It’s a Story—It’s a File—It’s a BOOK

August 19, 2011 by in category Blogs tagged as , , with 5 and 0
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Monica Stoner, Member at Large

My Killer, My Love was released in an e-book format on May 22, culminating decades of work and wishes. Even now, two whole long months later, writing those words give me a quick thrill of accomplishment. Then last week while I was immersed in hospital visits, long time commitments, and work, I received a proof hard copy of the book.

I have always maintained that a digital book is a book. Period. My Kindle is loaded with other writer’s stories and I have absolutely as much respect for their words on the screen as for their words on paper. Still I’m old enough and have been around books enough to feel an extra jolt of “wow” to hold my words bound together behind their beautiful cover.

All positive. And as I’m basking in the glow of loving my publisher, my cover, my characters who have become such an integral part of my life I suddenly realize: I can enter the RITA. Now how cool is THAT? Just to be sure, I pull up the RITA rules. Yep, we’re eligible, according to the RWA website:

“Eligible Novel” means a work of Romance Fiction of at least 40,000 words (as determined by computer word count) that is offered for sale in a readable or audio format to the general public by a publisher for which the author receives payment as stipulated in a written contract from a publisher, and for which the author does not participate in the costs of production in any manner, including but not limited to publisher assessment of a fee or other costs for editing, preparation, and/or distribution. A novel does not qualify if the publisher withholds or seeks full or partial payment or reimbursement of publication or distribution costs before paying royalties, including payment of paper, printing, binding, production, sales or marketing costs. The work must not be exclusively promoted and/or sold by the author or have distribution that is primarily directed toward sales to the author, his/her relatives and/or associates. The work must not be self-published.”

Now, I understand rules and the necessity of having certain guidelines for a contest. But I have to admit to being just a bit confused about the ban on self published work. If we’re supposed to be judging the story as written, why the restriction on how the book is produced? Is there some fear a self published novel will be better than one produced by a major publisher? I can somewhat understand blocking the self published from membership in PRO or PAN status, but we’re talking here about a contest to choose the best romance books published during the previous year. Wouldn’t we want that to be the absolute best, no matter what the origin?

Taking this to a comparison with my “other life”—showing and judging purebred dogs—in theory shows are judged “blind.” In other words when you enter the show ring, the judge’s job is to evaluate the dog only. Not the owner or handler, not the pedigree, not the record. The dog. Being human, that doesn’t always happen, but the principle is why someone who works fifty hours a week to pay the bills and support their canine hobby, then cuts corners just to exhibit is willing to pit themselves against the deep pocket books of other breeders and owners. They know if their dog is a good example of the breed and is presented as well as the other dogs in the ring, they have at least a fighting chance to walk out of there with a win.

Do you feel restricting the contest to only those books from the “right” source is in the best interest of writing?

Monica Stoner writes as Mona Karel.  Her first novel, MY KILLER MY LOVE was published in May by Black Opal Books and is currently available as an e-book. 


  • Anonymous
    on August 26, 2011

    Thanks for the comments – self published is only part of the issue. Some of the smaller e-pub presses will pub in hard copy after a certain number of digital copies are sold, or if the author fronts the production fee. This is a financial issue only and has nothing to do with the quality of the writing. We all know we can find good bad and indifferent from big and small publishing companies.
    As far as the size of the contest, isn't there already a limit?

  • Anonymous
    on August 26, 2011

    While this by no means makes the rule fair in the new publishing landscape, I'd guess the single biggest reason for the rule is size control. Most contests have trouble finding enough judges to read published books. Finding enough to read the massive influx that would come from opening up the gates to self-pubbed books would likely be near impossible. And to compound that problem, many people who might otherwise be willing to judge will balk at the prospect of having to read self-pubbed books, because while there are certainly quite a few truly exceptional self-pubbed books, the majority of them are still riddled with problems that stem from an author's unreadiness to publish and/or a lack of proper editing.

    That said, for those who are putting out exceptional self-pubbed works, it's very unfortunate that they can't participate in things like this.

  • Anonymous
    on August 26, 2011


    I'm not defending RWA but I think the reason for the rule, is because you're paying cost up front (editing, cover, etc) before you receive any money. So you're financially putting money out before you receive any.

    That said, RWA would have to change their rules for small presses. I have 3 books our by a small press e-publisher, but none of them can be entered they are e-books.

    RWA will only accept print books and expects a small press publisher to provide the print books for them (I can't do it myself it has to come from my publisher).

    Maybe RWA will come into the 21st century soon, but I doubt it.

    Great blog.

  • Anonymous
    on August 26, 2011

    Hi Monica –

    I think things are changing around RWA… Give it a few more years and all books will be eligible as long as they're romances… 🙂

    Great blog!


  • Anonymous
    on August 22, 2011

    I fully agree. If you want to put your book and entry fee up against Nora, Jayne or anyone else, What the Hell. You should be able to go for it. BTW, As I've said for the last decade and a half, Great story.

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