On the Lack of Contests for Writers of eBook Romances
After I decided I wanted to write fiction, and settled on romance as the type of fiction I most enjoyed, I immediately noticed something about the genre that makes it stand out from the others.
Romance loves its contests.
Not only are there contests for romance readers (probably hundreds every year) offering free books as well as other fun prizes, but there are also dozens of annual competitions sponsored by various chapters of the RWA, numerous publishers, and even literary agencies seeking undiscovered talent.
Just about every fiction genre has its contests. Mystery writers have their Edgar® Awards; the horror genre its Bram Stoker Awards. Science fiction and fantasy authors have both the Nebulas (judged by their peers), and the Hugos (judged by readers). Nothing, however, quite matches the enthusiasm with which romance embraces the act of celebrating writing excellence with a certificate or a trophy or a piece of jewelry.
It makes sense, too. Romance is the publishing industry’s cash cow, one that pits thousands of published and unpublished writers against one another for recognition by readers, editors, and agents. Just as there are more romance books published each year than any other form of fiction, there are more writers out there trying to break in, break through, break out.
In certain ways it doesn’t matter if the award is for Best New Contemporary Romance, or Hottest Kiss Scene, or even if it’s not about writing at all, but instead the act of pitching writing, a win is a win, something a writer can add to her/his resume. For the unpublished author searching for something, anything, to use as a credit on a query letter, awards are big.
Which is why the near total absence of contests geared toward romance writers working in eBook format is so puzzling. Yes, there’s a smattering of competitions out there. Every so often a digital publishing house, or even the eBook division of a print house, will open up a competition as a way of bringing in submissions while at the same time promoting itself. I’ve seen individual writing-related websites sponsor contests, presumably for the same basic reason, self-promotion.
In a frustrating Catch-22, eBook romance writers are ineligible for both the RWA’s Golden Heart and RITA awards. The RWA has created either an oxymoron or a paradox or some alternate state even more baffling for the eBook author. According to the organization, writers working in electronic format are neither unpublished for purposes of entering the Golden Heart Awards for unpublished writers; nor are they considered published and thus eligible for nomination to the RITA Awards for published romance writers.
In fact, as far as I know—and please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong—not even RWA’s special interest eBook chapter, #200, offers a contest for eBook romance authors, published or unpublished.
Why is that?
—Continued in Part II—