Saturday, April 16, 2016

My Take on Book Contests

I'm writing this post ahead of time, since I'll be at the RT Booklovers' Convention April 12th through 17th, so for once I have NO idea what the other Whores will say on the topic.

I have submitted books to various contests conducted within the Romance Writers of America (RWA) chapters. Yes, there's a fee for entering but the proceeds go to help the nonprofit organization and the chapters provide services to their members. (I'm a member.) I kind of fell into it the first year I was published, when everyone I knew at Carina Press was rushing around to enter the RITA, which is 'the' big award in romance writing, and I happily went along.

After that I entered more RWA contests, not all by any means, and I don't do it for the feedback, or to get my books in front of agents or publishers. Since I'm independently published, neither of those is a concern to me. Although it is nice to think maybe you'll gain some readers after the judges read the book you submit! I kind of enjoyed the validation in those early days that my books were good enough to place or to win, when read alongside my peers. I have a goodly collection of Finals or Awards, noted on my book's pages. No need to recap here. I'm proud of the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award for Escape From Zulaire and the Hearts Through History Romancing the Novel Award for Magic of the Nile. I loved having additional points to add to the book descriptions in Amazon.

After the big kerfluffle about the 2015 RITAs, where a questionable and distasteful (to me and many others) book reached the Finals in one category, I hesitated to enter again. I finally did and probably will in the future, because it is our 'big' award after all. But one problem I have is that the majority of my books are science fiction romance and have to be lumped into the RITA Paranormal category, where they don't belong.

So I asked myself why I was entering contests at all any more and pretty much decided to stop. I love
feedback from readers and am always so happy when someone takes the time to let me know via a review, a tweet or a message that they enjoyed the story! The readers'  opinions are what ultimately matter, not whether three people or five people assigned to judge read the book and subjectively felt it scored high enough for an award (after tossing the outlier scores etc etc.). Awards are nice and I very much appreciate the ones I've garnered. It's a lovely little adrenaline rush to get that e mail or phone call that your book Finaled, or won. I may decide to enter another contest here and there, but I've pretty much moved on. I don't believe the awards - not even the RITA - mean a thing to the vast majority of readers. So if it makes me happy to enter, well and good, but that's about where it stops. There are better ways to find new readers! For me anyway...

I love my SFR Galaxy Awards, which are bestowed by science fiction romance bloggers, not in a contest.

I'd be thrilled to win an Academy Award some day but not holding my breath!

Just to be complete, there are a number of commercial organizations that  bestow 'book awards' as a marketing tool to then prevail on the 'winners' to pay for medals and etc. Here's a Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Writers Beware post on that topic.

And of course there are many other perfectly legitimate book awards....

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