The Romance Writers of America recently held its annual conference, and one of the highlights of each year’s event is the awarding of the Rita awards. Named for one of the founders of RWA, Rita Clay Estrada, Ritas are awarded to romance titles in thirteen different categories and, until 2012, were limited to books in print.
At this year’s event, however, two Ritas were awarded to ebook titles, one for romance novella and the other for contemporary single title.
“This is a very big deal. It’s as if a YouTube video won an Oscar for best feature film,” said Richard Curtis, literary agent and founder of digital publisher E-reads, in a post for Digital Book World’s blog. “It’s hard to believe that the rest of the publishing industry will follow suit any time soon, but in this revolutionary era, wonders that we said would not come to pass for a decade seem to materialize in six months. So – keep your eye on those National Book Award nominees.”
The romance genre as a whole has been an early adopter of digital reading from the beginning of the e-reader device popularity. Several well-known romance publishers, like Harlequin, were some of the first to establish ebook-only and imprints. Other publishers, like predominately erotica genre Ellora’s Cave, also launched as digital-first imprints. These publishers are meeting the demand romance fans have for new and more readily available content, while also meeting the needs of romance authors who wish to connect with their fans at a much faster rate than they could under traditional print publishing models.