The RITA Awards—given every year for outstanding romance fiction—are getting a makeover.

During its annual convention in New York City last month, the board of the Romance Writers of America approved changes in both submissions and judging for the 2020 RITA awards. 

Next year, the pool will be considerably smaller, with 1,200 entries (as compared with this year’s 2,000). Submissions are capped at two books per author, and the second book may only be submitted if there are still slots available after the first week. Authors are still required to pay their own submission fees.

The biggest changes are to the judging of the preliminary round. Under the old rules, every author who submitted a book was also required to be a judge. In 2020, preliminary round judges can be authors, booksellers, librarians, or reviewers; anyone interested can self-select and fill out a Judge Volunteer Questionnaire. Responses to the questionnaire will be used to select preliminary round judges who will undergo required training (details forthcoming). 

RWA attendees veered between hope and skepticism. Many at the conference expressed support for the RWA board’s explicitly tackling biased judging. But as author and former RWA board member Courtney Milan said on Twitter, “If you haven’t, of your own accord, read several dozen books written by a mix of native authors, writers of color, queer authors, and disabled authors, then I don’t think judge training will save you.” 

Romance correspondent Jennifer Prokop is the cohost of the Fated Mates podcast.