>Whenever RWA’s National Conference rolls each year something generally creates some friction within the organization. One thing that just reared its head then died a quick death because of a missed deadline was a request for the RWA Board to consider adding an ER/E category to the RITA/Golden Heart contests. There’s been some heated discussion about this topic in a couple of quarters, and over a year ago, I posted about why a separate category was needed.
They say it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, but I rarely do unless new info on a particular subject comes to light. Here’s the crux of it if you’re in the dark. A large number of writers in the ER/E community want their own category in the RITA and GH. The predominant reason I hear is an ER/E category is needed so our work is judged fairly. Writers want to be judged by others who’re familiar with the structure of ER/E. I understand this mindset given letters to the RWR this past year as well as debacles at the AGM over the past few years. I also keep hearing that ER/E deserves its own category since Inspry has their own.
As I understand it, RITA and GH categories are defined based on established subgenres. From my limited perspective and knowledge, my guess is Inspry got their own category because it became an established subgenre. If this is true, then this is the strongest justification for an ER/E category, primarily because ER/E is its own subgenre. It’s been around for quite some time. Ellora’s Cave was founded in 2000 to provide ER/E to readers, and that was eight years ago. I’d say that qualifies as an established subgenre. However, the real question is what the parameters RWA uses to define a subgenre as established. If they only define the establishment of a subgenre based on print publication (which is my guess), then ER/E is probably not be an established subgenre from RWA’s viewpoint, despite the subgenres birth and roots in ePublishing and its continued growth in that medium over the past eight years. In terms of NY print, it’s only been around for about three years. That might not be enough staying power for some of RWA’s powers that be.
Mixing The Batter
Added into the mix are a lot of ER/E works that easily fit into the categories that are already established subgenres. But then I believe that’s true of a number of inspry books as well. All of this still points back to a desire by writers to have judges reading their work who understand the subgenre of romance. Particularly fiction on opposite spectrums that can incite strong emotional reactions (religion and sex, hell doesn’t get any hotter than discussions on these topics!). Further complicating the issue for me is my recent discussion with writers who received their scores from this year’s RITA contest.
In a recent discussion with several ER/E authors, I learned their RITA scores ranged from 4s to 9s with a number of the scores leaning toward higher numbers (7s and 8s) as opposed to lower ones, and I don’t recall any 1s, 2s or 3s either. I pointed out to one of the authors who’d received all high scores except for one low number that she’d done really well given the fact that there are up to 1200 entries allowed in each category (and her category is a popular one). I mean she was sporting numbers over six in all but one score. That’s great given it was an ER/E with some quite erotic elements. I interpreted the results as saying that the judges who read the book were able to look at the book objectively and not judge it harshly simply because it had erotic content. So for me, this discussion on RITA scores seriously impacts the argument that ER/E won’t be judged fairly. Granted, this was a small group of writers, but I’m going to encourage the special interest chapter for ER/E, Passionate Ink, to poll its members for scores so we can study the issue more closely.
Oven Set to 350 Fahrenheit
So has this new information changed my mind completely? No. I can still see the devil in the details, and I am convinced ER/E is a legitimate, fully established subgenre. But I’m not convinced that we can claim unfair judging as a reason for establishing the category. However, I can see the possibility of an entry being entered into say the paranormal category and then SLAM the entry is marked as being in the wrong category because in the judge’s opinion it’s ER/E. This is one of the downsides to having an ER/E category.
What I’d really like to see is something so radical that it won’t ever happen! I’d love to see the RITA’s and GH condensed down to the best top 10 or 20 books out of all entries. Claire Delacroix mentioned that idea to me not to long ago and I loved it. (Claire said 10, but I think 20 would be more fair and well-rounded). There would be no subgenre categories at all. It would be about what the majority viewed as being the top books of the year. On top of that it would make the awards event not so long and drawn out.
Then there’s THIS idea. Why doesn’t RWA work with booksellers to establish a reader-based contest? Yes, RT does this, but I’m suggesting something that is coordinated via the booksellers versus a magazine. This could be a way of promoting romance in a way that RWA’s never done before. Let the reader decide what they consider the best of the best.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter, because IMHO, the RITAs and the GH are like the Oscars of the romance fiction world. It’s really nice to be recognized by your peers. The only difference is that our awards don’t generally carry that much weight when it comes to money (i.e., increased reader sales, and I’m not convinced it means more money in advances). I think a final or win in these two contests are more like an accomplishment on a resume as opposed to greater financial gain. It’s earning respect for your work from your peers. While that’s important, it’s the opinion of readers that help us butter our bread. Thus I’m slowly coming to the party with the thought that what my peers think of me isn’t necessarily as important as what my readers think of my books.
See, I was half-baked and I’m still cooking!! LOL