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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rejected Today Sold Tomorrow

"In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer."  Albert Camus

"From your wintery failures, seek out your summer of successes."  Julie Johnstone

And now we begin…

The internet is buzzing with talk of the Golden Heart. This contest is the Oscars of the romance industry. Finaling in the GH is an honor within itself and can bring a hopeful writer recognition, which may help to get them published. Tomorrow, romance writers who took the plunge this year and entered their manuscript in the contest will try to go about their day and not think about when and if their phone is going to ring. Let’s face it, we all know the volume on the phones will be turned to high, and by mid to late afternoon, some may wonder if their phone is working properly, check their ringers, their voice mails or their missed calls.

     There will be two groups of people by the end of tomorrow. Those who got the call telling them they finaled and those who didn’t. One elated bunch will probably celebrate with chocolate, wine or maybe champagne, while the other deflated bunch will most likely wallow in their misery with chocolate, wine or a good strong mixed drink.

I’ve read countless e-mails all relating to helping those who final celebrate their good news. There are blog parties, squeal parties, local critique group parties, and too many other parties to list here. These wonderful writers deserve this honor, and let me tell you, if I finaled in the Golden Heart I would be celebrating in full party mode along with the best of them. You should have seen the way I ran around my house when I got sold my first short. You would have thought by my jumps and squeals I had signed a multimillion-dollar movie contract for one of my novels.

With all this said, as I read my e-mails I couldn’t help wondering about those wonderful writers who don’t get the call tomorrow. I simply could not believe those writers had no future, no hope, no contract or happy ending, so yesterday I sent out an e-mail asking writers to contact me if they had ever submitted a story to the Golden Heart which did not final but later went on to sale. I received a flood of e-mails and spent hours reading the success stories of all those writers who never got that call but sold their baby anyway. What an inspiration!

Today I want to give all of you struggling writers a gift, especially those of you who may not get the call tomorrow naming you as a finalist in the GH. I want to share some of these incredible stories with you. You may not be a finalist tomorrow, but in two weeks, you may just get that same story contracted for publication. Remember this as you read these stores:


The story of their successes:

Evangeline Collins
Seven Nights to Forever - Berkley Sensation/Nov 2010
Lush. Elegant. Sensual Historical Romance
M/M Erotic Romance...in the Regency era

“Back in late 2007, I entered the Golden Heart. The book was an unconventional Regency, and since I didn't have a clue how the entry would be received, I told myself I wouldn't wait for that phone call on the day finalists were going to be announced. Of course, I did end up waiting for the phone call that never came. Who doesn't wait? I was bummed the book didn't final...okay, really bummed. But two months later the book was contracted by Berkley, and I was proof that just because you don't final doesn't mean you won't sell. The book I entered and later sold was HER LADYSHIP'S COMPANION. It released in May 2009 from Berkley Sensation.”

Vanessa Kelly
Regency Romance That Sizzles

“My debut book, Mastering The Marquess, landed like a dull thud in the GH rankings. As I recall, I barely made it into the upper 50% percentile! I'm happy to say that I sold the manuscript two months later to John Scognamiglio at Kensington Zebra. My next book, Sex And The Single Earl will be released in May, and I signed another two-book contract last fall with Kensington. I'm also going to be in a novella with Jo Beverley and Sally Mackenzie in 2011, and I was asked to contribute a short story to The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance, coming out this summer.  So, don't be discouraged if you don't final in the GH, because things can turn around with one phone call!”

Lori Brighton

“I entered a couple different manuscripts and didn't come close to finaling. I entered my debut book, Wild Heart, and it didn't do well. So I entered it in some other contests and it actually finaled in 3 other contests. It ended up coming in first place in the Golden Acorn contest, was requested by Hilary Sares (who use to work at Kensington). She ended up buying the book and it was released November 2009.  I had sent Wild Heart to just about every agent I could with no interest. Had even sent it to some editors. So entering it in the Golden Acorn contest was my last resort. Fortunately it worked out.”

Tomorrow, I’ll share more success stories which were generously shared with me and post the GH finalist here as I read their squeals of happiness on the internet.

I’ll leave you with this quote: 

"Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
Thomas Edison

Keep the faith,

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem


  1. I love these stories!

    My story is a little different--I did final in the Golden Heart with my first book, but I didn't sell it for another year, and by way of a completely different contest.

    Contests like the Golden Heart can be a benefit if you do final. But there's no stigma attached to not finaling. Editors love what they love, which isn't always the same thing contest judges love.

  2. Thanks for the info. Will check out the links.

  3. Great post, Julie. It is so important to not lose faith if you don't final in the GH. Loving Lydia didn't final (I can't even remember the numbers now) but it was published last year by a publisher who took note of it in a different contest. And as you pointed out, regardless of final or not, chocolate and wine are appropriate for any situation.

  4. These are great stories, Julie. I haven't entered the Golden Heart, but it gives me hope that even contests such as these can miss diamonds in the rough. I've read Vanessa Kelly's Mastering the Marquess, and the idea that it barely made it to the top 50%? Wow. It's a great story!

  5. I'll second that. I never entered a Golden Heart contest. Never finaled higher than 3rd in any contest I did enter. But I will tell you this: one of my books just went to print format this last week (The Art of Fang Shui) and it did garner perfect scores from alot of judges.

    Have I hit the NY Times best seller list? No, but that doesn't mean I'm not a success. And I did it without the help (or hindrance) of the Golden Heart :-)

  6. Julie,
    Great blog. I feel rejuvenated. I've never entered the GH, but contests don't seem to be my thing. LOL. I'm glad to know there's still hope. Can't wait to read more tomorrow.

  7. I love these stories, Julie. Thanks for posting them. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for all my romance writing friends and wishing them all the best of luck tomorrow.

  8. I also wanted to say that even finaling in the GH does not guarantee a sale. I finalled in 2006, had an agent, and she never could sell the book to NY. I ended up selling it to a smaller publisher, Samhain.

    The GH can be great for a writer's ego, but it should NEVER be considered the "end all, be all."

  9. Great Post! The stories inspire and I enjoyed the Camus quote.

  10. Thanks for all the wonderful comments so far! I am sure many writers will take heart from all of these stories about not finaling in various contest but becoming a published success nevertheless! I've been on both sides of the contest coin. I've finaled and I haven't, so this blog has a special place in my heart.

  11. These stories are so great, Julie! What a fantastic idea to compile this list and share these stories. I love your quotes, too. I think it's easy to get down on yourself as a result of a bad contest score and that can easily hinder your desire to keep going. I think it's important to remind people that contests - even the GH - is not the be all end all in the writing world. There is life outside of contests. LOL!

    Great post!

  12. Jerrica,
    I completely agree. The most important thing is to beleive in yourself, keep writing, and keep putting your work out there.

  13. Hi Julie! I think it's great that you're posting these stories. Contests can be a wonderful thing, but they can also be very demoralizing. The GH can be especially so if you don't final, because all you get are the scores. Judging is also very subjective - one judge can hate a book, and another judge can love it. I certainly had that experience with Mastering The Marquess. I finaled in some contests and did pretty horribly in others. But at the end of the day, it was the editor's opinion that counted.

    Maybe it's helpful to think of contests as just one tool in our writer's toolbox.

    Catherine, thank you for your kind comments!

  14. Vanessa,
    So well put. I too think contest are just one of our tools on the road to trying to get published. I am going to go out tomorrow and buy Mastering the Marquess!

  15. Julie!

    Love the post and so very true. Like everyone else, I've finaled in some contest and done horribly in others. It is very subjective as Vanessa said.

    Good luck to everyone tomorrow, but if you don't get that phone call it isn't the end of the world - or even the end of your writing career!