librarian Of The Universe, here is how I'd "fix" the RITA process.
  • Add a romantica/erotica category. Just do it already.
  • Drop the peer-judging who-ha. Open up judging to librarians, booksellers, editors and reviewers.
  • Publish a list of all the books that were entered for consideration. Then we can see for ourselves if there is inequality in the judging process. Frankly I like facts to back up my various incoherent rants.
But nobody is asking me. Typical.

This of course also returns to my recent RTB column where I stated:

Awards - in the grand scheme of things, most readers could care less. That said, some libraries will probably decide to buy your book now.

And I believe that's very, very true. Most readers don't care. I suspect authors care because it somehow "validates" their work. It's a pat on the back. It's the industry telling you that they like you! They really, really like you!

My advice? Write the best books you can. Please your readers. That's the only audience an author needs "approval" from. And if you please readers, the word of mouth will very likely do more for your sales then some dopey gold statue could. Then you can laugh all the way to the bank. How cool would that be?

Easier said then done I suppose, but still good advice. Well, at least I think it's good advice. But again, what do I know?


Tara Marie said...

What you said!!

Bev (BB) said...

They have to pay to enter their book in the Rita judging????

Somehow that little fact has never made it into my conciousness before.

Truly weird.

Nicole said...

I've read Jamie's book, too, and it definitely qualified as a romance! A rather nice one, if I remember right.

Kristie (J) said...

You are so right! As far as being a reader goes (and aren't we the bottom line judges really) it mean's less than nothing to me who wins what. I see the list of winners year after year and honestly haven't read most of the books that win. And of the ones that do win - many times they aren't my choice at all anyway. As they are presently set up, I see no value in the RITA's whatsoever and they have zero effect on what I will buy or won't buy.

Anonymous said...

Well said. ... I'm a romance author who didn't submit a book this year for all of the reasons you stated, plus some more.

This year, RWA sent a note around reminding everyone that they expected to receive so many entries that if you entered, but didn't volunteer to judge, your entry might be returned to you. I don't know how many books each judge received this year, but in the past, they've sent at least half a dozen books to read and judge over about a 4-6 week span. With a tight deadline and a life to live, I just couldn't do it, which was another reason I didn't enter. Why spend $40, plus shipping costs, on a hassle?

The question is, as you've already said, what if my book was another "Gone With the Wind?" And it wasn't even in the competition. So what does the RITA *really* stand for?

Just as most readers don't care who or what has won a RITA, or even know what the RITA is, most of the editors I've run across are ho-hum about it, too. The publishers are bottom-line oriented. It's my observation that if an award doesn't bump up sales, the pubs couldn't care less.

sybil said...

I couldn't agree more. It is just a list like any other list of what some people thought.

You can agree or not. And enter or not. But at the end of the day, it doesn't make the bestest book evah. Hell sometimes it doesn't even make a bad book good. Right place, right time and all that...