So last week the finalists for Romance Writer’s of America’s RITA awards (the top industry awards for romance novels) were announced. I had entered two of my books (Fool for Love and In Your Arms) in the competition. Well, I didn’t final. Big surprise! Okay, not really. I love my books, I am confident in my writing skills, but I am also well aware that my craft has a long way to go before I can honestly compete with the cream of the crop.
*cough* And I’m a little suspicious of the way finalists are chosen. I will immediately and instantly qualify that statement by saying it’s not that I think the judging is unfair in any way, shape, or form. It is fair. However, because the finalists are chosen by their peers, I think it’s just human nature to approach the whole thing with subconscious bias. There’s nothing wrong with that, however…unless you’re a lesser known writer with your heart set on winning awards.
That got me to thinking…. What do I have my heart set on doing? It would be super awesome to win a whole bunch of high profile awards. I’ve won some and I can tell you that it’s a great feeling. I can only imagine how awesome it would be to win the big one. But is it necessary?
I’m always suspicious of awards that are—albeit subconsciously—glorified popularity contests. Whether it’s writing, beauty contests, class president elections, or anything else along those lines, something about voting done by peers has always left me cold. I never received any kind of recognition in my younger years. Heck, I was that weird girl with her head in the clouds. But I knew I was smart and that I had value, and maybe it was wrong of me, but from time to time I was just disgusted that people who didn’t deserve the honors were winning them because they were more popular than I was.
Yep, that’s my baggage. So I think it’s safe to say that I do not hang my worth as a writer on whether I win contests. I enter them, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I enter contests because it means that many more people will read my books. If I’m lucky, when they’re done reading the copy they’ve received for the contest, they’ll take it to their local library or used book store or some other place where someone else will pick it up. If I gain another fan through entering a contest, then life is good.
Because for me, what matters even more than winning contests is selling books.
And that brings me around to the other goal that writers aspire to: selling a ton of books. And you don’t necessarily need to win every contest out there to become a best-selling author. The public catches on to authors and series whether they’ve won all the accolades ever or not. Yes, you’re far more likely to achieve this best-seller status if you’ve written a damn good book, but we all know that there are some truly terrible books out there that have made their authors millionaires.
So should authors shoot for the goal of spectacular sales instead of critical recognition then? Should we choose money over love? Is it more important to score as many 5-star reviews as possible or should we put less weight on those stars as long as we’re collecting a nice paycheck at the end of the month.
For me, that’s a much stickier question. I like selling books. Not gonna lie. I dream of that book that hits the best-seller list for my category on Amazon and B&N and iBooks and everywhere else. Selling a lot of books brings me one step closer to being able to make a comfortable living entirely off of my writing. That’s my stated goal for this career of mine, and everything I do is working toward that point.
So in my writing world, sales are far, far more important than winning contests. But still, there’s that little part of me that feels that contest wins are an important means to my ends. Maybe a reader is more likely to take a chance on a book that has “Award-Winning Author” printed on the cover, maybe not. Either way, it feels good to have your name called out after the words “First prize goes to…”.
How about you, my writer friends? Do you do it for love or money? Would you rather have awards or sales? How do you feel about entering contests?
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