RITA Judging FAQ


1. Who is eligible to judge the contest? 

All General RWA members, Associate Writer RWA members, non-member RITA entrants, current or former booksellers and librarians, and romance reviewers whose Judge Volunteer Questionnaire has been submitted and accepted are eligible to judge the preliminary round so long as they have completed the required judge training. 


2. Who determines the judges selected? 

RWA staff will review the questionnaire responses and select the judges. The Board is not involved in the selection process.  


3. Why are judges required to complete training?

The Board is committed to exploring and test-driving new ideas to make the RITAs more representative and reflective of the excellence within our genre. As part of this process, we have brought in expert consultants, all of whom recommended judge training as essential to this goal. 


4. What does the training entail? What topics will be discussed?

The training will be webinar-based and will take up to 2 hours to complete. Our aim is to have training ready by December 1, 2019, and selected judges will need to complete it by the time assigned books are sent out, which is typically mid-January. There will be a short portion of the training discussing how RITA judging works. The majority of the training will be conducted by our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) consultant on the topic of understanding bias. 


5. What if I am selected to judge but do not complete the judge training? 

By responding to the questionnaire, you are agreeing that you will complete the judge training. You will not be eligible to judge otherwise. If you are selected and are not able to complete the training, please contact the Contest Coordinator immediately. 


6. Why are you asking for demographic information on the questionnaire?

We are interested in learning more about who makes up our judging pool on a macro level. We’re committed to ensuring the RITA contest is fair to all entrants, and an understanding of the diversity of our judging pool will help us in that aim. All of the demographic questions are voluntary, and staff will not be considering them in the judge selection process. No one but staff will have access to respondents’ individual information, which will be kept strictly confidential. 


7. I have an issue with the wording of one of the demographic questions on the questionnaire. 

Please let the contest coordinator know! These demographic questions and responses were created in partnership with our DEI consultant and with reference to several different resources. We are striving to stay on top of current best practices, and we welcome your input. 


8. If the entry is wrong for the category, what should I do?

If the entry is blatantly wrong for the category; i.e., a contemporary romance entered in Historical Romance category, call the office to make sure a placement error has not been made. Be sure to read the category requirements carefully. Also, remember that a book may qualify for more than one category, i.e., a Contemporary Romance could also be Romantic Suspense. Most writers know the appropriate category for their work; however, mistakes can be made. If you're in doubt, call the RWA office or contact the Contest Coordinator.


9. Do I judge my entries against each other?

No. Each entry should be judged on its own merits without comparison to other entries in the judge's packet.


10. I recognize the book from a chapter contest that I judged. What should I do?

If you feel that you can judge the work impartially, then please do so. However, if you believe you cannot be impartial, contact the Contest Coordinator immediately.


11. My critique partner wrote one of the books in my packet. I do not feel comfortable judging this book!

Contact the Contest Coordinator immediately. A potential or perceived conflict of interest occurs if a judge has a close personal relationship with the author.


12. One of the books in my packet includes elements that I am not comfortable with. I do not feel I can be impartial with this book. What should I do?

Contact the Contest Coordinator immediately. The Contest Coordinator will locate another judge for the book.


13. Due to personal crises I will not be able to judge all of the books assigned. What should I do?

Contact the Contest Coordinator immediately. The Contest Coordinator will locate another judge for the books that cannot be judged.


14. I have finished my judging assignment early and I am willing to judge more books.

If you would like to judge an additional packet of books, please contact the Contest Coordinator.


15. What if I know the person who wrote the entry I am to judge?

Because we are a fairly close-knit organization, and it's easy to know hundreds of people with our conferences and online accessibility, giving every judge books from authors she’s never met would be too onerous a task.

However, if you believe you cannot be impartial, contact the Contest Coordinator immediately. A potential or perceived conflict of interest occurs if a judge has a close personal relationship with the author. The entry will be reassigned.


16. Do I have to read the entire entry?

In most cases, yes. However, a judge may give a DNF score, if appropriate, after reading at least 25% of the book or 50 pages, whichever is shorter. If the judge believes the DNF score is appropriate, the judge is not obligated to read the entire book.

A judge in the preliminary round may give an entry a DNF score if the judge believes the book is too flawed to final as defined in 17.8.5.3.1.1. and 17.8.5.3.1.2. A DNF score is appropriate in the following circumstances: (1) The book’s grammatical or other mechanical errors are so numerous as to suggest the book was not ready to be made commercially available by a professional author. The use of slang or vernacular is not a grammatical error. (2) The book’s craft issues are so numerous or fundamental to suggest the book was not ready to be made commercially available by a professional author.


17. May I discuss the books I’ve read as entries?

Please do not discuss any entry you have read on any forum, public or private. If, at a later date, you would like to praise an author whose work you read, please do not refer to the work as “a RITA entry” rather refer to it as you would a book you read on your own initiative.


18. How many books will I receive?

The average number of books assigned to judges has been seven books for the last several years. Last year, no judge was assigned more than seven books. Prior to last year, some judges may have received eight books to judge. That being said, we are not able to guarantee how many books a judge is assigned. The assignment of books to judges is done by a software routine that takes into consideration several factors.

A couple of the factors are the total number of judges signed up to judge the contest and then the number of judges available to judge specific categories. Judges may opt of judging two categories and will be automatically be opted out of judging in categories entered.