Today is the day the RITA calls go out. In case anyone isn't familiar with the RITAs, it's the top contest (for published books) that the romance genre has. It's a big deal for someone to win--at least in our little world, but outside of it? I'd argue, not so much.
I read the big three genres of fiction: mystery, scifi/fantasy and romance. Each has a big contest. The Mystery Writers of America has the Edgar. The World Science Fiction Society has the Hugo. And as a reader, I used to search those winners out; the contests are even listed at Amazon under Awards: Books. But the RITA? I'd never heard of it before I joined RWA, and it isn't anywhere on Amazon.
Perusing the web sites for the three contests you can see a few differences:
- The Edgars are free.
- As is the Hugo.
- The RITAs require a fee.
- The Edgars are judged by a committee. One committee for each category with five members on each. Thus each entry is read and judged by the same five people, all MWA members (which means they are published in the genre).
- The Hugo is completely chosen by popular vote by members of the World Science Fiction Society--you can not enter a book. It has to be nominated by the membership and a vote of this membership also determines the winner.
- The RITA is judged by published members of RWA. Each judge receives entries from various categories and books within a category are not all judged by the same judges. Finalist are judged by another group of published RWA members.
- The Edgars has among other things categories for books, TV series, movies and short stories.
- The Hugos has among other things categories for books, short stories, fanzines, artists.
- The RITAs has categories for books and novellas only.
Another thing that I see as a difference is the number of contests sponsored by local chapters. That really only happens in RWA. So, in any year, there are hundreds of "award winners".
I'm sure there are other differences, but these are the big four I see.
Which brings us back to the question--why doesn't the RITA get the recognition of these other contests outside the RWA world? Is it one or all of these elements? Or is it bias against romance? Should we look at doing something to increase the visibility of RITA outside RWA or should we look somewhere else for an award that has the same prestige for romance as an Edgar or Hugo does for mystery and scifi? Perhaps something that honors romance in all its forms: movies, TV shows, blogs, short stories, etc.? Or does it not matter at all? Would the romance genre not benefit from a higher profile contest?
What do you think?