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RWA romance award categories

[Note: as you can see from the title, this isn't really of general interest. I just thought I'd post it anyway. Later I'll do a quick review of THE OMEN , which we saw yesterday. You might want to wait for that one instead if you're not into RWA politics. Funny thing, I'm not usually into RWA politics either!]

Romance Writers of America solicited its opinions from its membership on whether and how their annual awards should be changed. Here in edited form is the advice I’m sending to them today (if I can find a stamp):

(1) I think there should be a super Award for Best Romance of the Year, akin to Best Picture at the Oscars. It should encompass all books entered in the contest, with no need for a separate entry fee. In other words, you don’t enter for this category at all. All of the winners of the other awards automatically become finalists for this super award, and the entire RWA membership is sent a voting ballot at that point. So we know the winners of the other awards before we know the winner of Best Romance of the Year.

It would create a buzz, and also get the members involved. And the winning book would have special status. There’s some built-in quality control because the book already won one category, so the problems posed by the former Best Romance award won’t arise.

This award wouldn’t be announced until the night of the ceremony.

(2) I think the other categories should be lightened up – go for some pizzazz, some fun. Let’s do it like this:

Best Historical Romance
Best Contemporary Romance
Hottest Romance
Funniest Romance
Sweetest Romance (or maybe, Most Heartwarming Romance?)
Best Hero
Best Heroine
Best Villain

And that’s it for categories. I truly believe we have too many these days. Let the individual chapters hold contests for the other ones.

Oh, and given the nature of my award categories, an author should be able to enter a particular book in more than one of them. Best Hero and Best Villain, for example, would be quite a coup for a book (second only to Best Hero and Hottest, I suppose!)

My hope would be that readers would get more excited about a sticker that said “Award for Best Hero of the Year!” than “best short contemporary romantic suspense with a puppy…blah blah blah…” Those are too generic [ha!], and sound like one of those school assemblies where awards are given for virtually everything (Best Attendance!!)

And there’s the added bonus that with fewer categories, we could think about re-instituting the semi-final stage of the contest, so that more books could get a nod. ( “Semi-finalist for Hottest Romance of 2006” has a nice ring to it!) Fewer categories, more credibility, more relevance, but still, lots of opportunities for author promotion.

Let’s have some fun with this! Let’s borrow a page from the MTV movie awards and make this something worth talking about for the readers and even the mainstream reviewers.

P.S. My letter to RWA also contains the reasoning behind eliminating some/most of the current categories. If you want to read those reasons, or discuss them, let me know, either here or by shooting me an email at katedonovan at hotmail, and I’ll post the rest or send it to you. Most of it is pretty self-explanatory, I think, but I know we all have our favorite categories, and if I got rid of yours, or didn’t add one you wanted, I’d love to discuss it. I will note that it’s too bad futuristics, etc, can’t compete in Contemporary or Historical, but then again, I think “Best Contemporary Romance” has a dull ring to it anyway. Wouldn’t it be cool to come up with a “Best Imaginary World” award, or something like that? But again, maybe that’s just for the chapters to tackle.

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