On Monday, March 26, RWA announced the finalists in the Rita (for books published in 2011) and the Golden Heart (for books by unpublished writers). This post is solely about the Rita--not the Golden Heart--and I am announcing at the outset that this is only my opinion and I may be prejudiced because, although several years ago a novel of mine was a finalist in the Golden Heart (Second Place they called it at that time), my published book wasn’t listed in the nominations for the Rita on Monday.
Considering what’s happening in publishing these days, it strikes me that other writers may have the same concerns as I do, and perhaps we need to bring the subject out into the open.
As has been the case for as many years as I’ve been a member of RWA, every book nominated in every category was a book which was published by the “Big 6 plus Harlequin” or a subsidiary. In fact, in two categories this year, every nominated book was a Harlequin release. No exceptions.
How could this still be true today when statistics show that as many independently published books are available (or may even outnumber) traditionally published books? Every week I read stories about authors whose novels were rejected by the big publishers, but, after they self-published them, they sold thousands, even millions, of copies. Why were they not nominated for the Rita?
Of course RWA has a criteria for when an Indie published book is eligible and perhaps none were even entered. There are probably an equal number of books published by small presses which also meet RWA guidelines. I know several authors besides me whose books were published by small houses and entered in the Rita but were not nominated. Yet, the guidelines for entering the Awards stated that members should enter long before the deadline because they expected an overwhelming number this year. Presumably books by new publishers. But none of them got nominated.
I was aware that in the past only novels published by big publishers ever gained these nominations, and hence the awards, but I hoped this year--thanks to all the new books by new publishers now available--it might be different. In addition, my book was a love story set on the Titanic, and this is the year of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship. James Cameron is re-releasing his film, Titanic, and many national magazines carry articles about the disaster. Plus, my novel received three Five-Star reviews. In addition, many of my readers, and at least one of the reviewers, admitted to weeping as she read the scenes of husbands watching their wives get into lifeboats and knew they would never see them again.
Really, I’m perfectly okay with the assumption that my book was simply not good enough to be nominated for a Rita, but no small press books were good enough? Did the judges actually read those books?
I know judges are busy (I’ve been a judge but not for the Rita) and must work toward a deadline which might cause some to skim a book, or not finish reading it. I’m also aware that judges of contests are sometimes prejudiced from the start when they encounter a book from a heretofore unknown publisher. They simply assume that if it wasn’t published by the Big Six, it can’t possibly be any good, so why bother reading it?
I hope I’m wrong about that, but we’ll never know, will we?
Dear fellow-writers, What do you think about this? Did you have a book published by a small press and enter it in the Rita?