Is it worth the RITA?

March 24, 2012

Monday morning, the calls will go out to the finalists for RWA’s equivalent of the Oscars – the RITA award. Due to the rules of this contest, this was the first year I was eligible to enter. Am I expecting a call? HELL NO! Based on previous years’ finalists, my historical paranormal based on Lakota legends doesn’t stand a chance.

Note: If do get a call, fully expect me to go into labor from the shock of it.

The world of publishing is changing faster than RWA can keep up. Based on the current rules, self-published books and digital-only books are not allowed to enter. But if you look at the NYT and USA Today bestseller lists, these type of books are competing neck and neck with traditionally published books for those coveted spots. So as an author, I’m faced with the question of what I want from my career.

As nice as it would be to get that little golden statue one day, I’m not sure that’s the way I want to gauge my success. I’d much rather have “Bestselling Author” above my name than “Rita Award-Winning Author”. Why? Well, for starters, if I’m hitting the lists, it means I’m selling thousands of books, and that means I’m making some serious money. As a career-minded writer, bringing home the bacon is more important than a little gold statue.

And speaking of bacon, the higher royalty rates offered by self-publishing and digital-only publishers mean I’d take home more of the cover price for each book sold than traditional print publishing. Entangled Publishing recently shared the numbers earned by one of their best-selling Indulgence authors – Jennifer Probst. The $51,600 she earned in the first month of publication is far more than most similar category romance writers earn from Harlequin (based on the numbers provided to Brenda Hiatt’s Show Me the Money site). But since the Indulgence line is digital-only, Jennifer’s highly successful book will not be able to enter the RITA (unless Entangled does a special print run for her). Do you think she minds when she’s getting type of royalty check? Of course, I can’t answer for her, but as for me, I wouldn’t be crying about not being able to enter the RITA.

Based on my current contracts and scheduled release dates, I should be able the enter the RITA contest for the next 2 years. But after that, I’m left with the question of “Is it worth the RITA?” Will I continue to pursue publication with print publishers so I can enter the RITA? Or will I opt for the higher royalty rates offered by non-traditional publishing? Granted, not everyone will have Jennifer’s success, but the potential is still there.

What are your thoughts?



  1. One, love the look and feel of the blog, especially the banner. Two, I too would rather rake in the dough. At the same time the recognition would be nice. A time or two I may or may not have imagined what standing up there would feel like. And then the realization would hit that my books would never be eligible. *shrug* I’m good with that.

    Anyway, best of luck.

    • Thank you, Sofia! And yes, being the total contest whore that I am, I’d love the recognition, but I also know that what I write is outside the “norms”, so my chances of winning are slim to none. I’m happy with fan mail and a regular royalty check. 🙂

  2. Great topic. I was pondering this last night when I heard the calls were going out Monday. What is the RITA but a title an author can wear? It won’t bring you contracts, will it? I’m really not sure.

    The Golden Heart I understand more since it bring agents and editors to your book.

    • I totally agree that the GH is a big deal when you’re an unpublished author trying to break into the industry, but I’m still on the fence about the RITA helping with contracts. In the industry, yes, it’s something you can bring to the table when negotiating contracts, etc. But to the average reader (who’s buying your book), would it help?

  3. The Golden Heart and RITA Awards are great achievements, but they aren’t the only achievements. While I would be honored to receive recognition from my peers, in the long run, I’d rather have #1 NYT Best selling author splashed across the dust jacket of my books (and watch my advances and print runs go up and up, haha).

    • LOL – I’m totally there with you, Evangeline. 🙂

  4. Interesting question. Well, I guess the beauty of is you can have RITA eligible works and non-eligible works published in the same year.

    It’s too easy to say, I’d rather have sales than accolades. Cause sure, who wouldn’t rather sell thousands and thousands of copies. 🙂 I think there are different sorts of books. Plenty of big sellers have never received any awards. Things get more interesting when you have a book that would get a huge boost from national recognition like the RITA which would otherwise be ignored.

    Let’s *ahem* take a historical set in Tang Dynasty China for example. Not to make this about me, but it’s a decent example and the only one I can speak to. A book like that has to overcome a lot of barriers to get readership. An award like the RITA would be a huge boost to get to the next step and there’s no chance at a wider readership without some big boost/big break. I could self-publish and face the same exact dilemma but with less recognition and marketing behind me. The end goal then isn’t to get awards, but to work towards a larger print run/more contracts and thus a wider readership.

    Butterfly Swords wasn’t nominated for a RITA, but it was nominated for a Golden Heart. I think for a lot of books, the GH is no big deal, but for a book like Butterfly Swords, it was absolutely critical to make both publishers and readers take notice.

    I’d expect recognition like the RITA would have a similar effect on a smaller, niche book like that. For your historical paranormal based on Lakota legends, it might be just the ticket.

    Now, it would be nice to find out first hand if that’s true or not, right? *vbg*

    • Jeannie, I’m so glad Butterfly Swords won the GH because it did open readership to a very niche historical period — you know, one that isn’t based in England during the reign of the Prince Regent and populated by more dukes than you can shake a stick at. 😛

      (Note: while I love Regencies, I would like to read more historicals set in other places and time periods, which is why I love your Tang Dynasty books)

      And yeah, I as much as I’d love to experiment with seeing how becoming a finalist for a major award like the RITA (or the BBA, etc) would help boost sales, I’m not holding my breath because what I write is not the typical paranormal romance (which is the category that my books keep falling into in contests). Like I said, if my little book finaled in the RITA, expect Bubba to be born later that day. 😛

      In the meantime, I’ll be experimenting in the next few weeks with seeing how a great review in RT will affect sales.

      • My philosophy is that it’s not about sales on THIS book. It’s about selling the next book and getting a wider readership then. But I have so little experience and can’t really track sales so it’s really just a philosophy.

  5. HI Christa! What a thoughtful, fascinating blog post! Thanks for the mention, and you made some great points. I’ve always dreamed of being nominated for a Rita of course, but yes, there are many contests and titles we may not fit into. The bottom line? Fan letters by readers who love your work is the best. Second is being able to pay bills by living your dream! Love your site!

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