2017 RITA Contest Rules

Scoring Overview
Contest Eligibility
Entry Requirements
Entry Category Eligibility
Category Descriptions and Judging Guidelines
Announcement of Finalists

The entry fee for RWA members is $50 per entry, for the first three entries; the entry fee for non-members is $170 per entry.  

The RITA Contest will open for entries at 11 a.m. CT,  Nov. 1, 2016.

E-mail questions to contests@rwa.org.


The purpose of RWA’s RITA Contest is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding published novels and novellas.

For the purposes of the RITA Contest:

A “Novel” is a work of fiction of 40,000 words or more as determined by computer word count.

A “Novella” is a work of fiction of 20,000–40,000 words as determined by computer word count.

Entrants determine the appropriate category to enter based on computer word count. As authors cannot always be certain of the final word count after editing, for purposes of these rules, a small amount of flexibility (2% of the total word count) over or under a required word limit is permissible.


Scoring Overview

Each preliminary-round entry will be scored individually on a scale of 1.0 to 10.0, with 1.0 being the lowest (poor) and 10.0 being the highest (excellent). Judges are allowed and encouraged to use decimal points (7.5, 8.8, etc.) when scoring.

Preliminary-round judges will be required to answer the following three questions in addition to assigning one overall score:

  • Does the entry contain a central love story?
  • Is the resolution of the romance emotionally satisfying and optimistic?
  • Does the entry fall within the category description?

If there are three negative responses to any one question, the entry is disqualified.

Preliminary-round scores will be determined using a trimmed mean (the highest and lowest scores will be discarded and the remaining three scores will be averaged).

The top scoring 4% of each category’s entries (based on the number of qualified entries received) will advance to the final round; excepting that no category will have fewer than 4 finalists and no category will have more than 10 finalists. Any fraction will be rounded up to the next whole number, not to exceed 10 finalists.

Final-round entries for the RITA contest shall be ranked from first to last place (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) with the lowest score signifying the winner.

The identity of judges is confidential. RWA discourages any communication between judges and entrants.

Until the contest winners are announced, to protect the integrity of the contest, judges should not discuss the books, post comments in e-mail, on social media, or review the books they judge. All questions about entries should be directed to RWA staff.

Each author's preliminary-round scores will be made available to the author once the contest is concluded and winners have been announced.


Contest Eligibility

The RITA Contest is open to members of RWA as well as non-members, but priority will be given to members. Any lapse in membership during the course of the contest by the entrant or collaborator (from the time of entry until the winners are announced at the Awards Ceremony) will result in the entrant being required to renew within 10 days of notification or pay the higher non-member entry fee.

If an entry is the result of collaboration, all collaborators must be RWA members in good standing in order to qualify for the lower entry fee.

All entrants are required to judge the preliminary round. Others eligible to judge are authors who are PAN-eligible. The final round will be judged by PAN members.

Entrants must be 18 years of age by the date of entry.

Entrants are required to acknowledge the RITA Contestant’s Agreement by signing the entry form or checking a box on the website indicating their acceptance of terms.

Neither employees of RWA nor members of their immediate families are eligible to enter or judge any RWA contest. “Immediate family” is defined as spouse, parents and children. Adopted, foster and step members are included in this definition.

The RITA contest is open to 2,000 paid entries.

Entry forms and fees must be received no later than 5 p.m. CT, November 21, 2016. Entry forms received after the deadline will not be processed. Checks will be returned to the entrant.

Books must be received by RWA at 14615 Benfer Road, Houston, Texas 77069 no later than 5 p.m. CT, Jan. 4, 2017. Entrants who fail to meet this deadline will be disqualified, and the entry fee will be forfeited. Authors whose books are received at RWA’s office by December 15, 2016 will be eligible to win an iPad Mini or a complimentary conference registration (entrant’s choice).


Entry Requirements

A book entered in the 2017 RITA Contest must:

  • Be a work of original Romance Fiction, which means the work contains a central love story, and the resolution of the romance must be emotionally satisfying and optimistic.

  • Have an English language publication date of 2016, or in the case of a serialized work submitted as a whole, an original English language publication date of 2016 for the final installment of that work.

  • Not have been previously entered in whole or in part.

  • Be submitted in print book format, complete with copyright page, authorized by the publisher, and bound, with printing on both sides of the page. For purposes of self-published works, the author is the publisher.

  • Be an English language edition.

  • Meet the requirements for the category in which it is entered.

RWA reserves the right to administratively disqualify an entry. The entry fee will be refunded and books will be returned for any entry administratively disqualified.

*“Original publication date of 2016” means that the book was originally published in 2016 and has a Notice of Copyright date no later than 2016. A book with a Notice of Copyright date prior to 2016, which was not published until 2016, will be eligible. A book published prior to 2016, which lists a Notice of Copyright date of 2016 in the originally published edition, will also be eligible. The intent of this definition is that every book should be eligible for consideration exactly once.

Five copies of the book are required for the preliminary round.

In the event that duplicate entries for the same book are received, the first entry will be the official entry and the subsequent entries and fees will be returned. However, if the author is one of the entrants, the author’s choice of category (and alternate, if applicable) will prevail.

If a novel/novella is published as part of a collection, it is not necessary for each work in the collection to be entered in the contest. Each work will be entered independently.

A collection of novels/novellas in one volume does not constitute a single entry; rather, each work must be entered separately, and five copies of the book must be submitted for each entry. The appropriate fee will be paid for each entry.

Five additional books are required for the final round. RWA will contact only the author regarding the additional books, regardless of who entered the book. These books must be received at the RWA Office by 5 p.m. CT on April 7, 2017.

Books not received by this deadline will be disqualified from final round judging, but finalist status will not be revoked. Fees will not be refunded.

Entrants who enter more than two titles may be required to judge an additional panel of books in the preliminary round.


Entry Category Eligibility

The entrant selects the category. Entrants may designate a second category for the work in the event the first-choice category does not receive the required number of entries to be judged or the provisional cap has been reached for their primary category.

A book may not be entered in more than one category. For example: a historical novel that has a strong suspense element may be entered in Romantic Suspense or Historical Romance, but not in both.

Each entrant may enter a maximum of three entries during the first seven days. After this period, the entrant may submit additional entries up to a combined total of six.

Categories with fewer than 40 entries will not be judged. If a secondary category has not been designated, the entry fees will be returned. No category changes can be made after the entry deadline, with the exception of entries in a cancelled category.

Confirmations will be sent to the email addresses of the entrants.


Category Descriptions and Judging Guidelines

All entries must contain a central love story and the resolution of the romance must be emotionally satisfying and optimistic.

With the exception of Erotic Romance, all categories may have varying levels of sensuality

Contemporary Romance: Long

Novels that are set from 1950 to the present that focus primarily on the romantic relationship and that are 84,000 or more words.


Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length

Novels that are set from 1950 to the present that focus primarily on the romantic relationship and that are between 56,000 and 84,000 words in length.


Contemporary Romance: Short

Novels that are set from 1950 to the present that focus primarily on the romantic relationship and that are between 40,000 and 56,000 words in length.


Erotic Romance

Novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may contain elements of other romance subgenres (such as paranormal, historical, etc.).


Historical Romance: Long

Novels that are set prior to 1950 and that are longer than 89,000 words..


Historical Romance: Short

Novels that are set prior to 1950 and that are between 40,000 and 89,000 words.


Paranormal Romance

Novels in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot.


Romance Novella

Novellas are between 20,000 and 40,000 words.


Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements

Novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may be set in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system of any culture.


Romantic Suspense

Novels in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.


Young Adult Romance

Novels in which young adult life is an integral part of the plot.


Best First Book

A Novel entered in another contest category. To be eligible, the author (or authors in the case of a writing team) shall not have had any other novel or novella previously commercially available in any format.


Provisional Category

Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance

Mainstream Fiction novels in which themes or elements other than the romance are integral to the story even though a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic resolution to the romance are still present. This category is intended for romances that do not fit neatly into any other category due to their mainstream fiction nature but where the central romance could not be removed without damaging the storyline.


Announcement of Finalists

The official list of finalists will be posted on RWA's website by 2:00 p.m., CT on March 21, 2017.

On March 21, 2017, the RWA staff shall notify finalists via e-mail.