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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

5 Tips for Mailing in Your Golden Heart® Entry

Only one week remains until the final deadline for the Golden Heart, Romance Writers of America’s® biggest annual writing contest for unpublished authors. Entries must be in the RWA office in Houston by 5 pm central time on Thursday, December 2nd.

The mailing process should be simple, but nerves can bungle the project. I made so many mistakes printing out my submission; I thought I would share a few tips for saving time and paper while preparing your Golden Heart entry for mailing.

  • Use the checklist before you print. Nothing is more frustrating than discovering you’ve made a basic formatting mistake right as your printer cartridge runs out of ink. RWA provides a checklist here. It will help you avoid the most obvious errors. Make sure all three parts of your entry are double spaced and have both the title and page numbers in the headers.
  • Print only one copy at first: Read it over thoroughly at least once, making note any typos, extra spaces, or other formatting errors. Chances are you’ll catch things you never noticed on the computer screen. It’s much easier to fix these errors before you print your six partials.
  • Paper or Plastic? Decide whether you want to send the full on a CD or printed out on paper. Believe it or not, this is a controversial topic. Those who are tech-savvy and/or green are going to want to use the CD. Not only will it save paper, but it will cut postage costs too. Old-schoolers will want to go the print route. They tell horror stories of CDs getting lost and entries disqualified. They say the weight of the package is their proof they sent the full. Either method is perfectly acceptable. If you do use a CD make sure it is clearly, permanently labeled with you title and name.
  • Packaging: I have always sent mine in a box. I copy and print out the RWA address from the confirmation email, so my bad handwriting won’t cause any problems. I like to track my package, but it isn’t necessary. Once RWA has received your entry, it will appear on the “my contests” page of your online member account profile.

Let it go: This is perhaps the hardest step of entering the Golden Heart. There comes a time when all revision can only make things worse. Don’t believe me? Last year, one of my entries-the one that did not final- contained three random pages in italics. How could this happen when I spent countless hours combing over that manuscript? I have to believe that in “fixing” one missing italics error, I inadvertently italicized everything around it. Fatigue leads to failure.

You’ve been perfecting this manuscript for months, maybe years.

Send it and forget it.

I would love to hear your GH prep stories. Have you ever had an entry lost or disqualified? Or discovered that fatal error only after it was too late to fix it? Are you an early entrant or an overnight delivery candidate? What tips have you learned to smooth the process?


  1. Clarissa, these are great tips. I decided against entering the contest this year, but I remember the frantic running around last year. Because yes, everything that can go wrong DOES happen then. LOL

    I also agree with the "send it and forget it" part. That applies to sending a manuscript to an agent or editor too--it's hard to do, but necessary to keep your sanity!

  2. I only entered the GH once but I checked, double checked and triple checked everything and was still worried something was missed once it was on its way. The whole process can be stressful, but so worth the reward if you final (at least I am assuming this because I didn't final).

  3. Great tips, Clarissa! The deadline is looming but I think the best approach is to get everything together over a few days. That way you can check and recheck to make sure everything is right. Last minute only means frazzle for me. I sent mine in a priority post envelope. Even though they say they are indestructible I still worry that the package tore and the corners are chewed up. But as you say, let it go.

  4. This is great advice, not just for entering the GH or another contest...but for any sort of submission you make. And yes, that last one is by far the most difficult. (By the way, is yours in the mail yet?)

  5. Clarissa, thanks for posting on GH. My submission will, per tracking, arrive tomorrow. I do wish that I'd seen your blog a few days ago. Your last bit of advice - to let it go - may be the most important. I've fretted for six days about a typo that I found after submission (on p. 39). Thanks for the sane reminder about this and other submission processes - do your best, then let it go. I suspect that it works for parenting teenagers too.

  6. Don't forget - Thanksgiving will slow everything down by one or two days.

    Most places aren't working on the 26th. Not sure if RWA is. Fed Ex and UPS are not delivereing ground, but they are delivereing rushes.

    Sorry - I work with shipping, and people forget that transit time needs to be calculated in!

  7. I did not read over my partial after I printed it and now after reading your post I wish I did. I did wrap it up in pretty paper, tied it with a bow and then wrapped it in hot pink bubble wrap- just for luck :) My husband mailed it priority mail yesterday - however we are having a blizzard and the roads have been shut down for two days. I have let it go but I am going to feel sick until I see that RWA has received it!

  8. Thank you all for the great tips. I am traveling this week and only able to check in as internet allows, but I've very thankful to all of you for stopping by and commenting. :)

  9. Clarissa,
    Great post. I mailed in my entry about two hours ago, and then I came home to find one of my critique partners had sent me a critique of my partial. She found two typos I missed. What can I do? Nothing. So, what did I do? I shrugged my shoulders and moved on to getting ready for Thanksgiving. If those two typos stop me from being a finalist then I don't think my entry was good enough in the first place!

  10. This is my first year entering. I compiled my entry, printed it out and looked it over and made the changes - then I looked at again about two weeks later. Then I just used the checklist, printed and mailed it with delivery confirmation. No drama in the mailing but check out my wobbly knees as it gets closer to announcing the finalists!

    I worked for so long and so hard on my ms (not to mention both CP's and good friend looked at it) I am confident taht I put my best foot forward.

  11. Thanks for all the great tips for the GH, Gail - they have truly been invaluable. I am sooo relieved to have finally sent both my entries off. And now...the waiting begins :)

  12. Good luck, Julie, Robin, and Erin. I'm going to have a lot of names to cheer for on that finalist list. :)

  13. Timely post Clarissa! I need to get mine off and I know I won't relax until it's mailed. Congrats on those of you who have sent out already! Good luck to all!

  14. Good luck with the mailing and the judges, Marian. Thanks for commenting. :)

  15. After going through the ordeal of printing out a tonnage of paper, proofing, organizing, paper-clipping, packing, addressing and paying the shipping charges, I swore I would never do it again.

    But was it worth it? I think I would have to say: yeah.