Today is the day the Romance Writers of America announce the list of finalists for the Golden Heart and RITA awards. RWA says, “The purpose of the RWA contests–RITA and Golden Heart–is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding romance books and manuscripts.” These two contests are the big fish in the little pond of romance writing.

Or, as I explain to my non-romance friends, it’s like the Oscars, but for romance books. Finaling in either contest is a huge honor, at least among romance authors. I wonder, however, how important that “Golden Heart Winner!” or “RITA Award Winner!” emblazoned across the top of the book is important to readers (and no, I am not just saying that because I am doubtful of finaling myself). Reviewing the list of past RITA winners is impressive; reviewing the list of past Golden Heart winners is just as fun, especially since some of those authors have since been published.

But does it mean anything? I don’t know, but I am still hoping against hope I get a phone call today from the RWA office in Texas. Barring that, I hope one or more of my fellow Riskies get the call.

So–have you ever been more interested in a book because it’s won an award? If you’re a published author, do you enter these kinds of contests? What do you get out of them? If you’re unpublished, have you found contests to be helpful in forwarding your career?

And–before you answer any of that–wish us luck!