Changes to the RITA Awards announced at #RWA14

At today’s general meeting of the RWA membership, taking place at the RWA national convention, changes were announced, revamping the rules for the RITA Awards once again.
The changes are in response to a kerfuffle this year, when some categories had ridiculously few books make it to “finalist” status: in particular erotic romance had only 3, which seemed ridiculous given how large the number of books published in that category was, and inspirational romance had only 2. Meanwhile historical romance had 17 finalists. That seemed out of whack even to people not deeply steeped in romance.
The surmise was that this imbalance was caused by the structure of the scoring, in which any book that got 90% or above in its average score was automatically a finalist. Each book was read by multiple judges (I don’t know how many), and each judge assigned a number of points to each book based on certain criteria (prose quality, etc). On the face of it that sounds reasonable, but the category of “how romance-y is this romance” was worth 20 points, while everything else was worth only 10. (Full disclosure: yes, I judged, because in order to guarantee that a book you enter into the contest makes it into the list of 2000 that are included before the cutoff, you had to agree to judge.) The speculation is that because historical romance was considered more “romance-y” by the RWA members judging than either erotic romance or inspirational romance, these categories were unfairly marked down.
The new rules can be found in full on the RWA Website here: https://www.rwa.org/p/bl/et/blogid=20&blogaid=795
The main changes I noted:
• Entrants are required to judge. (Before, it was only those who volunteered.)
• Entrants will not judge in a category in which they are entered. (I received 2 books that were in the category my book was in.)
• The top 4% of each category’s entries (based on the number of qualified entries received) will advance to the final round, except each category will have no fewer than 4 finalists or more than 10 finalists.
• All entrants are required to judge the preliminary round. Others eligible to judge are authors who are PAN-eligible. The final round will be judged by PAN members.
Of course one of the things brought up at the meeting is that PRO and PAN membership may be changing in the future, but the board is still looking into that. They acknowledged that the categories of PAN and PRO were created back when traditional print publishing dominated. (I’m not a PAN member because I’m prohibited from being one. Why? Because even though I’m traditionally published at Hachette/Grand Central/Forever, I am an acquiring editor for Circlet Press, and that disqualifies me.)
A few other notes on the Rita Awards:
Last year 1400 entries were received.
Golden Heart entry fees are dropping to $30.
There are probably some more things to note, but this is what jumped out at me right away. I’m sure more debate will follow.

2 Comments

  1. Hi, thanks for the post. I have a question: do you have to be a member of RWA to enter a book for its awards? I’m in the UK, but published by Carina Press, USA, and am considering membership, but other than being able to enter my books for an award, I don’t think it would be of any benefit.
    Thanks!

    1. Follow the link in the post to the full rules for the contest.
      “The new rules can be found in full on the RWA Website here: https://www.rwa.org/p/bl/et/blogid=20&blogaid=795
      Here’s a quote from the rules page that might answer your question, though:
      “Contest Eligibility
      “The RITA Contest is open to members of RWA as well as non-members, but priority will be given to members. Any lapse in membership during the course of the contest by the entrant or collaborator (from the time of entry until the winners are announced at the Awards Ceremony) will result in the entrant being required to renew within 10 days of notification or pay the higher non-member entry fee.”

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