RITA rules: A Work in Progress

By now, everyone who cares about e-publishing and the RITA rules has seen the Hotsheet that describes the changes to the RITA contest.  E-published entries are allowed–if printed by the publisher and submitted in perfect-bound format.  The catch is that print published authors will be able to enter the RITA three weeks before e-published authors.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of whether this glass is half-full (yay, e-published authors can not enter!) or half-empty (boo, they’re being treated like second-class citizens).  Let’s just be pragmatic: These are the rules for the RITA for books with a 2009 copyright.  These were not the rules for the RITA for 2008, and they are not going to be the rules for the RITA for 2010.  The board is experimenting with contest rules that are both fair and workable.  Some will undoubtedly think the 2009 rules are unfair; others will suspect that they will be unworkable.  2009 is an experiment, and I doubt that the precise rules in place in 2009 will be adopted for 2010.  The Board wants to see how many entries will show up, and how many judges there will be.  It goes to show that if you want the rules for 2010 to be changed in your favor, it should be your goal to make the 2009 contest as successful as possible for e-published authors.

Without a doubt, some of the people voicing fears that the contest will be unworkable if the e-published are allowed to enter are operating from a point of prejudice.  They don’t think judges will want to judge e-published entries in part because they believe e-published entries are lower quality than print-published entries (false.)  But some of the fears are not prejudiced:  They don’t think they have enough judges to judge all the entries they would get if print published and e-published entries were allowed to submit simultaneously, and in the quantities desired, and the choice to favor print published over e-published results because most PAN members–the ones who judge the contest–are print published, and they want to make sure that the judges also have a chance to enter.

I can’t do anything about the unfairness, which does make me a little sad.  But I can do something about the workability.  As I see it, there are two ways to move on from here.

  1. I can decry the unfairness.
  2. I can help show the rest of the membership that accepting e-published entries is possible.

Personally, I think RWA has taken a step in the right direction by opening up the contest.  They did so despite fears and prejudice, and I’m glad that they’ve taken that step.  I want to prove that they did not make a mistake, and that they can rely on me–and hopefully other members–to take up the slack.  RWA is worried that they won’t have enough judges.  And let’s be frank–I know people who judged the RITAs last year (I was not PAN-eligible when the deadline to sign up had passed).  Some of them were given as many as 9 books to judge over a course of a few months.  I’m sure some of those people are thinking, oh man, what now?  Will I get 10?  11?  12?  It’s that fear of workability that we need to combat.  We can’t do anything about the prejudice.  We can do something about the workability.

That is why I urge all PAN-eligible members of RWA, especially the e-published ones, to apply for PAN (if you have not done so already), and to volunteer to judge the RITA–even if you don’t like the way the board has set up the contest.  Especially if you don’t like the way the board has set up the contest.  The fewer people judge, the less workable the contest seems–and the more likely that e-published entries will be scrapped in the future.  The more people that judge, the more positive a response that is given, the more likely it is that 2010 will see greater inclusion.

Personally, I plan to contact the Board of Directors and the RWA staff in charge of the contest, thank them for this step, tell them that I will judge the RITAs and that I will also offer to judge any extra materials that may crop up in the course of the contest.  If you choose NOT to judge the RITA, you send a clear message to those who worry about workability: You’re not willing to help out to make this work.

Could the contest rules have been more inclusive?  Yes, without a doubt.  But can we make sure that we allay the fears that prevented a complete victory, and demonstrate that we’re willing to help to make sure that next year, when the Board of Directors meets, they say, “We had more than enough judges to allow e-published authors to be treated on par with print published authors.”

That’s the goal.  Think positive!

4 thoughts on “RITA rules: A Work in Progress

  1. Thanks for your thoughtful post, Courtney. I’m encouraged by the new rules. No, they’re not perfect, but it’s progress.

    As for judges, if everyone who enters a book had to judge, wouldn’t that give us enough judges?


  2. Becky,

    It would, but you don’t have to be a PAN member (or even a member of RWA) to enter the RITA. Especially with the new rules, the number of judges is a question.

  3. Okay, just for you.

    I was not going to judge in 2010, because it is a huge time commitment and because I didn’t love anything I judged in 2009.

    But I’m nothing if not dutiful. 😉

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