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The Naked Page

Author Jamie Sobrato's Diary


Ms. Jamie, If You're Nasty

I got my Rita scores back yesterday and was only mildly surprised to see that one judge deemed my Jan 2005 book, As Hot As It Gets, a story with "no strong romantic elements," AKA not a romance novel. (Please, nobody tell my editor I'm not actually writing romances!)

My books scored firmly in the lower half of all books entered. This is somehow a badge of honor. I'd rather have downright badness than ho-hum mediocrity. Right? Well, okay, I'd rather be a finalist than either of those, but it's interesting what it takes to be a finalist. You have to not offend enough judges to make them keep reading, and there aren't many people I don't offend.

Until RWA comes up with a Rita for Smut Books, I'm screwed. I have accepted that. And I should probably stop entering. Or else continue to console myself with the thought that most of my judges are people who think sex is ICKY.

In other news, I am horribly behind in finishing up a proposal I promised my editor, oh, like...last October, and also promised her at various other times including two weeks ago, so that is my excuse for not hanging around on my blog as much as I should. I will be better. I will finish my proposal today. I will blog again. Watch me!

(I'm not sure how the title of this entry relates to anything, by the way. I'm just having a Janet Jackson moment, without the nipple exposure.)


At 9:54 AM, Anonymous melissa said...

"one judge deemed my Jan 2005 book, As Hot As It Gets, a story with "no strong romantic elements," AKA not a romance novel."

You have got to be kidding me. Make sure to pass on to your editor that she is publishing novels for HQ that have nothing to do with romance. ;-)
That's just sad, and I think it gives all of us 'smut' writers an incentive to keep rolling them out--hotter and apparently a hell of a lot more fun than that judge has ever had! It's a sorry world when people believe that you can't have hot sex and be in love at the same time.
And I may just save my money in the GH this year, especially if HQ is still interested in talking to me at that point...

At 10:04 AM, Blogger Shannon McKelden said...

Don't feel too horrible...not sure it has anything to do with smut as it does to do with category books. My friend, Jane Porter, VERY prolific Presents writer, has basically the same blog on her site. All of the Presents writers who entered the Rita got really sucky scores.

Nice how unbiased the judges are, huh? Not.


At 11:40 AM, Blogger Natalie Stenzel said...

Sigh. You know, I'm going to have to hold it against you if that stupid Janet Jackson song doesn't get out of my head today.

Hugs on the Rita scores. It's a shame when romance authors hate sex, isn't it? Like the Tooth Fairy refusing to believe in Santa. Wrong, wrong, wrong.


At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

They need to make a Smut category for the Golden Heart, too. The second year in a row, my senusal contemporary ST landed in the *bottom quarter* of the GH rankings. Strangely, this same work received a full manuscript read from two well-known agents/agencies this year and neither of them had a problem with the sexual hook.

My short contemporary entry into the Golden Heart had the exact same score as it had last year (despite the manu underwent revisions between entering)! The individual scores among my judging panel were different, but, even with the new grading system (those .10s of scores), the total wound up the same. How weird is that?

At least that book wound up in the top quarter of scores. But I still haven't sold it.


At 2:07 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

You girls are sweet to console me.

Shannon, I have to stick with the smut book defense, because there are Rita categories for "category romances" (god that sounds confusing) so it's not just that category in general isn't getting the attention it deserves. Also, while Presents might not have had much of a showing this year, they typically have at least a few finalists in Short Contemporary every year.

Blaze, on the other hand, typically gets shut out of the Ritas. Or at least it has for the past few years.

There are certain category lines that consistently have a hard time finaling for various reasons. For instance, Intrigues often don't final because they don't fit very well in a certain category. They have too much suspense plot sometimes to make a good showing in Long Contemporary Romance and they are not as fully developed as the other books in Romantic Suspense.

In the case of sexually explicit books, lots of readers are offended by Blazes or any romances that are very sexually frank, so lumping then into the short or long contemporary romance categories sets them up for getting judges that find them offensive.

Many Blaze authors I know simply don't enter the Rita because of this. We've lobbied for a Sensual Romance category, but with no luck so far.

At 2:12 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Forgot to say, of course there a million reasons besides "too sexually explicit" that MY books might not have finaled! "Badly written" and "horribly cliche" are two other distinct possibilities...and no I'm not fishing for compliments here. I just always feel a little silly whining about the whole Rita judges hate sex thing without also pointing out that I do not (usually) have delusions of grandure.

At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

I don't understand why it's okay to have paranormal, romantic suspense, and inspirational categories (did I miss any?), but not a category for erotic romance--esp. when the genre is growing by leaps and bounds. At least Intrigue or SIM writers have the option to enter Long/Short contemporary OR the romantic suspense category. A writer of sensual or erotic romance is limited to whether her book is a Single Title or a category. And it's just not working.


At 3:53 PM, Anonymous bethany said...

I didn't even look at my GH scores. All those numbers. I only open my mail box to make sure some insane agent hasn't sent back one of my manuscripts. Then I throw all the junk mail in the floorboard, run into the house and start the computer, bring baby one in, check my email, bring 3 year old in. My GH scores are in the floorboard, still. I'll sort through later when double checking for bills from crazy billers who don't bill me via email like normal people.

So can any old person judge these things? I know unagented unpubbed folks who (I believe) judged the GH. What are the prerequisites for these judges?

At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

What's a floorboard? I picture a hole in the floor, covered with a board.


At 4:40 PM, Anonymous melissa said...

Bethany--they have to be members of RWA. That's it. No qualifications.

Jamie, it's not that you didn't final, because a whole lot of great books with great scores don't final. It's the fact that your scores were that low. Dumb.

It's no secret that the contest scene has issues and no one should take it all too seriously. I didn't enter this year and it did feel good to not have to deal with any of that. My scores last year were pretty consistent with my mss (one fairly high, one fairly low) with the exception of the ONE judge per book who gave it an opposite score from everyone else. On the Blaze, that would be the person who didn't like sex, I imagine. ;-)

Well, I'm off. Only a few hours to go... I'll be back later next week. Don't miss me too much (I see you laughing hysterically). lol

At 4:40 PM, Anonymous melissa said...

What do they call floorboards (the floor of the car) in Canada??

At 5:14 PM, Anonymous bethany said...

Yep, floorboards are the floor of the car- where the floor mats sit, in my back seat they are littered with small socks and action figures and in the front passenger mine are littered with junk mail and catalogues and straw wrappers- I guess I should clean out my car.

At 6:23 PM, Anonymous Jill said...

I'm blown away by this. Seriously, just blown away. So wrong ...

At 6:35 PM, Anonymous bethany said...

So pay a little cash and you are qualified to judge a contest? Even if you don't know the first thing about writing. Even if you are angry and bitter about the perpetual rejection of your masterpiece?

I mean, a pubbed author might have biases (against sex, for example) but at least they have to have to understand certain basics of writing.

At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

Melissa, I've never thought what to call the floor of a car! Here I imagined Bethany yanking up her hardwood floor and tossing the mail into a secret compartment....


At 10:21 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

All Rita judges are published authors. For the Golden Heart, the unpublished contest, I believe they try hard to use some kind of filtering system that might suggest the judges are qualified. For instance, they probably try to get published authors first, and then they go to the pool of previous Golden Heart finalists, and then they go to the general membership last. The problem is that there are never enough published authors to judge everything.

I've always signed up to judge, but I was never asked to judge the Golden Heart until after I'd sold a book...or maybe it was after I'd been a Golden Heart finalist--can't remember for sure.

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Melissa, I am not surprised at the low scores. I have friends whose work I love who never get great contest scores. And it's interesting, my one book that was a Rita finalist (Some Like It Sizzling) I consider my most watered-down, least-distinctively-mine book. I think that while it was sexy, the heroine had a more innocent attitude toward the sex that could overall be more palatable to a wider audience.

At 10:30 AM, Blogger Jordan Summers said...

That's why I didn't enter my Bravas. (shaking head)

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Cindy, I could rant all day about the lack of logic in the Rita categories. I think the most laughable ones are Traditional and Regency Romance, because those two subgenres are dying fast, and yet we hold onto the categories while refusing to acknowledge that new subgenres are growing strong.

Once Silhouette Romance is closed, there is only going to be ONE traditional romance line, HQ Romance. And there are very few new Regencies being published.

I have written a letter to the board about the problems with the Rita categories, as have other authors who write sensual romances, but there is a lot of resistance to adding any new category or taking any old one away.

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

Yes, the GH Trad category was cancelled this year--not enough entrants. And, no slam against the writer at all, but two of the RITA Traditional finalist entries were actually published as YA novels. The author must have chosen Traditional as her option category in the event YA was cancelled (I'm guessing).

Again, not a slam against the author at all. I think she made a smart move.

Now I'm wondering if us smutty writers should enter GH and RITA in the Novel with Romantic Elements category?


At 1:57 PM, Blogger Lauren Dane said...

I continue to be shocked at the level of ridiculousness with this whole process.

For the love of the deities, just create and erotic category! That way, people who think sex and romance are incompatible don't have to read them. Why, why, why do they continue to stick their heads in the sand like this?

I'm sorry. That sucks.

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Silma said...

A Harlequin novel not romantic? OMG! I've always equated romance with HQ. Is purple prose more romantic than straightforward words then? Hmm...

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