Wednesday, July 24, 2013


While I was on vacation, two interesting things happened in the publishing world. A first mystery novel by a heretofore unknown male author got great reviews but poor sales. Then it was found to have been written by J. K. Rowling, and sales skyrocketed. Plenty of bloggers have discussed this, so I will refrain, except to say I believe Rowling wanted to have her work judged on its merits and not her name, and it’s sad she was “outed” so soon.

Speaking of “Names...”


The RWA Conference was held in Atlanta last week and the Rita and Golden Heart Winners were announced. The Ritas are for published books, so the judges know which companies published them and, as usual, only books published by the Big Five and Harlequin, won the eleven category awards. Altogether, there were 81 Finalists, yet, with the exception of five from Amazon’s Montlake Romance, no finalists were either self-published or from a small press.

IMHO, the outdated belief that, unless a book is published by the Big Five, it can’t possibly be any good so judges don’t vote for it, persists. I hoped the myth had died by now, but apparently not. I wonder if - had the same books been entered in manuscript - as in the Golden Heart, the results would have been different.

When self-published books are topping Best Seller lists time after time, how can this bias still exist? I find it hard to believe that of the many small press and self-published books entered in the contest, none were deemed good enough even to final. When will we see recognition for books published for their quality instead of a big New York corporation, which are actually mostly non-American?

They are British, German, French, Australian and Canadian. In addition to all the other categories in which Harlequin has finalists, the Short Contemporary Series category should be titled “The Harlequin Category,” because every finalist is one of their books. Every year. Here’s a radical idea: Since the name of our association is Romance Writers of America, how about allowing only books published by American publishers to compete?

Every year, when the winners are announced, I think, “Maybe next year,” but I don’t intend to enter again (I did in 2011) until things change.


On the other hand, I’m happy to report that, over at the Daphne du Maurier Awards, not only were four self-published books among the Finalists, but three of them became the winners of three of the six categories. That’s half, more like reality.

Not that they didn’t have plenty of competition. Seven of the thirty-two finalists were Harlequin books, five were Penguin, three were Pocket titles, and six were from other Big publishers. However, in addition to the four self-published books, two were from Amazon’s Montlake and seven from small presses.

Readers, am I the only one who feels this way? Tell me, please.


  1. Hi Phyllis, The RITA awards are going to accept self-published novels next year.

    Plus, since I'll be a self-published author next year, maybe I will have a chance to win a RITA or a Daphne! I believe there is actually going to be a bias in favor of self-published authors. There certainly was at the Daphne Awards this year.

    Jillian Stone

    1. Jillian:

      Thanks for the information. I hope you're right that, like the Daphnes, there will be much support for self-published books. However, many books were submitted to the Ritas by small publishers and none of those ever finaled. Thanks for the comment, and I wish you success next year.

  2. Phyllis, I 100% agree with you. It's obvious small press and self-published books don't have a chance. I hadn't heard that RITA will accept self-published novels next year. That's a step in the right direction, but I don't share Jillian's optimism. I would have to see some results before wasting my time and money again.

    1. Shirley. Thanks for the comment. Authors who don't want to learn self-publishing use small presses, so many good books are published there too.

  3. My question is: who judges these contests?

    1. John: Judges are published RWA members. I was one this year. I asked not to be given any paranormal, SF or YA books since I don't write or read those. I received 9 books but sent two back because they had vampires. All the rest were by big publishers, mostly Harlequin. I gave honest opinions, but one was so bad I don't know how it got published in the first place. Thanks for the comment. Pass on my views if you like. I have one of your books in my Kindle now and look forward to reading it.

  4. Hi Phyllis...

    In the LA Times today, they reported that Rowling sold 8500 copies (print, audio, & ebook) of "The Cuckoo's Calling" before she was outed. She had also previous to outing received two offers for TV adaptation. The TV offers had to be the work of her agent or publisher with a wink about who the author was IMO.


    1. Bob:
      On one of the blogs I follow, a British newspaper reported that her lawyer admitted someone in his office told a "trusted friend" who told someone who put it on Twitter. It was removed immediately but the damage had been done. It was brave of the lawyer to admit this, because he could be disbarred. As I said, and Rowling said too, it was an experiment to see if her writing had merit outside her name. God knows she doesn't need the money from book sales or TV. The book had early positive reviews so it's possible TV offers were the result of those. Thanks so much for the comment.


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