A reflection: reading my assigned books for the Romance Writers Association-RITA Contest

This was my first time participating in the RWA-RITA contest.  I was surprised by this, but participants submit their books and are required to judge other contestants’ books. That wasn’t what I expected. I imagined a panel of judges would judge all submissions.

But because the RWA has elements of a peer-to-peer program of writers learning from each other and mentoring each other, it makes sense.

I looked forward to reading my assigned books, and it was great, getting exposed to new authors and new genres. I was inspired to look for other books written by the authors I liked the most, and especially if I had been thinking about writing in their genre.

However, readers can indicate up to two categories (I believe) of books they would not be able to read, for personal readings, no need to explain. I indicated one category, but in retrospect I should have submitted two, since I had too many books in a category that I tend not to read, with a few exceptions.

Submissions can be sent in by mainstream authors (those who work with traditional publishers) or those who are independent (self-published).

Ever since I began my latest writing career as an independent writer, I have sensed an unstated tension between the two groups.

Regarding stereotypes about independent authors, are they hacks who undermine the publishing industry? Are they mere amateurs not to be taken seriously? Are they failures who couldn’t make it in the mainstream?

Review any random mainstream publishers for their submissions’ web pages. Do editors lock out certain types of authors based upon their stereotypes about genres and the market? Because editors’ views set the tone for what will be considered, it is important to find the right editor/publisher/agent.

When I read books by indie authors that didn’t seem well edited or proofread, I was troubled that they were fulfilling the stereotypes about a lack of professionalism. Everyone had an editor, but was it a developmental editor or a copy editor? Were proofreaders consulted?

Publishers pay all those costs up front, and traditional authors are only paid afterwards. That might be complicated if the author had been paid an advance. Authors might not see any royalties until the advance is covered through sales.

But independent authors pay all their expenses themselves, and so I can understand a desire to minimize costs. Professionals can be expensive, and no writer can ever be sure of sales and whether expenses will be recouped.  But the investment is worth it, I would argue.

Our words matter and our writing is our legacy. Make it a good one.

Copyright Barbara James. All rights reserved.