Four Books. Four Awards. And an Amazing time in Denver at RWA 2018!
It's hard to even know how to begin this article. My experience at RWA this year is a lot different from my first year in Orlando in 2017. Not knowing anything about anything that first year, I blindly followed the advice of my book bestie, L.G. O'Connor. I signed up too late to have secured appointments with agents and editors, and, either way, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to go traditional. But I was sick of sitting at home in my bathrobe, writing and swilling coffee. It seemed a good opportunity to get out of the house.
So I went. I attended workshops. I had, literally, no place to be. I met other authors. I visited the overwhelming swag room. And I watched nominees walk across the stage to accept RITA Awards. I felt that maybe, one day, after I'd been doing this for awhile (at the time, I had only debuted my first novel four months before) I might win some recognition for my own work, too.
Sometime between this year and last, I figured out the awards thing. I was proud of Snapdragon and recognized 2017 as my only year to submit for Best First Book. I also recognized that I wasn't really selling many books and probably needed a lot more exposure. As an Erotic Romance, Snapdragon is closed out from many traditional advertising platforms--the most prominent of which are Facebook and Amazon. $15-$30 per entry seemed like a small price to pay for the chance at prestige, and for somebody--anybody--to get exposure to my books.
So I went in hard--like, really hard--on contests and awards. As Snapdragon began doing well, I decided to see how far it could go. I also got clued into what turned out to be the biggest advantage for me: with awards come scorecards. For a very reasonable sum, I could hear what authors and readers really thought about my books.
This was particularly interesting to me for unpublished manuscripts. What better way to gauge reader acceptance than to read judge's scores? Even if my books tanked in these contests, it would be a win-win. If people hated it, the scorecards would tell me why--if they loved it, the books would supply social proof that readers felt that my work stood out next to other entrants. So I found the budget and entered every award I could find.
Fast-forward to RWA 2018 in Denver. Instead of an empty schedule spent however I liked, I walked into the event with my dance card full. I was a finalist for six separate awards--two for Snapdragon (NRCA - Erotica) and one for The Art of Worship (Passionate Plume - Novella), and three for each of my unpublished manuscripts, Crocodile Tears, The Secret Ingredient, and The Benefactor. I went in hopeful, but without expectations--already, I was grateful to even have made it to the finals. In my book, a final is a win.
It was deeply gratifying and extremely touching to walk away with four of the six possible wins: Best First Book for Snapdragon in the NRCA Awards, Best Contemporary Long for Crocodile Tears in the Stiletto Awards, Best Contemporary Mid-Length for The Secret Ingredient in the Stiletto Awards, and Best Fiction with a Central Romance for The Benefactor in the CIMRWA Awards. Doubly-gratifying was to be surrounded by friends each time I accepted. Daphne Masque woke up very early to come with me to the NRCA Awards ceremony, Averil Day Merrit was my plus-one to the Stilettos (and R.L. Merrill was right up front cheering me on), and Averil was also at the CIMRWA Conference to witness my acceptance of the award.
I've been very successful, overall, on the awards front this year, and it's hard to explain why these aren't just more notches in my bedpost. From the outside, I'm just a chick who writes books that seem to be particularly conducive to winning awards. But, the fact is, my work isn't exactly commercial--they're non-traditional, not-at-all-straightforward plots and characters who I've put in situations that can seem controversial at times. That juries of my peers, readers, agents and editors found them worthy of top honors feels very, very special.