Monday, April 02, 2007

Why you should care about the RITA

You shouldn't.

Really. Why the f*** should you?

See, this all started a couple of weeks ago (of course, thanks to delays and laziness, I'm once again blogging well after the excitement has died down) over at Romancing the Blog. This post started a kerfuffle about the Ritas, which, for those of you who don't know, are awards given every year at the RWA National convention. Best Long Historical, Best Paranormal, Best Contemporary, etc.

The awards are judged by volunteer RWA members, who I believe need to also be published (by an RWA-recognized publisher. More on that another day. I probably don't think about publisher recognition the way you think I do, just a warning.)

So there you go. The Ritas are awards given by authors, to authors, at a private ceremony. And readers are supposed to care about this why?

The wonderful Smart Bitches did a post the following day, entitled Why I don't Care About the Ritas. Which has some excellent points. In general, the taste of the RWA membership tends to differ from that of many romance readers and other writers. With all due respect, a lot of the Rita judges are ladies who prefer not to have some elements--like, for example, lots of graphic sex--in their books, and enjoy elements--like, say, amnesiacs or secret fucking babies or whatever--which make the rest of us want to throw up.

They did another post about fixing the Rita, cleverly titled How do you solve a problem like the Ritas? More good comments are made, more excellent suggestions, particularly, I think, mine (what a shock) about making the judging less subjective. All judging is subjective, yes, but breaking the book into elements and giving individual scores based on those, rather than an overall 1-9 with no explanation given, might make a difference.

But ultimately...who cares?

See, I think there's three great misconceptions at work here: One, that most readers are even aware of the RWA; two, that most readers give a shit about the RWA or their politics/policies if they are aware of them; and three, that the RWA really matters to anyone in any way, aside from holding what I hear is a pretty good convention once a year and publishing an intermittently interesting magazine for members once a month (the only reason I'm still a member.)

Before I started writing romance, I read it. I've read it all my life. But not once, as I sat down with a juicy Connie Mason or Catherine Lanigan or whomever I was reading at the time, did I think, "I wonder if other writers find this book good enough to give it an award in a private ceremony in Texas?"

Maybe the Ritas are like the Oscars. Maybe. But you know what? I don't really care that much about the Oscars, either. And the only reason why anyone does care about the Oscar is because they're on TV, and we get to wait eagerly for someone to wear a terrible dress or make an outrageously offensive comment about Zionists or something. We don't really care that much about the awards, because they're usually so predictable and lame. Maybe we're excited to see Scorsese finally win (yeah, I admit I totally was), but that's the extent of it.

The problem is, when you're a member of the romance writing community (or a publisher or agent), this stuff seems important. What RWA does and thinks, ooh! The Rita or the Golden Heart (unpubbed writers), wow!

But if you're a reader? You have your own life, your own stuff you care about. Internal squabbles about artistic standards for covers or whatever mean nothing to you, absolutely nothing. Just like the deal-making behind the scenes that gets the movie made means nothing.

The fact is, the RWA membership and readership is too wildly disaparate to effectively judge an award. And the fact is, readers just like to read. None of this matters to them if they have a good story in front of them. And all of this business about why we should care about the Rita feels to me like writers and RWA memeber getting in a snit because nobody's paying attention to them, frankly. You'll care about what they TELL you to care about, damn it!

(Note: Of course I want a Rita. That still doesn't mean I think you should care about them. But when I win an Eisner Award, the whole world better care!)

And by the way...this does NOT alter or make less my heartiest congratulations to the finalists. Seriously. They worked hard and they deserve to feel good. I just don't think the readers should be forced to care about the awards as a whole if they don't.

Edit to add: One, if this topic interests you at all, you should go read Susan Wilbanks' posts about the Golden Heart. Very interesting.

Two, I had added an RSS/Atom feed (I have that SmartFeed thingie there so it should be compatible with all of them, and I plan to add Bloglines as well if you can have both. If you subscribe to my feed, let me know it works okay, please, as I am a dunce with all things like that.)

Three, that leads me to ask again if you guys would bother to occasionally click on ads if I had them, or would you ignore them? I'm thinking about getting them, but I don't want it to be a waste or disruptive. Maybe this should be a separate post? I'll see how comments go.


Bernita said...

You know, in spite of the many intelligent, thoughtful and perceptive comments made on the subject, the thing still comes across, over all, as a we-don't-get-no-respect hissie fit.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Oscars. Brokeback Mountain. Grrrr.

You know, I don't think I've ever heard of a reader going, "Oooh, a RITA award! This must be good!" Silly, silly awards. They all seem to me leftovers of high school popularity contests thinly disguised as elections for class officers...

But that's probably just me. :-)

Sam said...

It's a well known contest, so I suppose that's all right.
I was a judge one year for the Golden Heart, I think. This was Ages ago, so I can't remember. I was a reviewer and they contacted me as such. It was fun, and seemed well organized.
I'm not big on contests really - not a competive bone in my body - a terrible tennis player, I always try to hit the ball TO my opponant, lol. I better stick to golf - just me against the course.

December Quinn said...

It does, doesn't it Bernita? I mean, all of those intelliegent individuals, writers, expressing themselves so beautifully, but the gist of their argument as to why you should care about the Ritas still seems to be, "Well...because we care about it, that's why."

Not a good enough argument for me, I'm afraid.

Yep, all awards really are just popularity contests, aren't they, SW? I think the Rita seems particularly so because it is so subjective, so loosely judged. But then, too, look at all the Oscar winners that nobody remembers while other films from their year of release are classics.

December Quinn said...

Oh, I think judging is fun, Sam. And I don't think tha Rita should be abolished or anything. I just don't see why anyone thinks the readers should care, you know?

Jade McLyon said...

Wow, December, that was quick on the whole RSS feeder thingy. Thank you! Now you can be sure I'll be back here often, because my Bloglines will DING! and remind me to come. LOL!

About ads, I would think with your page rank (3) you could probably do fairly well with ads. Deb Ng's blog for freelance writing jobs ranks at a 4, and she says she is cashing out every month with Google (meaning, she gets more than $100 in ad revenue, because you cannot cash out with less than $100.) I would probably put one, maybe two on, and see how it goes.

Great blog - I'll be back often!


Anonymous said...

Since the RITAs are an industry insider award I think the SAG awards would be a better comparisson than the Oscars. Mind you, I usually think Oscar winning movies are boring and I had to go back to 2001 to find a RITA award winning book I'd even read, so maybe it is valid.

I'm of the opinion that these insider awards really are popularity contests and it's the amount of schmoozing done that decides the winner. One recently published author, whose name kept popping up and was similar to the name of someone I know so I bought the damn thing, has won a ton of awards lately. The book wasn't that great, but she sure had a lot of famous names saying it was.

I've only entered one contest and the finalists haven't been announced yet so I'm reserving judgement on whether or not they're worthwhile. ;)

Anonymous said...

Don't sell out!
I don't like to have to read around crap.
No ads please!

December Quinn said...

You're welcome, Jade! And thanks again.

Where's the rank?

Actually, Seeley, that's a really good comparison--it is more like the SAG awards, isn't it? And yeah, Oscar winning films are often dull. Not always, but often. It seems the one I enjoyed the most is usually the one that loses. :-)

Oooh, email me the author please! :-)

Selling I was actually just thinking they would be unobtrusive and people could ignore them if they wanted, but maybe they'd enable us to eat out once a month or so, since we're so broke. Like, eating soup twice a week because it's all we can afford broke.

I wouldn't want people to have to read around them, though. I've seen some blogs where the ads are right in the middle of a post. I wouldn't do it if they were there. I was thinking they'd be at the top or in a diebar or something.

Anna J. Evans said...

Blechk...Ritas...I really don't care. I mean, I wouldn't refuse to accept one, lol, but it's not on my list of life goals.

Put up some ads wench, I'd click on them to help feed your two lovely children :)


BernardL said...

An award by your peers is always a good thing. The subjective nature of the award runs along the same lines as the agenting and publishing business. I think what we read is affected by subjective consensus in the publishing business, which in turn tries to steer writers like a herd of cattle. :) As to the ads, they won't bother me. If you can make something off the ads, go for it.

Anonymous said...

Well, now I feel like a total heel...


pacatrue said...

I wonder if the Ritas are more like the Grammys. With the movie industry, the major studios and some foreign ones put out about 4 movies a weekend, which gives us 200-odd movies a year. Not a really big number. Of course, tons of other movies are made by indies and such, but those are not really in the running. This means that a movie buff might really have heard of most of the movies up for an Oscar.

But with music, there are hundreds and hundreds of albums put out, and the chances are that only the extreme music buff has ever heard of more than a handful outside of their particular niche. Yeah, a hip-hop obsessed teen will know most of the hip-hop albums, but that's only one of 50 different music categories. The result is that most people don't know the music being nominated, nor do they even like that whole category.

It seems Ritas are kind of in this situation. All a Grammy says is that album X is a good example of Genre X. I read Brenda Coulter's blog and she's an inspirational romance author who was just nominated for a Rita. What this seems to say is simply that she writes good inspirational romances, so that if I wanted to read one, I could do worse than give hers a shot.

And, I'm not a fan of ads either, but if you can go out to dinner with the hubby once a month by me scrolling past the ads, go for it.

Ann(ie) said...

Meh, I vote no to ads for the simple reason you might end up with weird shit on your blog that google thinks is appropriate.

Google also runs ads for those wackadoo fake literary agencies. I'd be straight embarrassed if that shit turned up on my site because it was "writing related."

Cora Zane said...

No one lay the smackdown on me please, but I never really paid that much attention to the RITAs or the Golden Heart. I didn't even know what they were until I joined Romance Divas a little while back.

Everyone loves to get an award, and a little recognition from time to time. Writing is hard work, darn it! But honestly, I don't see RITAs or anything like it gaining the ground with readers they might hope, unless by some chance they decide to air a yearly award show that encompasses all book genres, and doles out awards to a very slim, select number every year based on some kind of merit system, and offered up by an unbiased panel of judges.

I mean, think about the Pulitzer - I always want to see the prize winning photo each year, etc. but I couldn't tell you a single thing about the person who took it. Sad, but true.

Jade McLyon said...

I don't know about Internet Explorer because I don't use it, but if you use Firefox, there is an extension (which you can find here: which gives you the page rank of every website you're on, every time. It just sits down in your toolbar at the bottom of your screen. It's really quite helpful and useful.

I still vote for the ads, just in the right-hand bar, just like you suggested December. Then that way I don't have to scroll past anything; I can just ignore it if I want to. Or click on it feed your children. ;-)



Rebecca said...

Hey December - great post. The fact that the RITA's have been compared to some kind of internal popularity contest turns me completely off.

Far too much like all the unpleasant aspects of school. ERK

December Quinn said...

Exactly, Anna. I'd take it if it was offered to me, but I wouldn't expect anyone else to care, you know?
Of course you do. Because you're awesome.

Sometimes the subjectivity of all of it is scary, isn't it Bernard? I've never really believed the whole "The industry doesn't know what's really good" stuff, but the enormity of it makes me feel widgy sometimes.

December Quinn said...

Don't feel like that, Seeley. I was just trying to explain where I was coming from, that I wasn't like "Oooh, maybe I can make millllions muahahaha!"

That's true, too Paca. We know the movies in the Oscars. We don't know the nominees for Best Bluegrass Album or Best Instrumental with Goats if we don't happen to listen to that stuff.
So I guess the Ritas are sort of SAG Grammys?

That's very true, Annie, that is a fear. I'd hate to look like I was advocating any of those sites...

December Quinn said...

No smackdown here, Cora! I agree totally. I think you got to my point much faster than I managed to!
And thanks for the comment, I seem to recall you've been here before too right? Nice to see you again!

Wow, Jade, that's cool too. I do use Internet Explorer, because I don't know how to use anything else, despite the fact that apparently using IE marks me as a goon, someone deeply declasse with no hope of ever being special. :-) But I will see what I can do.

It is a turn-off, isn't it Rebecca? Ugh...even remembering high school turns my stomach! Hey, if we were good with people we wouldn't choose to do a job that involves staying home alone, right? Lol.
Thanks for the comment!

BernardL said...

It is a daunting task to come up with writing, which will slip by subjective agents, who don't seem to care what your target audience is. We've all heard the mantra, 'it's all about the writing'. Although I believe that to be the main guideline, I am positive it ain't the only one. :)

Anonymous said...

I dislike awards for so many reasons. Most recently it's because there are some people who win awards because they happen to know someone and get in on something that wins it. Then they use said thing as one more reason why they're better than you. No, not everyone is like this, but I have a big personal beef with people who get things they don't earn (like writers who get a deal because they know someone, or because of nepotism). The people who deserve what they get are people who work at it. Look at Joe Hill, he kept his little secret completely secret until AFTER he had a deal for a book. (If you don't know, he is Joe Hill- King. Yup. That King. And he got a book deal on his own merits.)

Also, if you couldn't tell unfair elitism and popularity contests bring out a really vicious side in me and I prefer to not be snipy and angry all the time.

I do believe most of these awards are about friends and big names now day, not talent. Oh, and things that really are new and exciting often get left behind as "too difficult". New things make people uncomfortable so often, they pass them up.

I have a problem with "authority" because I don't think respect should be given to someone just because of their awards/position. (Respect, not professionalism.)

Scary Monster said...

Lovely Rita meter maid, lovely Rita meter maid

Lovely Rita meter maid, nothing can come between us
when it gets dark I tow your heart away
Standing by a parking meter when I caught a glimpse of Rita
Filling in the ticket in her little white book.

I the cap she looked much older
And the bag across her shoulder
made her look a little like a military man.

Lovely Rita meter maid, may I inquire discreetly,
When you are free to take some tea with me

Took her out and tried to win her,
Had a laugh and over dinner
Told her I would really like to see her again

Got the bill and Rita paid it,
Took her home and nearly made it
Sitting on a sofa with a sister or two.

Oh, lovely Rita meter maid, where would I be without you,
Give us a wink and make me think of you.


December Quinn said...

I can't wait to read Joe Hill's book, michele! I saw it at Waterstone's last weekend but it's only in hardback and as money is tight...I picked up a couple of £2 classics from Penguin instead. :-) But the book looks GOOOD!

I agree, a lot of contests do feel like simply popularity contests these days, don't they? This is one reason why, sadly enough, it's difficult to trust reader voting as well, because so many fans seem to gang up and vote a million times, or whatever.

December Quinn said...'s a good song, but not my favorite Beatles song??

Anonymous said...

I've never card too much about awards, especailly awards given within an industry, to members of that industry. Being recognized by those outside your own idustry is more genuine, I believe.

Having said that, I hope you get the recognition you should get from within and without the RWA. -V95

Robyn said...

You're absolutely right about one thing- I've read romances most of of my life, but I had no freaking clue about RWA or Rita or any of this crap before I started hanging out at e-Harlequin when I started to write.

Would I like to win a Rita someday? Of course I would. Will I be crushed if I don't? No. At this point, if I get published and someone actually buys the book, I will all up over the moon.

kis said...

Okay, so you put up ads, I'm good so far. But I never really knew, do I actually have to click them for you to make money? And can you make more money if I just sit there and click one ad over and over, or every day? Cause, yanno, I might click more ads if I knew it was putting some scratch in the pocket of the blog owner. At this point, I mostly just ignore them.

I'm not even really going to comment on the RITAs. The whole thing just seems silly and self-congratulatory to me. Kinda like a kick-ass heroine written in first person... It's like the highschool cheerleading squad all voting on which of them is the prettiest. That attitude is why, as a girl, I used to rip the limbs off Barbie dolls.

Rhian / Crowwoman said...

Me! Me! Me! I don't care about the Rita's! Who is she again?
Don't roll your eyes - that's about as funny as i get tonight. Took me forever to figure out what some of these writer's acronyms stood for. It was like y'all were talking in code. Fortunately given enough time and enough smacks upside the head i finally start picking up the clues.

December - you're the first i've seen in awhile explain the meaning of an acronym when using it. Thanks for not making me strain my wee brain.

Robyn said...

I'm not even really going to comment on the RITAs. The whole thing just seems silly and self-congratulatory to me. ... It's like the highschool cheerleading squad all voting on which of them is the prettiest.

Hee, kis. You reminded me of a friend of mine who played Silver Screen Trivial Pursuit with me. I'm pretty good at it (which is not really something to be proud of) and was getting right answer after right answer and all happy about it, and she said, "You know, Robyn, this is kinda like watching you masterbate." :O

December Quinn said...

Well thanks, V95! I agree, it seems like recognition from people outside the industry is more an indication that you've really touched something, doesn't it?

Right, Robyn, that's how I feel! I'd love to have one, I would, but I don't think it matters to anyone but RWA members--or SOME RWA members. And I'd never heard of the RWA until a romance writer called in to the credit card company I worked for. And even then it wasn't until I joined and started getting involved in the online romance community that I really cared. Hell, I still don't care that much. :-)

Kis, I'm not entirely certain how it works, I think it's a combination. Like, every 1000 page veiws nets something, but it's better if you click on them? But I'm not allowed to just encourage you to click indiscriminately, and I can be kicked out of the program if I do. So really, only click if something actually looks interesting.

December Quinn said...

You're welcome, Rhian! I try to explain--but I don't think I've been as good as I could/should be, so I will try harder. Thanks for the reminder.

Lol, Robyn! That's what it's like playing the Sex and the City trivia game with me, I'm afraid. I'm so highbrow.

Rhian / Crowwoman said...

oh please. you're such a total goddess, just as you are.

December Quinn said...

Oh yes, I am a goddess. Me and the Morrighan, righting the wrongs. :-)

Isabella Snow said...

Eh, I dunno. I don't personally pay attention to awards. Apart from the Nobels.

I have about 20 friends who do the grammy voting every year. It's all down to who you know, and who actually wants to know you.

And, kissing ass.

Awards are great when you get them, they make you feel good. But in the long run it's all subjective.

And in my experience, the people voting (not talking books, but I wouldn't be surprised if its the same) are usually clueless.

Look at that American Idol girl who was voted off and won an Oscar, for fucks sake!

Cowell's got to feel like a right twat for that one.