Friday, August 19, 2011

It’s a Story—It’s a File—It’s a BOOK

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.