Happy Book Birthday to L.X. Beckett! GAMECHANGER is out in the world and ready to be snorfled up! Those of you who listen to my First Cup of Coffee Podcast will remember L.X. from a guest interview back in July. I’ve got the book on my Kindle and can’t wait to read it!
It’s become something of a tradition here on my blog for me to share my RITA® Award scores each year. Here’s my post from 2018, which summarizes the previous few years. I think it’s important to share this information, so that there’s greater transparency in what the scores shake out to be for various books. Of course, I totally respect that some people prefer to keep their scores private, but that’s not a thing for me, so I’m happy to hang them out there.
I entered three books this year – the max I could enter – and for those who say we should only enter one book, our best book from the year, I totally did not expect THE DRAGONS OF SUMMER to be the one that finaled. I think it’s impossible to predict these things. So much depends on which judges you get. Read on for more!
So, these are the scores for THE DRAGONS OF SUMMER, which was a finalist in the novella category. As you can see, it finaled with an average score of just over 9, on a scale of 1.0 to 10.0, with 1.0 being the lowest (poor) and 10.0 being the highest (excellent). (If you’re doing the math at home, remember that the highest and lowest scores are dropped.) So, yeah – Judge 4 *really* didn’t care for the novella. Did it deserve a score 4.5 points below the next lowest score? Opinions are subjective, but that’s a marked gap.
Here are my scores for my Fantasy Romance novel, THE ARROWS OF THE HEART. It got an average score of 8.3, which put it in the top 25% of scores in that category, which means it came pretty damn close to finaling! As you can see, however, Judge 4 Did Not Like. (And no, it’s not the same judge as for DRAGONS – it’s just a coincidence.) And look, they also marked it as not a romance. I get one judge saying this on my Fantasy Romances pretty much every year. I think it’s because some readers have rigid ideas about what romance should be. Also, I do think some judges score out of spite. As impossible as it may be to believe, there are people out there who don’t like me. I know, I know – but it’s true! I’m very interested to see if the new measures RWA is taking to track judges and how they score over time will eliminate some of these kind of wildly different scores.
Finally, I entered my rock star Contemporary Romance SHOOTING STAR, just because I wanted to see how it would do. This book has just never gone the way I thought it would. We couldn’t sell it to a trad publisher, so I self-published it. And it turns out those trad folks predicted well – lol! It has never sold well. Though it does get really good reviews. It scored here much better than I thought. Interestingly, it didn’t get the hate score, but it also didn’t get any love scores. High mediocre, maybe? But I was happy to get this much validation for it.
So, thoughts? Questions? Comments? Hit me up! And any of you who entered and feel the urge, go ahead and share your scores in the comments 🙂
This morning I got a new comment on an old post, which is always interesting. When I saw which post, I totally got it. Last year I put up an article on my blog: The RITA® Award – Is It Worth Entering? Right away I knew why that post, because we all got our scores from the 2018 RITA® Award contest.
I won’t reiterate everything I said last year about the contest, except to say that I still believe in everything I said then, 100%. Even though I didn’t final with either of the books I entered this year. And I’m going to share my scores again, because so many people said they appreciated that I did so last year.
The Final Score is figured by dropping the highest and lowest scores, then averaging the other three. Finalists in each category are the top 4% of scores, unless there are fewer than four or more than ten, in which case it’s adjusted.
I’m super pleased with these scores! The average for The Shift of the Tide is second only to that for The Pages of the Mind, which finaled and won last year, so score! And I’m pleasantly surprised by the consistent scores on With a Prince.
One interesting trend, the score for the Top 25% in the Paranormal Romance Category has been going up. (25% of all entries had final scores equal to or above that score.) In 2015, it was 8. In 2017, 8.23. And in 2018, 8.3. That indicates to me that overall scoring is higher, and the field even more competitive. I don’t have the 2016 data when I entered The Talon of the Hawk. Maybe I didn’t get my scores that year? Or maybe I deleted the email in a fit of pique because I’d been so hoping it would final. (It won best Fantasy Romance from RT that year after all!) I seem to recall a judge marked it “Not a Romance,” which also happened with The Mark of the Tala. Happens to all of us.
I also haven’t really tracked the trend in averages for Contemporary Romance, as it’s not my primary genre, but I can tell you the Top 25% score was 8.36, even higher than for Paranormal. Very competitive!
So, onward and upward. You bet I’m entering again for 2019. 🙂
I’m repainting the master bedroom and started with the kiva fireplace. It was the same white as the walls before, so I’m happy with how it stands out now. The walls are next, in a creamier shade. Will try to post pics!
As some of you may or may not know, I used to study with a Taoist martial arts school. We trained in internal Chinese martial arts, but also in the corresponding mental, emotional and physical work it takes to clear your mind enough to grow as a person.
Our teacher was forever reminding us to be wary of spiritual pride. It’s easy, when you finally begin to get somewhere in this really difficult transformation of self, to feel like YOU ARE THE SHIZ. There’s a great temptation to feel better than everyone else. You can see this in people of all religions – where the phrase “holier than thou” comes from. Taoism is all about finding the middle path and part of that balance is feeling good about what you’ve accomplished, giving yourself well-deserved credit for hard work rewarded, while avoiding going too far into hubris and overblown ego.
What does this have to do with writing?
As if none of us have seen those successful authors who are all ego and no sanity. In fact, I think some of the recent #metoo outings of Big Name Authors who’ve sexually harassed *many* people are partially a result of this entitlement. I can see it between the lines of their “apologies.” They thought they were special and untouchable and could take whatever they wanted – and often did.
Those are extreme cases, for the most part, and can happen to anyone who reaches that level of fame and fortune (if they’re not careful).
But there’s another trap I’ve been seeing a lot of newer authors fall into that’s just as, if not more dangerous. That first Big Success.
Now, for a lot of us, that never happens. Or it happens so late that we’re so thoroughly humbled by then that we’re not in danger. That’s how it was for me. By the time I won my RITA® Award for THE PAGES OF THE MIND, that was my eighteenth published book. I was *really* used to not being much of a deal at all. In fact, it’s still surprising to me when people treat me like something special. I think I was lucky that way, as much as I hated slogging through all that, because my career has grown gradually enough that I’ve grown mentally with it.
Other authors – and we often know a lot about them because they make that big splash – hit it big right off the bat, in some way or another. Their first published story is nominated for a big industry award – and they might be nominated for a “best new writer” type award. They get a snazzy debut book deal, maybe even six figures. They might win a high-profile contest that gets them that book deal. All of these things are wonderful! I sure wished they’d happened for me.
At least, I did then. Now I’m grateful I didn’t have to go through that.
It’s a dangerous place to be, after that first big score, because they feel proud, excited, and giving themselves major strokes for succeeding in a difficult business. And they should, because it’s well-deserved. But it’s easy to stray too far to the other side of the path. Writers I’ve known – and didn’t know, but observed – tend to think that they have it down. That they know the “rules” and succeeded because of that. They think they are the shiz, when really they’re still brand-new authors with one or two publication credits. With this tremendous validation, however, they proceed as if they possess all the wisdom, often handing out advice.
This advice tends to be terrible in a very standard way. “Just write a Really Good Book.” “Follow these rules.” “Use this method.” This is because they don’t really know how they did it. And that is because a whole lot of it had to do with luck, not their craft. Learning and wielding our craft comes in with writing the second book. And the fifth. And the eighteenth.
Perhaps this is the cursed face that every great gift brings – and those writers will find their way through it. I don’t really have advice for them – and not only because they’re unlikely to listen to me, when they’ve done what I didn’t – but my caution is for everyone else. It’s tempting to look to these superstars and give what they say more weight. After all, who doesn’t want what they have? So we hear them say things like “Just write a Really Good Book,” (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this one from a writer with a snazzy new book deal) and we come away half exhilarated and half in despair. Because how the hell do you DO that? And we stare at our blank computer screens – or our list of publications that didn’t get six-figure deals – and we wonder why we didn’t write “a Really Good Book.” Maybe we’ll listen when they say to follow this rule or that, or we’ll slavishly use the method they recommend.
Don’t do this. If you need advice – which we all do – get it from the authors who’ve been around the block a few or thirty times. It’s pretty much universal advice not to be distracted by the New Shiny, and that includes publishing’s newest darling. Congratulate them – they should enjoy the ride – and then put your eyes back on your own work.
In the end, that’s the only way to write that Really Good Book.
A lot of you have been sharing that the book that kicked off my Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms series, THE MARK OF THE TALA, is on sale for only $2.99 for
the ebook version.
Which is awesome of you all – thank you! Just thought I’d let you all know that the first book in The Uncharted Realms cycle, my RITA® Award Winning Fantasy Romance, THE PAGES OF THE MIND, is also on sale for that low, low price. 😉
Happy Weekend All!
I’ve been waffling for some about whether to do this post. I’ve debated it with writer friends – what would we do without them?? – and pondered it in the back of my mind. Mostly I was deciding whether or not to respond to various threads in Facebook groups or in author loops. Usually on those, when the question is “Should I comment?” the answer is No. That’s one of my social media rules of thumb: if it occurs to me that I *shouldn’t* say something, I don’t.
But I’m seeing this question come up a lot lately – is it “worth it” to enter a book in RWA’s RITA® Award contest?
I saw a lot of this discussion in the wake of the 2017 RITA® Awards in July – and before that when the finalists were announced – and now it’s heating up again because the contest opens on November 1.
Thus, I’m going to answer the question here. Whether I think it’s “worth it,” what my scores were, how I feel about them, and finally whether the award really affects sales.
Full disclosure: I’m speaking as someone who won the 2017 RITA® Award in Paranormal Romance for my book, The Pages of the Mind. That’s my RITA® statue in the top photo, in the bookshelf I had to buy especially to house her. More than one wag has compared her to a golden idol who gazes down on my writing desk – and I’m at peace with that.
So, you might say I’m biased because I did win, and you’re absolutely right. Winning a RITA® Award was one of the best, most transcendent moments of my life. Here’s the pic of me that my wonderful agent, Sarah Younger – recently promoted to Senior Agent at Nancy Yost Literary Agency, yay! – took of me at the moment they announced my book won.
That is sheer happiness, folks.
But I’ll tell you what – the photos you don’t see are all the times I cried because my book DIDN’T final. Which was a fair number of years, because I’ve been entering since 2009 and 2017 was the first year I had a book that made it to the finals. Which was exhilarating on its own! Let me tell you, I received so many congratulations and good-hearted celebration on my behalf that I felt like Cinderella at the ball – only I got something way better than a prince.
Believe me – I absolutely get the disappointment of not making the final rounds, year after year. But, I didn’t give up. I kept entering my books. And I kept studying what other authors were doing, and working to improve my craft.
And still, it’s a gamble. Judges’ taste varies. Reading is subjective. Different people score on varying scales, just as readers do. One person’s three-star rating is another’s five-star rating.
So, yes, The Pages of the Mind got amazingly good scores. I say “amazing” with intention because I have no idea why this book struck the chord that it did. Well… I can speculate, but I certainly never expected it. I see a lot of people throwing around comments to the effect of “you should only enter your best book.” I can vouch that I had no idea that this would be my RITA® Award-winning book. In fact, the book that I *did* think would at least final, The Mark of the Tala, which received the Seal of Excellence from RT Book Reviews and was nominated for Book of the Year, was marked as not a romance by one judge, on top of not making the finals.
Not only that, but I entered two books in the contest for 2017, the other being the next book in the series, The Edge of the Blade. I’m willing to share the scores for each because I think it’s illustrative and important.
For those doing the math at home, the highest and lowest scores are dropped to calculate the final score. I can tell you that getting such high scores for The Pages of the Mind is a first for me! And looking at that, I can see why it won. For whatever reason, people really like this book. Which, hooray!!
Now, am I obsessing at all about those very low scores for The Edge of the Blade? Nope. Not even a little bit. When I shared these with my local chapter, LERA, for the exact same reasons I’m sharing them here, there were people indignant on my behalf. It’s the same indignation I’ve seen online – that no published book could possibly deserve a 3.3, that it’s simply mean to score a book lower than 5 and so on. My take is, of course those are legit scores. Judges can score from 1.0 to 10.0, with increments of 0.1. I have no idea why those judges gave me 3.3 and 5.9, but it could be because that book has a pansexual heroine. It also could be that they really thought my book was poorly written, which is fair.
And yes, I’ve gotten scores that low in other years, too. I got them when was entering contests for unpublished manuscripts – both 2s and 10s on the same piece. I have a strong voice and that’s one of the effects, readers tend to either love or hate what I write. That’s also fair. I don’t expect everyone to love my work.
Who knows? Could be those judges didn’t like me personally, which colors things. That’s okay, too, because I don’t expect everyone to love ME, either. Plenty of people will never pick up my books, for one reason or another, and that’s fine because people should read what makes them happy.
So, then – did having The Pages of the Mind final for and then win the RITA® Award make a difference in sales?
Hard to say – mostly because this is a traditionally published book and I don’t have real-time access to sales. I also don’t look at sales and Amazon rankings much anyway because I think it interferes with the creative side of writing. But I can say anecdotally that I saw a lot of mentions of readers picking it up because the book finaled and won. I saw new reviewers tagging me on social media and saying I was a new-to-them author and they were reading because of the RITA® Award. Even better, I saw a lot of readers declaring that the book made them want to go back and read my other books. I think my sales have gone up, probably quite substantially.
More than that, I’ve been amazed at the boost both the final and the win gave to me personally and to my reputation overall. Writers not in romance – like in SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) – mention that I’m a RITA® Award-winning author, and say it with pride and admiration. The day after I won, at the St. Martin’s party – with whom I’d recently signed a three-book deal – the Publisher, Jennifer Enderlin told me that she’d sent an email to the higher ups that they should notice they’d just signed a RITA® Award-winning author. Other authors, big names in romance, congratulated me and knew who I was. I felt like I’d reached a new level in my career. A personal milestone achieved.
As for readers recognizing it or not – some do, some don’t. A lot of my readers sent me photos from their local bookstores and libraries, showing my book in with other RITA® finalists for read-along challenges and pools to pick the winners. And my waxer, an ardent romance reader, knew exactly what it was and actually cried when I took her my trophy to show it off, she was so proud of me and excited.
And then there’s this. That’s me reading MY name and MY book title on a RITA® statuette. Just like I can look up and see her looking down on my desk. When the writing isn’t going well, when some other author gets notice I haven’t gotten, I can look at that tangible evidence and remember the incredible feeling you can see in my face here.
Is it everything? No. Awards are one aspect of measuring success, and one only. I have many other books that have never received an award of any kind and I think they’re good, too. They tell the story I wanted to tell.
But was it “worth it?” If I count up all the money I spent entering books over the years, the tears I cried in disappointment, the certainty that not finaling meant I sucked as a writer, fighting jealousy over those who did final – was it worth it?
Absolutely. Do it. Put your hat in the ring. If it was easy, it wouldn’t feel so incredible when you finally make it there.