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Dishing on RITA or Where I Piss Off RWA and Its Authors and Readers Will Vow Never to Buy My Books

21 Jul 2009
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I don’t think I’ll ever attend an RWA National Conference.  Why would I when I can read all about it on the various author loops?

To start, I’m on the fence about renewing my RWA membership at the end of this month because I don’t see any benefit to myself.  (Frankly, I see little benefit for the other members, but I can’t speak for them.)  If certain authors get their way and PAN members are required to judge future RITA contests whether or not they enter, I’ll be taking the RWA membership fee and putting it towards my 2010 Honda Fit fund.  Their argument is I should give back to RWA because of the additional benefits I receive as a PAN member.  Dudes, my only benefit as a PAN member is a link on the RWA web site.  Seriously, that’s it.  Oh, and there’s the occasional bring-out-the-popcorn kerfuffle on the PAN loop that makes the kerfuffles on Dear Author seem second rate.

When I posted what I thought was the RITA process at DA, someone claimed books are disqualified only after three judges have marked it as not romance and RWA is in the right to keep the registration fee because of all the costs incurred by the RWA up to that point.  Seriously?  It costs USD$50 (USD$100?–RWA took down the instructions on how to enter the RITAs and I never entered, so I’m guessing here) to sort and mail out a handful of books?

If there are such high costs associated with the current RITA process, have the powers-that-be considered going digital?  Think of the money and time savings of submitting e-books instead of print books.  And on-line judging forms.  And maybe RWA will be able to fulfill their obligation to the entrants who request judging forms be sent to them.  However, realist that I am, an ice cube has a better chance of surviving in hell than RWA has of embracing technology anytime soon.  Sometimes I feel like I’m dealing with a bunch of Luddites when it comes to RWA, which is ironic since romance readers are usually the first to embrace technology that helps feed their addiction.

Anyway, my main issue is not with RWA not refunding the registration fee after the books reach the hands of judges.  My main issue is how RWA disqualifies books right at the start and stills keeps the registration fee because the books don’t meet the rules that seem to change every year (i.e. mass market, non-vanity, non-subsidy, whatever–I have no desire to wade through the RWA-ese).  Authors, confused by the new set of rules and who didn’t receive replies from RWA when they asked for clarification, send in five or six copies of their title, the forms, and the registration fee, hoping their books will qualify and if they don’t, they’ll be out the shipping and return fee.  Or, RWA, don’t return the books.  How about not cashing the attached cheque or not charging the credit cards?  As if.  Many authors found out RWA is not that considerate this contest season.  Two words, folks: money grab.

In theory, when PAN members volunteer to judge the RITAs, they select the category(ies) they feel qualified to judge.  In reality, since there is always a shortage of judges, those little check marks on the volunteer forms are meaningless so some judges will receive titles that make them go WTF?  Thus, some judges have admitted to not even reading the books they are sent.  They judge based on the author (i.e. Is it someone they know personally?  Is it an author they like? etc.), the cover, the blurb, etc.  Makes you feel good, doesn’t it?  Of course, some do it out of sheer frustration with RWA’s ever-changing rules and the divisiveness engendered by them.  Hey, some of these judges had their own books disqualified not because of content or lack thereof, but because of their publisher, their print run, whatever.

Next year, to “appease” the small press authors, RWA will allow them to enter the RITAs…but only THREE WEEKS AFTER the NY authors submit their titles.  Nice.  NY authors get first dibs, fill up the slots, and small press authors have to scramble like…well, you select a simile.  But hey, RWA is giving small press authors their chance, right?  Shouldn’t that be enough?  Shouldn’t they shut up and go away now?  What do you mean they want to be treated like equals?!?  Blasphemy!

Now, as a former auditor, I find the behind-the-scenes of the RITAs jaw-dropping.  There’s a process; it’s a flawed process, yet it’s not even being followed.  If I was auditing the RITAs, there would be audit memos left, right, and center.  Maybe that’s just me.  However, I hope non-auditors find their eyes widening as well.

Personally, I don’t care about the RITAs.  I’ll never enter unless the RITAs become more like the Hugo Awards.  Probably not even then because I’ve yet to be convinced winning a RITA will sell more books,  Then why the rant?  Because what I do care about is an organization that claims to “advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers,” that has “RWA members strive to treat fellow members, RWA staff, and others with respect” under its code of ethics–essentially support everyone willing to fork over USD$85 (USD$95 for me because I’m a Canuck)–yet belie these pretty words with its own divisive and dismissive actions.  It’s wrong.  Next thing you know, small press authors will be asked to sit in the back of the room.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 23 Jul 2009 9:34 AM

    I can’t manage to get riled up about any RWA debate. Maybe because I know a lot of RWA members and a lot of ebook authors and I like both sets of people.

    Hey, can you help me, techie? I need to know how to make a screen look…narrower. My new laptop is driving me crazy. Looks like a wide screen TV, ugh.

  2. Ann Bruce permalink
    23 Jul 2009 9:14 PM

    Jill, personally, RWA is an afterthought for me and I’m not too big into awards. Received way too many trophies, plaques, ribbons, pins, and certificates in school for them to have much meaning. However, RWA’s treatment of a certain section of its members is appalling. If you haven’t already, check out the current discussion on the PAN loop. I love the latest excuses for the new RITA rules.

    As for your screen, if you have a wide screen computer, it’s meant to look like a wide screen TV so you can watch HD movies. However, you can change the screen resolution to something smaller (Windows: Start -> Control Panel -> Display Properties -> Settings; Mac: System Preferences -> Display). Keep in mind two things: (1) changing the resolution will change the height and width (custom resolutions are not allowed for obvious reasons), so you would lose some vertical pixels if you go narrower and (2) deviating too much from the native resolution can cause the display to be a little unstable and it might revert back.

    Of course, you can also adjust the application window. I do this mainly with Word because I don’t want too much white space on the sides when I’m writing.

  3. 24 Jul 2009 7:40 AM

    I’m not a member of PAN. I guess I should join.

    Yeah, I think my computer (Dell studio) has some automatic thing that doesn’t let me change the res. I will try to adjust the app window! That sounds good, because it’s only in Word that this bothers me. It just looks all stretched out.

    I also have ms word 07 now, and I much prefer 03. I get so used to one program, computer, etc, hate changes!


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