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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Top Five Things You Need to Know Before You Enter RWA’s Golden Heart® Contest

The Romance Writers of America 2011 Golden Heart® Contest for unpublished authors is open for entries. With 1200 entries each year, this is perhaps the biggest and most prestigious romance writing contest in the world.
Golden Heart® finalists get priority on appointments with editors and agents at the RWA National Conference, and there are numerous receptions held in their honor. Each year there are Cinderella stories of finalists who found agents and signed their first multi-book deals with major publishers. But the greatest prize of all is the support of an enormous network of past and present Golden Heart® finalists. I would be lost without my Class of 2010 Unsinkable sisters, who have guided me through everything from rejection letters to The Great Hair Debacle. Their talents and kindnesses inspire me every day.
Here’s what you need to know before you plunk down your $50 and take a chance on the Golden Heart:
  1. You won’t get any feedback: Golden Heart® entries are scored on a scale from one to nine. Entrants will receive their scores without any explanation of why they scored as they did. They will also receive information on how they finished in comparison to other entrants. For example, they will be told if they finished in the top quarter, middle quarter, bottom quarter, etc. Yet, this information is no predictor of how their work will sell. There are plenty of best-selling writers who scored in the bottom quarter and went on to have amazing careers. Conversely, there are many writers who final repeatedly in the Golden Heart, yet never sell.
  2. Yes, you really do need a completed manuscript: Although only the partials are judged, you do need to send in the entire manuscript. You have the option of printing out your full or sending the file on a CD. I have heard stories of CD’s getting lost and the entrants being disqualified. So if you choose that option, be sure to label the CD clearly.
  3. Enter Early: The deadlines for the Golden Heart® might be a little confusing for a new entrant. The first deadline, November 15, 2010, is for the entry form, which can be filled out on line or mailed. Your actual entry: six hard copies of both the partial and the synopsis plus one copy of the full must be received at the RWA office in Houston by December 2, 2010. Yes, you do have to send the actual entry snail mail. Last year I mailed mine ten days before the deadline and it arrived on the very last day possible. So plan ahead and allow twice as much time as you think you’ll need.
  4. Enter Often: One of the things you’ll hear over and over again when you’re talking to Golden Heart® finalists, is that they’re often stunned by which of their manuscripts finaled. They thought a manuscript that didn’t final was stronger than the one that did. But many factors go into the selection of finalists. The score required to final in one category might be higher than the score required in another. You can never tell which manuscript is going to appeal to the judges. So if you can afford to enter more than one manuscript, do.
  5. There are no guarantees: Your manuscript is flawless. You’ve gone through the checklist and met all the formatting requirements. You’ve paid your money and made all the deadlines. Perhaps you’ve even won some chapter contests. But even if you’re the greatest writer since Shakespeare, you might not final in the Golden Heart. The contest does have a system for eliminating scores outside the statistical norm. But judging is inherently subjective, and there’s no guarantee that the best entries will final.
So there you have my top five thing you need to know before you enter the Golden Heart. Good luck to all who enter. I would love to hear your Golden Heart®advice. Is there anything I left out? Please share your questions or words of wisdom.


  1. This is fabulous, Clarissa - thank you! I'm looking forward to entering my first GH this year, and want to be sure I do everything just so :)

  2. Great post Clarissa. I'm still trying to decide whether to enter this year. I'm leaning towards a maybe :o)

  3. Its always good to have advice from someone who's been there. Thanks for the suggestions, Clarissa!

  4. Great information, Clarissa. I entered last year and received wildly varying scores on two manuscripts that had won and finaled in other contests. So you just never know -- but hey, the entire road to getting published is like that!

    I've got my fingers crossed for everyone who enters this year. :)

  5. "Your manuscript is flawless."

    Absolutely, Clarissa! Make certain that your manuscript is absolutely the best version it can be. Absolutely the best. If you know you need revise...then think carefully if entering is a priority.

    2010 GH winner
    Hill Country Holdup
    Sept 2010 Harlequin Intrigue

  6. Clarrisa~
    "There's no guarantee that the best entries will final."
    Except for ours, right Unsinkable Sis? LOL
    Great post. The only thing I'd add would be if you haven't already, sign up to judge Golden Heart entries. It's kinda like completing the circle of good Karma.
    Enjoy! L.

  7. Thanks for this invaluable info, Gail!


  8. Do you recommend not to resubmit a revised MS that had been previously entered but not selected for the GH?

  9. Good post. Last year I meant to enter but let the deadline sneak by me.

  10. I would love to enter but my current wip isn't quite up to par yet. I still need at least two more editing sessions and a few additions for word count. So I don't think I'll have time to enter it. Great post Clarissa!

  11. Great information. I haven't decided yet if I am going to do it or not this year.

  12. Great information. I entered and will be sure it's mailed early. Geesh. I'm already nervous! Good luck eveyone!

  13. Thank you all for the great comments.

    Rose, I would definitely resubmit a revised manuscript. Even with the same manuscript, you will get a different set of judges who may love your work. Good luck!

  14. I was not going to enter THE YARD MAN, even though the ms had finaled a few times in chapter contests. I didn't think it stood a chance in hell up against all the contemporary crime/suspense in the RS category.

    And look what happened!

    Also, from what I can gather from my scores, THE YARD MAN barely made it into the final eight. ;)

    The GH is such a wild ride. I say go for it!

  15. Thanks for the info and insight. I'll be entering for the first time this year! Whoo Hoo!

  16. Hi!
    Want to enter, not sure I'm going to make the deadline. Got decent scores last year, but didn't final...
    Don't have any great advice other than to give it a shot!