Judging Sign Up for the RITA (All-New Digital Version) Starts Today!!

Holy Smokes!! It seems like last year’s RWA Contests just finished up yesterday. I’m betting some finalists haven’t even had time to pick their sparkly gowns back up from the dry cleaners. But it’s already the season to get moving for the next round!

Today is the first step: you can start signing up to be a RITA judge today!

I just signed up, as I have since the first year I was published as Lara Archer and therefore eligible to judge, because I value the RITA Contest, and want to do my part to keep it running as well and as meaningfully as possible, even as it evolves and (occasionally) hits a bump or two in the road. (Can I say how glad I am that “Mainstream Fiction with Romantic Elements” has returned to the fold???? I am soooooo glad. Now could we have the Regency category back? Pretty please? I’m offering chocolate. Or bourbon. Your pick!) 

Whatever else is or isn’t the same about the 2018 RITA Contest, there’s one big change in the works that we’re all going to feel: this year, we won’t have the experience of eagerly awaiting that heavy box of books at our doorsteps sometime around the new year.

Yup, no more big box o’ books. This year the RITA Contest is going ALL ELECTRONIC!!

Here’s a screen shot of the entry requirements:


See the text in bold? This year, RITA entrants WON’T be shipping physical books to RWA. This year we’re just submitting a single copy of a PDF file.

It’s surely going to save entrants, and the contest coordinators at RWA headquarters, a lot of time and money, and hopefully will mean fewer logistical headaches.

And fewer trees will have to die.

But it’s going to be a big, big change. Personally, I’m a little worried about the strain on my eyeballs staring at a screen so long (I’m not the world’s best Kindle wrangler, and suspect I’m gonna do a lot of the reading on my computer….and I wonder if there aren’t some long-time judges who won’t feel comfortable reading digital files in any form…or who can’t even figure out how to download them to a readable screen).

Then there’s the whole fear-of-piracy issue.

I do think this change was inevitable, but it’s going to be an interesting transition.

What do you think? Are you looking forward to the new all-electronic RITA Contest? What concerns, if any, do you have? And are you planning to sign up to judge?


(Note: RITA submissions will open November 1 at 11 a.m. CDT.)


13 responses to “Judging Sign Up for the RITA (All-New Digital Version) Starts Today!!”

  1. Wow! Thank you for the reminder! I can’t believe it’s time already.

    I have mixed feelings about the PDF situation. It’s cheaper not having to mail all those books in (win), but I feel like my reading experience is drastically different in digital and I don’t absorb the material as well (fail). I feel like entering (and judging!) the RITA is always a crap shoot – you never know who you’re going to get – and this just adds another layer of Who Knows?! to the mix. We shall see! 🙂

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      That’s really true, Vivi…reading on screen is different, not just visually but cognitively.

      As for the PC / Kindle issue, isn’t it possible to convert PDFs to Kindle-readable files? (Using the “convert to kindle” app, or Calibri, or Vellum or something like that?)

      I’m probably not going to bother, but I think it can be done. Anybody know for sure?

      I judged Golden Heart on my computer screen for a couple years, and it wasn’t too bad, but whole books will definitely be a challenge.

      Then again, I evaluate student work on the computer all the time these days. I do prefer paper for that, too, and sometimes get nerve damage in my scrolling fingers when the digital stack is really high, but I manage.

      We all will.

  2. jbrayweber says:

    Change isn’t always easy. While I prefer the paperback books, I’m not opposed to digital. I plan to buy the books I’m to judge so that I can read them on my Kindle instead of my PC. It’s a win-win. The authors get a sale and I get to save myself a headache. 🙂


  3. Tamara Hogan says:

    Signup complete! I’ve judged the RITA every year I’ve been eligible to do so, even when I haven’t had a book in the race. This year, I do. 🙂

    However, as a contest entrant, I admit to some angst related to PDF submission. Readers of the PAN loop might remember that I, and several others, experienced very poor results when running a PDF version of our books through a documented PDF-to-Kindle conversion process some judges said they might use to read their RITA entries. For a few, including me, the conversion process inexplicably stripped nearly all useful formatting – centering, page breaks, indents, and some hard returns – which I can’t help but think might impact someone’s reading experience. Readers might find it useful to know when a new chapter begins, or when a paragraph starts. /sigh/

    I emailed RWA National to ask whether they’d provide guidance on this scenario, because I’m a little frustrated. My book looks fine in every other format (Mobi, ePub, *.docx, PDF, and POD) when viewed in their native environments. The PDF file itself looks fine when viewed using Adobe Reader. It’s only after attempting to convert the file using Kindle’s PDF-to-Kindle conversion process where I see formatting issues arise.

    No answer yet.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Ouch. I’m sure you’re not alone with that either.

      I wish we were given a choice of formats (though I think PDF alone is somewhat harder to pirate???)

      Hopefully, all judges this year will be very, very understanding about formatting issues. RWA should maybe insert some language into isntructions for judges about how likely it is that problems will be introduced that aren’t in the published form of the book.

  4. Julia Day says:

    The signup agreement definitely had lawyers evident. I wonder if that was just precautionary, or if a reaction to actual problems.

    I read all e-books on my laptop now, so I like the idea of electronic (although I loved the print books too.) Now, if only the Win 10 version of Adobe Reader weren’t so painful…

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      LOL, yes…the legal language did seem rather more daunting this year than I remember from the past.

      I got a follow-up email from Carol Ritter this morning reminding me what I’d legally agreed to, and it almost made me drop my toothbrush. All perfectly above-board and reasonable, but still a little more intimidating than I expected while brushing my teeth.

  5. Hope Ramsay says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve been a RITA preliminary and final judge for about as many years as I’ve been eligible to enter the RITA. And my reaction to the news that the contest is going digital is a great big hallelujah. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be and I simply can’t read paperbacks anymore without suffering eyestrain. So for the last several years I’ve been buying the digital version of my RITA books in order to read them. I then keep the physical books and give them away as gifts to readers. So this move will save me a lot of money!
    I happen to love judging a book using a reading device. I can make marginal comments as I go using the bookmark feature. I would never mark up a physical book that I’m likely to hand on to someone else to read. So for me, digital offers some real big benefits.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Oh, those are great positives I hadn’t thought of!

      I guess we can increase the size of pdfs to make them more easily readable…. though I still get more eyestrain from screens than from paper.

  6. Darynda Jones says:

    Oooooh, I forgot! Thanks for this!!!


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