The Future of the Golden Heart Contest

As publishing continues to move in new directions, romance writers are facing a significantly different landscape than they have in the past. To remain relevant in today’s market, RWA must examine all aspects of its programming to determine whether cost outweighs benefit. One of the programs the Board has been reviewing is the Golden Heart Contest.

Over the years, Golden Heart entries have fluctuated, reaching a peak of 1,130 in 2010. However, entry numbers began a steep decline in 2013, likely attributable, at least in part, to changes in the publishing landscape.

The Board has attempted to increase interest in the contest and made rule changes to keep it viable. Specifically, the Board lowered the minimum number of entries needed to prevent a category from being canceled. The Board also revised category descriptions. Most recently, the Board changed the RWA conference schedule to announce the contest winners earlier to highlight them throughout the conference and provide all finalists with more opportunities to meet editors and agents during conference.

Despite those changes, the entry numbers have not increased. The hard reality is that the Golden Heart as it is no longer serves the number of members it once did. Only 5% of the membership enters, and the numbers as detailed below demonstrate that the cost of and interest in the contest versus the number of members benefitted by it is hugely disproportionate.

The facts:

  • In 2018, the contest received $15,090 in entry fees. This amount does not cover the costs of the contest, which totaled $32,837 (excluding luncheon costs) in 2018. So, it’s not just that the contest doesn’t make a profit, it actually costs RWA money.
  • Erotic Romance and Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements (formerly Inspirational Romance) have consistently failed to receive the required minimum number of entries.
  • The total number of individuals who entered the 2018 Golden Heart Contest was 424. Since several of those entrants entered more than one manuscript, the number of judged entries was 490.
  • It has been increasingly difficult to find members willing to participate as judges in the Golden Heart contest. The 2018 Golden Heart contest had 350 members participating as judges. Sorting entries to judges was delayed due to the low number of members willing to judge the contest. (Please see chart below)
  • Because the Golden Heart offers entrants no feedback, the benefits of the contest are limited to those who final--typically 40-45 individuals. In 2017, RWA lost $17,747 on the Golden Heart, but only provided a career benefit to 39 individuals. 
  • Many of the same individuals advance to the final round each year. This means the contest is benefiting an even lower number of members than the year-by-year totals indicate.

Taking all of this into consideration, the question is whether RWA can continue with this contest as it is now.

The Board has been discussing possible options. One option is to accept that industry changes have transformed the face of romance writing to the extent that the Golden Heart Contest should be discontinued. A different approach would be to completely re-envision the award. We don’t have the answer yet, but we can no longer postpone the conversation, hoping the contest will rebound. It’s clear it will not.

We welcome the opportunity to hear your opinions on these matters.  Your thoughts will help to inform us as we move forward in looking at the Golden Heart.  Please feel free to email either the board at or Dee Davis at


 Number of Entries by Year













Contemporary Single Title












Contemporary Romance












Contemporary Series Romance












Contemporary Series Romance: S/A












Contemporary: Short












Erotic Romance












Historical Romance
























Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance












Novel with Strong Romantic Elements




































Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements












Romantic Suspense












Young Adult



























Judge Participation per year:

Contest Year

Number of Judges
























Full Cost Breakdown (update added 5.15.18, 5:28 p.m.)

Software to run contest: $1,997.
Comps for final-round judges: $4,950.
MC costs (travel, lodging, comp): $2,500
Golden Heart necklaces: $1,120.
Shipping/Postage (mailing invitations and pins to finalists): $400 
Staff: $14,770
Incidental Costs (AV labor, invitations, printing, finalists and winner pins, etc.) $1,100.
Two Receptions (Food & Beverage): $6,000.

Total Costs: $32,837


Future of the Golden Heart

May 15, 2018 01:23 PM by Margaret Staeben

Could you explain the costs of running the contest? They seem extremely high. Might it be possible to raise the cost for the first entry and then charge less for additional entries for those wishing to enter more than one submission? Or perhaps lower the cost of entry if the writer agrees to serve as first-round judge as well?

Is there more explanation on the staff expenses?

May 15, 2018 05:34 PM by Nan Dixon

The staff RWA is incredible - but what does the $15K entail?

Also - if the GH went back to begin part of the RITA ceremony, would there be a reduction in cost? (MC etc.)

Nan - who loves the GH!

Golden Heart Eligibility

May 15, 2018 05:40 PM by Allie McCormack

I published my first book with a very small eBook publisher (who has long since folded) 18 years ago. Because of that, I'm ineligible to enter the Golden Heart.  The book is never even going to be PAN eligible, and I'm trying so hard to get the others traditionally published, so if just one finaled iit would be a huge victory for me because it would, hopefully, get that in front of those so-important final round judges. I have finished 5 manuscripts now that I'd enter in a HEARTBEAT if I was eligible. Every year when the contest is opened, I go look immediately, hoping and hoping that they've changed the eligibility requirements, and terribly disappointed that they haven't changed. 

I'm guessing there's a lot of writers in my position that would enter, if they could.

Golden Heart

May 15, 2018 06:39 PM by Sarah McGregor

I agree with the comments I see above. Also, the Golden Heart is promoted as this big deal but I think rather than a banquet & a necklace, authors would rather have a crack at an agent and/or a publisher. It seems even winning a Rita doesn't ensure or improve the likelihood of that. Definitely the lack of comments/critique makes the Golden Heart less palatable as well. I, for one, enter contests primarily for good, inspirational critique.

GH comments

May 15, 2018 10:25 PM by Leslie Scott

I've stepped into the contest coordinating arena just this past year. But coordinated several categories of an unpublished contest where the contestants enter because of feedback. I've even had entrants tell me they enter this (RWA chapter) contest over the GH because of it.

This to me boils down to an inability to offer something of merit to unpublished membership. Offering critique is one aspect that needs to be addressed, I think.

Lack of judges is interesting because I remember multiple times offering to judge more entries than I was given and yet... nothing. I was offering... no one was taking me up on that.

Also the biggest expense seems to be with staff, which is just odd for me. I'd like to see a breakdown of why it costs staff 15 grand to run a contest that most likely be ran by volunteers (again,  I would offer to help there) overseen by an unbiased staff member.


Again, all that being said... I think we'd be doing an incredible disservice cancelling the GH if we weren't going to at least make it something unpublished authors want to enter (feedback).

Golden Heart

May 16, 2018 07:09 AM by Tracy E. Blair-Funnell

Understanding the business aspect of maintaining the contest, I am not sure that the factors considered are accurate. As a member of RWA, I consider part of my annual membership fee to be for the advancement of my career, which until very recently included working toward becoming published. I would assume a large number of unpublished authors would feel the same way -- even some who are Indie published but still working toward a traditional publishing contract. To only consider the entry fees as income for the Golden Heart seems inaccurate, based on the fact that the contest is one of the few ways new writers can actually get their work noticed. Also, the idea that indie and self-publishing are the reasons for the decline doesn't line up with the fact that other large contests geared toward helping new authors achieve publication, such as L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future contest, are actually ramping up in the current market rather than winding down. It seems appropriate to consider why this might be. Is it the level of recognition, which the GH has limited levels of as noted in the article above? Many other contests expand beyond finalists and into "honorable mention" in order to include recognition for those who miss the cut by only a small margin. It would seem to me that incorporating a change such as this would add no cost whatsoever to the contest, while significantly widening the number of entrants who gain benefit from it. Ideas like this one are easy to come up with with very little research into successful contests.

One of the main reasons I continue to renew my RWA membership is the benefits that forward my career. I would be very sad and disappointed to see a primary benefit for unpublished authors dissolve without taking steps to determine whether changing the format or process would help. Like traditional publishing, the more the benefits are removed, the less authors will feel as if they are receiving a value for their investment, and numbers will move away from organizations that cost money.

As a final note, I should add that I used to volunteer to help judge. Along the way, requirements for judging changed. Ease of volunteering changed. A year went by where I saw no notification that volunteering time had opened. I could not find a place to volunteer. I shrugged and moved on. I don't say this for any other reason than to point out that sometimes the factors that cause a problem are not just the ones seen on the surface. I hope the board will consider these points as it reviews the future of the Golden Heart.


May 16, 2018 07:59 AM by LeAnne Bristow

I agree with most of what has been said. I would love to see a critique option on the judging, which is hugely beneficial to writers, even if they don't final. Playing up the fact that acquiring editors from publishing houses are the final judges would help as well. I don't think I heard much about that before. I also wonder how much of the drop off is due to the changing face of publishing and how much is due to the changed format. Unfortunately, I know several writers who choose not to enter the GH after RWA changed the format to a luncheon on Thursday's. It no longer held the appeal it did before and all the excitement building up to the GH and Rita awards is just gone. I understand changed the Readers event so more readers can attend, but the awards ceremony on Saturday night was always my favorite part, even if I didn't know anyone in the finals. As someone whose day job sometimes prevents me from being able to attend the conference during the week, I would have been willing to attend the conference on the weekend just to go to the awards ceremony, but now that it's all on Thursday I no longer have that option.

Golden Heart

May 16, 2018 09:55 AM by Becke Turner

To me, RWA offers the Rita and GH as recognition of excellence in writing by our peers and is an important component of our mission.  I always check the Rita finalists as a reading list. I also check GH finalists and compare the titles in other contests. To me,  GH finalists represent the current standard for a romance opening as assessed by the Beta readers/contest judges. Therefore, I believe the contests have value.

As far as costs, some line items such as software costs would seem to indicate a yearly cost. Is that accurate? Once the software is coded,  most businesses have maintenance costs. However, my assumption is RWA requires constant maintenance costs for its operational systems. The contest software would be included with these maintenance costs.  If contest maintenance is included in the job description of a staffer or bundled with routine maintenance, then this seems to be a "soft" number. 

The same would seem to apply for staffing. The costs for only the contest would imply

  • RWA would eliminate a staff position if the contests were dropped; or
  • RWA employs part-time help for the contests.

It would be helpful to clarify this component 

I agree the lack of feedback is a negative for the contest. However, if a critique is added, it would be a added burden to the volunteer judges.

I disagree with the assumption members who don't enter a contest aren't interested in the contests.  Chapters are happy to cheer on their finalist friends. To me, it's a celebration of all members who work hard in a tough business. It's the princess night and the number who actually attend should be the indicator of the interest level.

I'm troubled by the all or nothing view pervasive in many of  today's current topics. RWA, isn't a perfect organizations. As members we strive  to improve the organization. However, I believe we need to preserve the best components and work to improve them.  Just because a component has been present for many years doesn't mean it's defective.

Maybe it's just time to give the old girl a little polish, not trash her.  

Golden Heart

May 16, 2018 10:07 AM by Diane Perkins

As a former Golden Heart finalist and winner, I am not at all surprised that your number of entries plummeted last year. When RWA changed the Awards Ceremony to a lunch, separating it out from the gala of the RITA awards, you took some of the appeal from the contest. When you changed the awards from the end of the conference, you took away the status of being a finalist for both the RITA and GH finalists.

Before these changes, every finalist was equal in interest from and appeal to editors and agents. Once the winners are announced, the finalist status becomes meaningless. All the attention goes to the few that win. And yet we all know that it takes a great entry to final in either contest. 

What's more, you took away any of the specialness of the GH award. No longer would it be easy for family to attend the ceremony. No longer would the unpublished writers feel a kinship with those published authors. You made the GH finalists the stepchild you hide in the attic, when we all want to attend the ball and have a chance to dance with the prince. 

You might think this is a minor part of the problem, but as a former finalist and winner of the GH and finalist and winner of a RITA, I can tell you that aiming to walk on that stage in a beautiful dress in front of ALL my peers meant the world to me. I did not bother to enter the RITA this year, the first year in 20 years of membership that I didn't enter one of the contests. You took that special magic away.

I don't doubt that the contest needs updating to be relevant in today's publishing landscape. How about making any non-PAN eligible manuscript eligible for entry? This would mean indie and small press manuscripts could enter.  Some local contests also allow published authors to enter unpublished manuscripts. By putting a time limit on it--say nothing published in x years--would make that work. There are many RWA members who were published once who then reach a hiatus and wind up much like unpubbed members in needed to get noticed again. 

It also might be a good idea to poll the membership, particularly those who write in categories that didn't have enough entries, to find out why they did not consider entering the Golden Heart. (or the RITA)

Whatever changes you make, I think it would be a mistake for RWA to not offer something of value like the GH for our unpublished members. 

I once served on an RWA task force looking at the contests, so I know how difficult it is to please everyone, but I do think it is important not to short change our unpublished members. 


Diane Perkins w/a Diane Gaston

Suggested Changes to GH

May 16, 2018 02:53 PM by Rachel Mannino

I agree with many of the comments above. I was published by a small press publisher before I ever joined RWA and learned about Golden Heart. For those of us published by small press early in our careers, your competitions leave us out completely. We can't send print books into the RITA awards because small press is typically e-books only and we can't send manuscripts into Golden Heart because we've been published. You'd have a robust number of entrants if you opened the eligibility to the GH to members that have not published with the "big 5" or one of their imprints in the past 3 years. Shift focus from only serving novice writers, or well-established writers, and try to nurture all writers at every step in their career - particularly the majority of us who are trying to go from indie/self-pub/small press to traditionally published. 

Future of the Golden Heart

May 16, 2018 02:53 PM by Carey Baldwin

To me, one of the most important benefits of RWA is being part of a community of writers that values all members equally. Published members have always extended support and encouragement and education to members who are not yet published. I would not be published if not for all the support I got from members of RWA. 

The decline in the GH entries is multifactorial and some factors  can be addressed whereas others aren't going to change. Someone more informed than me can make a stab at listing them all. 

Personally, I think separating the award ceremony from the RITAs meant that the GH lost some of its appeal. I  don't think that was a move that would be expected to increase entries. Nor do I see how moving the ceremony earlier in the week would be expected to either increase or decrease entries as there are pros and cons to this for the entrants. Nor do I think the revisions in rules (except the loosening of category limits) would necessarily increase entries. I think there are many other avenues to try before giving up on the contest. 

Regarding the income/cost ratio. If ceremony costs at RWA conference are factored in as expense, then part of  conference fees should be factored in as income- not just entry fees. Part of my conference fee pays for ceremonies. And part of my membership dues should be considered as supporting contests. 

I wonder if each expense category could be analyzed and the costs lowered by cutting unnecessary expenses. There must be some. 

I would like to see a survey sent to unpublished members asking what factors influence their decision to enter or not. Then those factors could be considered in revising the contest.  

While the unpublished membership in RWA, I assume,  is decreasing due to the current state of the industry, these individuals are of equal importance to me. I don't want to see unpublished members short changed, and I believe they deserve a meaningful award opportunity. 


GH/Rita changes

May 16, 2018 03:08 PM by Lindsey Brookes

I agree with most of the comments that were already made.  As an unpublished author, I entered the GH every year, usually with multiple books, in hopes of getting to be among the elite few who final and get to see their picture and name on the big screen.  The whole night had the feel of the academy awards.  I was blessed to have realized my dream of becoming a finalist - four times in fact.  I am now traditionally published and enter the Rita instead.  I was so sad for the GH entrants to see their big night was changed to a luncheon, taking away that glamorous awards feel it once had.  As a Rita entrant, I was sad to see it moved to a Thursday evening.  As mentioned in a previous post, having it during the week limits some of the finalists' family from attending the ceremony.  I understand that the lit signing is a wonderful thing and the money raised goes to a great cause.  I've helped with it several years before being published and then attending as an author.  However, I think we've taken away from the members by changing/moving the GH/Rita ceremony in an effort to promote the lit signing.  Even when the lit signing was during the week it was packed with readers.  I'd like to see it changed back to where the GH/RITA ceremony is on the final night of conference.  Also, I think, at least for me, that some of the category changes have affected entries.  For instance, I write for Love Inspired, and wish they still had an inspirational series category.  Going up against the bigger single title inspirational books is a real challenge.  And entering it in the Contemporary Romance: Mid-length is not the best option as the judges in that combined category might not care to read a faith-based romance.  A separate series category for that would allow the books to be judged by readers wanting books of that particular genre.  Same with series romantic suspense, etc.  I liked the multiple series romance categories we one had, even if there were fewer finalists in each category.  I hope we can figure out a way to make this work for the GH so other unpublished authors have the chance to experience the same level of excitement I did as a Golden Heart finalist.

Golden Heart

May 16, 2018 03:09 PM by N. Christine Samuelson

I agree with many of the comments about eligibility. I had one book published by a small press, and was going to enter Golden Heart with one or two of my unpublished manuscripts, then found out I was ineligible. With so many hybrid authors, and some published a while back, and having unpublished books, I think it would be wonderful to let ALL authors submit their work to Golden Heart as long as the MS has never been published anywhere.  The mix would be wonderful, authors sharing experiences and paths to traditional publishing or self-publishing.

Another author mentioned, which I agree with, that if the part of the prize were to be a guaranteed meeting with an agent or publisher, many more people would enter. We're all looking for that open door, the opportunity to get our work infant of someone in the business who can really make a difference and get it published. Another thing we want is feedback. Maybe select 10 MS (not finalists) to get feedback on what the strengths and weaknesses were, where they could improve. If a judge is reading the whole novel, it's not that much of a stretch to make some notes on glaring problems.  How to select the 10? Not sure. Maybe have judges decide as they read for those that need the most help/guidance. Maybe select randomly so judges know ahead of reading they must make notes. It could be considered another prize - a free critique! I think many would love that. I really hope you can change some things to keep the award, and adapt to writers needs.

Golden Heart

May 16, 2018 03:11 PM by Kerry Blaisdell

I agree with much of what was said above, especially in reference to those of us published with a small/independent press. I would like any survey that goes out, to go out to ALL members, whether they are eligible to enter the GH or not - including Big 5/trad pubbed authors. You might be surprised at the feedback you get, if you include everyone.

And I also agree about the lack of critiques being an issue (AND that adding them would make finding judges potentially more difficult!). I did enter the GH a few times, but never finalled, and never knew why. There's a wide range between "This needs a lot of basic work" and "This is really good, but I don't know if there's a traditional market for it." I got SO much feedback from less expensive chapter contests that I figured, why bother with the more expensive, no-help GH?

The Future of the Golden Heart

May 16, 2018 03:33 PM by Julie Glover

I agree with so much said here already. In particular:

  • I would like to see more of a breakdown on what the staff cost entails.
  • As a former GH finalist, I was in the last group to participate in the Saturday evening ceremony, and it broke my heart when they changed it the following year. I understand the need to update the contest, but surely there's another way to do this. (And it's even worse this year that the finalists got no priority with pitch appointments.)
  • As for requirements to enter, not having published in X years is a reasonable alternative. I'd probably put it at more than three, but the number doesn't matter so much as changing the requirement itself so that more writers can enter.
  • I would not want to have to critique every entry I typically judge with as much detail as I've done for smaller chapter contests. But I have really wished there was a place on judging screen where I could have written 250-500 words of advice so the writer have a takeaway on where they should focus. That would have only taken a few more minutes and would add value for entrants.

I genuinely hope RWA takes into consideration the great comments their members are providing. I also believe that the RWA National Conference will lose attendees if they slash benefits like the Golden Heart contest. It's not just the finalists, but others who are more likely to attend in support of a finalist or just have a general feeling that RWA can help them achieve their dreams because of programs like the Golden Heart.

Golden Heart

May 16, 2018 03:51 PM by Karen Miller

I have to agree with the comments made by other people.  I believe one of the key functions of RWA is to support non-published writers, and the Golden Heart is one of the ways this is done.  A rising tide lifts all boats, and I believe even the careers of writers who don't enter Golden Heart benefited from the attention the finalists used to get.


Also, if you look at the numbers, the total number of entrants has actually been increasing in recent years.  The dip last year may well have been a backlash due to the shift to handing out the GH awards during a lunch hour instead of making a big deal out of GH finalists.  Otherwise, the totals have increased since the 2014 low.


And like others, I question the contest costs.  Most of them seem excessive.  Putting the GH awards ceremony back with the RITA ceremony would certainly save on emcee costs and food costs, since they would be shared again by both contests.  And as someone pointed out, if you are going to include conference costs as expenses for Golden Heart, then by rights you should also include some of the registration fees as GH income.  


I can't help but wonder -- has there been a comparable study done for the RITA?  What percent of the members enter it?  And what are the expenses for running this contest?  It seems to me, this contest must be much more expensive to run than the Golden Heart.  Which makes me wonder if the RITA might be in even worse financial shape.


I hope RWA will take a closer look for ways to maintain both the Golden Heart and the RITA.  For example, what percent of RITA entrants are self-pubbed versus traditional? Perhaps some of the self-pubbed or small press RITA entries with low sales numbers could be shifted to the Golden Heart to balance the load.  I am sure there are other ways as well to increase entries or decrease costs. 


But at the end of the day, is the number of entrants the true and best indicator of the Golden Heart's worth?  One way to ensure the RWA treats published, self-pubbed and non-published writers as equally as possible is to ensure all members can enter a RWA contest.  The Golden Heart and the RITA are both necessary for this to happen.


GH Changes

May 16, 2018 03:55 PM by Gemma Halliday

As a former Golden Heart winner, this makes me so sad.  I sold my first manuscript to a publisher largely due to my Golden Heart final and subsequent win.  Had it not bee for the Golden Heart, I don't know what path my writing career would have taken... or if it would have become a career at all. However, I do understand the financial concerns, and I realize the publishing industry had changed drastically since then. (Eek... over 15 years ago?) I wonder if there may be some way to revitalize the GH contest and make it worth the entry fee to aspiring authors again? Maybe changing some of the rules that exclude some previously-but-not-currently published authors? Opening up to more mainstream novels with romantic elements to attract those who might have felt excluded from RWA in recent years? Partnering with publishing houses to offer guaranteed reading of the work or critiques or some other incentive for entrants? Just a few thoughts, though I trust the board to make the best decision for the majority of members.

On Returning the GH to its Former Status

May 16, 2018 03:56 PM by Laurie A. Green

I also believe it was the beginning of the end for the Golden Heart when it was separated from the RITA Awards and given luncheon status. I think it's important to note that a closer look at the statistics will reveal the GH started its decline in popularity after 2012--which coincided with RWA axing several categories when the "what is a valid romance?" controversy surfaced.  

As a three-time finalist, it's distressing to see this award demoted to become less than it once was. The joint Golden Heart/RITA Award dinner ceremony at or near the end of the conference allowed the Golden Heart finalists to savor this rare experience and enjoy their achievement and time in the limelight during the entire conference. Those were intangible but very desirable benefits that came with the honor of being named a finalist, and now, in my humble opinion, those perks have been erased.  

As to profitability, I'm questioning the cost for staff quoted at nearly $15K. If this is the regular paid staff at RWA, this appears to be an inaccurate representation of true costs, because the staff have other duties and are paid a salary to perform those duties, regardless. If their pay isn't going to be cut as a result of closing the Golden Heart, then it's probably not a valid expense to include as a cost of running the contest. If it involves the hiring of additional staff specifically for the GH activities, it might be beneficial to include those details.

There are also a number of other expenses that could be examined. Is a necklace really that valuable to a GH finalist? Or would the pin and a GH social media graphic or banner with their name and title be more valuable to them--as well as much less costly to produce? Instead of incurring postage costs for mailing invitations, why not make the entire notification and information process electronic? And why not hand out the pins with conference materials or at the reception instead of mailing them (other than to those few who can't attend)?

If costs and the declining number of entries are the sole reasons for looking at closing the GH, I think there might be merit in looking at what changes have most likely impacted its popularity and what steps can be taken to reverse the trend. 

Changes needed to Golden Heart--but please don't throw in the towel

May 16, 2018 04:10 PM by Nadine Monaco

I was thrilled to publish my first and second novels in early 2016 and 2017 with a small romance e-press.  It is highly doubtful either of these books will ever earn me PAN status though. Recently I started submitting work to various local chapter contests. I look for contests that 1. provide detailed score sheets (because I still want and need that) and 2. contests that don't separate published and unpublished entrants (and will only allow me to enter their "published" category.) One chapter contest has a category for "emerging authors" for authors who have not sold 1,000 copies of one title. That speaks to me.  This approach seems to really address the current landscape of authors today. Before RWA throws in the towel on the GH, I hope the organization will take a hard look at its members, ask good questions, and find smart ways to maneuver the writing world today. 

Ghost of RWA/GH Past & Future

May 16, 2018 04:16 PM by Kelly Ann Larivee

All of the comments above echo back to a time when RWA and the Golden Heart were what they were supposed to be--a place to unite and celebrate our love of writing romance, and the work of a select group of unpublished writer's each year who were judged to reflect our best.  I've belonged to RWA since 1990, and I remember the conference in New York when Rainy Kirkland treated me like a princess & we all got dressed up to go to the Ball to find out who would win the RITA and Golden Heart.  Now it's all business, a luncheon for goodness sake, and one writer is a finalist 3 times in a single category.  How does that happen?  No wonder you have fewer entrants, if the same writers are finalists every year, and in 3 spots at once, no less!  Contests as a rule need to make it worth a person's interest to enter.  If RWA created a score sheet and allowed judges to give small, pertinent, constructive criticisms, you would see more entrants, as everyone would get something for their money.  As for this taking up more of a judge's time, I personally enjoy taking the time to judge in this contest, and would feel my time was better spent if I was able to share some of my thoughts with the writer.  As it is now, the judging system is so generic, so sterile and impersonal, writers who enter get nothing from it but a series of meaningless numbers.  I have no idea how we've morphed from the RWA sisterhood we used to be into this "hard reality" of the Golden Heart doesn't pay our bills.  I do know that if the Golden Heart goes, I'll go with her.  Because I believe in the hope she offers, the romantic ideal; take that away & we're a club with rules, heavy admin, & brunches/luncheons instead of Balls.

You need to Survey ALL members

May 16, 2018 04:36 PM by Chris Reed

Like so many above, I too agree with the comments. I am new to RWA and still polishing my first manuscript after a few years of hard work, alone in my cave. I was excited by all the potential opportunities RWA can provide to a new writer who is unpublished. As many have said, we all are looking to network and find those open doors. I would hope RWA is here to help us open doors for each other. 

Also, I would not see a value in entering a contest that does not provide some sort of feedback for the author. Even 250-1,000 words. That would only take them another couple minutes to dump their thoughts out but could save an author's manuscript.

The idea of honorable mention is also good. 

You should also have rules against the same person placing in more then one category and consider if the same person can win multiple years in a row or need to take a break each year to allow a chance for others. 

Either way, I think these comments have and are serving their purpose for the RWA. there is no question that you NEED to send out a survey to ALL MEMBERS. Your answers for how to maneuver from here will be inside those surveys. 


Changes to GH

May 16, 2018 05:14 PM by Tracey J Lyons

Why can't we simply add in a comment section on the score sheet. Didn't the judges used to comment? If the contest had more value than simply a numbered score, I think that might give it more credibility. In addition, I agree with some of the comments about putting the GH awards ceremony back with the RITAs. The both represent the best of the best in romantic fiction for the RWA organization. And it's become hard to keep track of all the changes made year after year to both contests. As a member since 1992 this has become a concern to me.  

Value of the Golden Heart

May 16, 2018 05:35 PM by Nicki Greenwood

Even as a new, unpublished author, I found little value in chasing the Golden Heart. Compared to other contests which offered critiques to every entrant and a chance at an agent or editor reading for winners, the GH couldn't compete. If the GH offered those things, from experienced judges who know the market and genre, it might be worth it, but as it stands now, it offers a lot of risk for almost no return. I would be sad to see RWA discontinue it entirely, but there needs to be a bigger carrot if the organization wants to see more entries. At the beginning of a career, there is no better carrot than education. New authors need the opportunity to learn to write better and write tighter, from other authors with experience. Offer critiques, and I'd bet you see more entrants.


May 16, 2018 05:54 PM by Maria Powers

I would just echo what many have said here although I don't mind the lack of critique in the Golden Heart. I used other contests to get better which led to the final in the GH.

With that said, I don't mind the luncheon idea. I think including other things with the GH during the luncheon minimizes the special factor or whatever spin word was being used to justify this. I really enjoyed the RITA and the after event last year. I would just like to see more emphasis on the GH during the GH luncheon - perhaps an honor roll member in a category awarding the winner for that category.

Additionally, putting back the perk of GH finalists getting first in line for editor and agent speed dating might be helpful. Something for those GH finalists who are looking at the indie path perhaps like a golden heart that could be put on the cover of their book. I thought something like that was done, but I've not seen it, if it ever was finalized.

The numbers aren't making sense to me either. Could they at least be explained? For example the Staff cost? How was that attributed? Or the two receptions? They'd still be happening for the RITAs so what's the breakdown of that cost? What's the price per person? Who else attends beyond the finalists? What does MC costs mean? Main Conference?

Also, and perhaps I read this wrong in the rules, but I thought there was a five year window on published books. So, if your last item of 25K words or more was published more than five years prior, you could enter again. This may have been the rules for another contest that I read. I also think that it could be changed to romance books rather than simply anything being published. Someone who wrote and published a memoir may not be able to write fiction and especially romance fiction. If we're only going to count PAN as romance fiction then having published something outside of the genre should not necessarily ban you from the Golden Heart especially if it's creative non-fiction.

As always, these are just my opinions and everyone's mileage will vary. I want to thank the Board for the hard work they do when they take on all of this.

Maria Powers

GH fate

May 16, 2018 06:16 PM by Grace Burrowes

First, I cannot commend the board heartily enough for opening this matter for discussion before making a decision. When we have a chance to participate meaningfully in finding a solution, we're much more likely to view any option the board chooses more favorably, even if it wasn't our first choice. Go, RWA Board!
Second, as a published author, I'd rather judge the GH than the RITA. I take seriously my obligation to pay forward all the terrific support I've had from other members along the way, and I'd welcome an opportunity to constructively comment on GH MSs in the contest process. This is how pretty much every chapter contest works, and the focus on boosting somebody's craft so they're closer to publication comes through loudly and clearly.
Third, yeah. Why did we split the awards and put them earlier in the conference schedule? As somebody who has LOST the RITA six times, I can tell you being a loser for most of the con isn't quite as lovely as being a finalist.
Fourth, have we ever looked at whether the current GH helps anybody get published? The few stats I recall suggest it does not. That, as much as cost, should be considered when we decide the fate of the contest. RWA has tons of writing expertise in house. How can a GH contest see that knowledge passed from those who have it to those to need it? Would a mentorship program yield better results?
And as an aside, I belong to the Author's Guild, and I pay about five times the annual dues an author with a more modest income pays. As far as I know, we're on the honor system, so somebody having an off year could fudge, but that sliding scale makes sense to me. RWA helped get me where I am, but I'm still paying dues at a rate that doesn't expect anything more from me than if I were nonpubbed. Maybe the GH should be opened up to sponsorship? I'd chip in--gladly.

I'd like to volunteer

May 16, 2018 06:41 PM by Violet Vahle

I have ten years experience in procurement (price negotiation, bidding, contracts, etc.). I'd like to volunteer to help bring the cost of the contest down. Please contact me if you're interested.

I'd hate to see the contest abandoned if there's still interest in it and it's possible to keep it going.


GH Future

May 16, 2018 06:53 PM by Kathleen Watson

I'm shocked and dismayed at the dwindling number of entries, but just shocked at the few members who volunteer to judge. This is something I look forward to every year. I love the opportunity to give back. Perhaps RWA could open the contest to giving out feedback like other contests, or perhaps they could partner with publishers to offer a limited contract to the winners if the entire book is acceptable. 

In the end, though, I offer my appreciation to the board and to RWA for doing so much for its membership. You never disappoint in keeping the members first in your thoughts and actions. Thank you for being there for us! 

Future of the Golden Heart

May 16, 2018 08:13 PM by Paula Huffman

I agree with the previous comments. Their authors make valid points and offer a variety of excellent ideas.  I also agree that it may be time to revitalize the Golden Heart so it can better meet the needs of today's writers, but I believe eliminating the GH would be an unfortunate and counter-productive decision. According to the 2016 RWA audit report, the organization had total revenues of  $2,366,441, over $1 million of which came from member dues. Surely with an organization of this magnitude, we can find a way to continue the rich tradition of honoring the best of our aspiring authors, even if it means cutting contest costs or changing procedures. I'm glad we're having this discussion and believe we can resolve this issue together in a way that will make RWA stronger and the GH better.

A few practical things to consider might be:

1. Raise the entry fee, but put in to place an application for free or reduced fees for those who can document financial need.

2. For every manuscript they enter, require contestants to also judge a certain number of other entries. (For example: enter once, judge three. Enter twice, judge six, and so forth) 

3. Combine award ceremonies to avoid duplicate costs.

4.  Have a Board Member or member of the RWA staff  MC the program. 

5. Focus on perks for the finalists that provide professional benefit, such as guaranteed opportunity to participate in pitches, or perhaps a free query  or synopsis critique from a published or professional volunteer.

Of course, these are only thoughts! Thank you for opening this discussion and seeking member input.

Golden Heart Eligibility

May 17, 2018 08:49 AM by Rosemary DiBattista

I agree with many of the comments already posted here. Because I am previously published in mystery--a separate genre--I was ineligible to enter my work in the contest. Also, I believe that removing the Mainstream Fiction/Romantic Elements category, despite its reinstatement, was the first nail in this particular coffin. 

GH Contest

May 17, 2018 08:52 AM by Brenda Willis

Does RWA own the software?

Brenda Willis/
A.M. Wells

Thoughts on GH from a local RWA Contest Coordinator

May 17, 2018 10:06 AM by Elizabeth Shore

I'm the President of our local Hudson Valley RWA Chapter, as well as the Contest Coordinator for our Hook, Line and Sinker contest. When our contest opens for submissions in August, it will begin the 33rd consecutive year in which we've run it. I don't have hard data, but I've got to believe it's one of the oldest continuously run local contests within the RWA.

Over the years we've seen changes, including going from all print submissions to all electronic. We used to get a lot more historical romance submissions. Now we get a lot of YA and fantasy worlds/paranormal. But through it all we've kept our contest consistent. The price of entry is low - only $10 for "early birds," then $15 after. The premise is simple. Submit the first three pages of your unpublished manuscript and see whether it's got the goods to "hook" an agent or editor. Most importantly, and what's consistently been a draw year after year for submissions, is the amount of feedback every single entry receives.

Our contest is open to both unpublished and published authors. It's only the work that must be unpublished. And believe me when I tell you, we get a lot of published authors who enter. Why? They want the feedback, and our contest gives it to them.

Before I was first published I would submit and submit and submit, just as we all do, and I would get rejected rejected rejected. But what absolutely contributed to me finally getting published were the comments I received from agents or editors who took the time to give them to me. To tell me what worked - and certainly what didn't. It seems to me that a significant drawback of the GH is the absence of the one thing unpublished authors crave most of all - feedback. I truly think you should revamp the GH so that useful, meaningful comments are a must. Comments that aren't mean-spirited but rather intended to truly help the authors get that work published. The backbone of the RWA is the support we all provide one another. I would think taking that approach toward the GH and providing support would give it the shot in the arm it needs.

Incidentally, I have to echo the other commenters' raised eyebrows on the costs. Our contest receives approximately 100 submissions each year. Granted, much less than what the GH gets, but as mentioned we're small. We don't offer a necklace or a luncheon, but our entries get feedback, and the five finalists are ranked by a Harlequin editor, which is another draw. And I can definitely tell you that our costs are nowhere near the $32K you're looking at for GH. It seems like a revist of those expenses would be something else to scrutinize before you put the GH out to pasture.



Golden Heart Contest

May 17, 2018 12:46 PM by Elf Ahearn

A major drawback for judges, I believe, is the amount of time it takes to read an entire manuscript. Perhaps the Golden Heart should be broken into stages. Round 1. The best 25 pages in the ms. Round 2. The entire ms. By limiting the number of entries that make it to Round 2, judges would only be tasked with reading a few ms instead of a pile of them.

At both these stages, judges should definitely comment. Critiques have been invaluable to me as a writer, and are an integral part of how we improve.

Elf Ahearn

"Regency romance with a Gothic twist."

Golden Heart

May 17, 2018 12:59 PM by Laron Glover

I agree with prior comments. Please keep the GH, but modify to fit the needs of our current members in today's ever-changing market. 

VALUE: When I won the GH in 2003, I received a gift of priceless value. My writing had been validated by a national organization! In an industry that is littered with rejection letters, harsh reviews, and discouragement, it's a shining boost of encouragement (and yes, I sometimes still wear my necklace!). I received calls from agents. Even as a finalist, I could mention the award in a query letter (and almost be guaranteed a request for a manuscript). 

PROFESSIONAL NETWORKS: The "GH class of 2003" is still active and connected, supporting each other in life as well as the writing industry.  That friendship/professional network formed when a group of finalists roamed the streets of New York together, sharing dreams and excitement (which is also a good reason to postpone announcing winners until the awards ceremony at the end, by the way.  Why diminish finalists to "non-winner" status when they have a bulk of the conference in front of them?).  Usually, you don't become published and instantly inserted into an existing network.  You form networks where you are and grow with them.  The GH facilitates this.

JUDGING: When I entered the contest, I longed for comments from judges--even wrote an editorial in the RWR asking for the change. The first year I entered, I had scores ranging from a 9 to a 3--and I had no idea why they were so wildly different (I really wanted to know what drove the "3" score--I felt like I had missed something big-time . . . but what?).  Likewise, there were years when I judged the contest when I desperately wanted to write the author, give her/him encouragement and let the author know why I scored something the way I did.  I like the suggestions where we could make "comments optional." Maybe a mandatory, time-consuming score sheet isn't the answer, but I can't believe a judge would find it onerous to write a small blurb to support the score or jot notes in the margins. And if we can have an acquiring, established (e.g. "big house/name" editor/agent judge the final round, even better (even if we pay them--this doesn't have to be volunteer).

So what to change?  Definitely modify entry criteria to allow more entries. I'm not self-pubbed/e-pubbed, but this is a logical step in today's environment for many authors wanting to growing their readership.  (Remember when the Olympics didn't allow "professional" athletes and the pool of talent was drying up?  Athletes--and authors--still need to pay bills).  I'd be in favor of opening it up to any unpublished work, and not worry about who/when/where/how much. If you wanted to toss in a tiny bit of criteria to help less established authors, someone had suggested using "not published with big publishing houses within X number of years" as a qualifying threshold.  And we should strive to find a balance between maintaining market value and being achieveable:  Target a number of entries for a category. If it exceeds that (say over 200 entries or whatever), split it into sub-categories.  But the bottom line: Keep it simple.

It's a beautiful award. I hope the board votes to keep the GH.


Decline in Inspirational Entries

May 17, 2018 05:55 PM by Hallee Bridgeman

I think we are looking at several different problems culminating in one place here.

One thing to note is that the indie publishing/small press publishing world is creating an environment of “published” authors who aren’t even PAN eligible. One commenter on this blog post would like to enter the GH; however, her one novel published by a small press that went out of business excludes her from doing so. I think that’s something that should be looked at. Perhaps the GH should be open to anyone who doesn’t qualify for PAN.

As far as the lack of entries in the Inspirational category, I think that a major issue is that those of us who write inspirational romance often don’t feel represented by the RWA organization. In fact, during my presidency of the Faith-Hope-Love chapter (a special interest chapter providing support, education, and encouragement to published and unpublished romance writers targeting the Christian Fiction market) we were involved in several back-and-forths with the RWA office over non-compliance with RWA policies because our website “felt” like it excluded non—Christian writers (even though it did not exclude such writers), and our ad for our annual meeting included a “praise and worship meeting” beforehand.

I know we lost several members to the organization when this was going on, because they felt RWA no longer had anything to offer us as a group of authors writing for the Christian market. The fact is, looking back through the last 4 ½ years of Romance Writers Reports, I could not find one single article that highlighted writing about faith (any kind of faith), even though there were articles dealing with GayRomLit, YA, Historical (twice), Diversity, Erotic, Suspense, and Mail Order Brides. That’s 53 issues and only 7 genres highlighted in articles beyond just basic writing life, accounting, legal matters, etc.

I know that there was another big issue for us when the judging for the RITA entries changed. Suddenly, we couldn’t choose what genres we wanted to judge. And, like the GH, you can’t judge the category you’ve entered. As far as the RITAs, many of us were sent books we could not possibly, in good conscious and in accordance with our faith, read. Just as I don’t want my Christian romance with a strong faith arc being judged by a non-Christian who would get nothing from it, I also don’t want to read erotic and be forced into a situation to have to judge it. We lost more members over that, and many members quit entering the RITAs because of it. GH judges have the same problem. Not to speak for another genre, but it’s likely that the erotic authors have the same fear and don’t feel that their manuscripts will be judged for their true merit due to the explicit content.

In polling our membership about this particular article, the consensus is that RWA is a negative landscape right now. One member said that it used to be an organization of published and unpublished authors, and now it’s an organization of published authors who all seem to have very strong opinions.  Other members said they wouldn’t enter the GH because, as stated above, they didn’t feel their manuscript would get a “fair shake” from judges who won’t appreciate, or can’t relate to, a faith-based storyline, which makes it not a good investment of funds.

There is clearly a problem here; however, I think ending the GH is not the best answer. Perhaps looking at the changes made to the contests in the last five years will explain the significant drop in entries, including making the awards ceremony a lunch instead of having it be part of the gala awards night, and the changes in the judging requirements. The axiom of, "We didn't used to do it that way" may bear relevance to this current situation.

My personal opinion is that RWA has gone to some lengths to marginalize erotic and Christian authors, and as a result, those writers are not getting the value they seek from the Golden Heart, the RITAs, and the organization itself. I am currently in my probationary period to renew my membership and, for the first time in about ten years, am hesitating over whether I will remain a member.

Written in the utmost sincerity,

Hallee Bridgeman

Bestselling Christian Romance author

The Future of the Golden Heart

May 17, 2018 11:18 PM by Roxann Pearson

I'll begin by saying I hope there is much more effort made to save the Golden Heart before doing away with it. There are many on this thread who have already expressed (articulately and eloquently) my views and questions; finding other ways to revamp and make the Golden Heart more relevant, and a deeper examination of what have been put forth as the expenditures for the GH. As others have pointed out, numbers are only a reflection of the criteria used to produce them and there have been enough questions raised on here to warrant further breakdown of those numbers.

I'm reminded of an old saying that goes something like, "Don't toss the baby out with the bathwater."

Golden Heart's Future

May 18, 2018 12:37 PM by Renee M Nelson

I sincerely hope this year is not the last Golden Heart Contest. From the moment I joined RWA a few years ago, I've been working toward entering the GH, and I am extremely disheartened to learn of the issues with the contest. 

I agree with so many of the suggestions others have made.

Restricting the contest to "unpublished" authors is part of the problem. Opening the contest to anyone not PAN or PAN-Provisional should increase the number of entrants. 

Running a contest takes a lot of personnel and time, but finding a way to lower the staffing costs will help move the contest out of the red. Are there opportunities to recruit volunteers for some of this work? 

Rejoining the GH and RITA presentations would halve the MC costs and make the food/beverage a shared cost. It would also restore the prestige of the contest. The chance to share the stage with so many incredible published authors is something to aspire to, and there is something to be said for the opportunity to dress like a star for the night.

Consider limiting the categories. The qualities that make a story great are independent of the genre. Is there a cost savings to 4 categories instead of 7? 

Judging 3 entries should be a requirement to entering the GH, and as part of the entry, have a check-box for those willing to judge up to 5 entries.

I hope RWA finds a way to preserve the Gold Heart.



GH Comment-Keep GH, Revamp Contest & Cut "Staff" Cost!

May 18, 2018 12:40 PM by Lorraine R. Kent

I agree with other comments posted here, including those questioning the $15K costs for staff of an event that is judged by volunteers.

[Comment from other member:

"Lack of judges is interesting because I remember multiple times offering to judge more entries than I was given and yet... nothing. I was offering... no one was taking me up on that.  Also the biggest expense seems to be with staff, which is just odd for me. I'd like to see a breakdown of why it costs staff 15 grand to run a contest that most likely be ran by volunteers (again,  I would offer to help there) overseen by an unbiased staff member. Again, all that being said... I think we'd be doing an incredible disservice cancelling the GH if we weren't going to at least make it something unpublished authors want to enter (feedback) (end of comment from other member)."

Why not eliminate one of the banquets/receptions and save $3,000? 

I agree with others who note it is more important to have time with an agent or publisher than it is to have a reception, etc. 

Why not discontinue expensive receptions or instead combine the announcement of a winner with some other RWA event so the winner can instead be provided an opportunity to meet with agents, publishers and/or editors? This would be far more valuable to a winner than a reception!

As the GH contest is part of the benefit of membership in the RWA (and members pay a large amount in annual dues), the GH should be continued.

Instead of ending the GH, the RWA should revamp the award - announce the winner in a monthly publication (not at a big expensive banquet or reception), and reward the winner with an opportunity to meet with multiple editors, publishers, agents, etc., who can help get her book published. Revamping the contest to provide a meaningful benefit to the winner and figure out how to cut your internal costs makes more sense than eliminating the contest.

Perhaps the reason RWA membership is so expensive is due to bloated staff salaries, the same reason you cannot afford the GH?

Perhaps the answer is not cutting benefits to members, but re-examining your high staff costs?

FYI - If membership is RWA were half the current price, you might have twice as many members as you have now...the annual fee for membership is ridiculously high and should be cut.

The Golden Heart

May 21, 2018 11:54 AM by Susannah Erwin

As one of the 39 drains on RWA's resources who finaled in the Golden Heart last year:

1) The idea that the GH offers no value to its finalists is false. I received four agent requests, three editor request, and signed with an agent: all because of my final and the attention/gravitas it brought to my novel. In addition, the GH finalists form a tight group. The advice, help, education and support I've received from my fellow finalists is priceless. Of my class, I believe ten have publishing deals, most of us are agented, and several of us are currently on submission. Many of us are also pursuing self-publishing and are deep in the prep work of development edits, copy edits, and cover art.

Four of the five finalists for the RITA for Best First Book this year are former Golden Heart finalists. 

2) The dollars spent are not limited to the finalists. I finished my first novel because I used the Golden Heart as a deadline. My critique partner finished her first novel using the contest as a deadline. While there isn't detailed feedback, the entries receive numerical scores across five judges so the author is able to see "Do I have a love it or hate it book?" "Is my book strong but just not strong enough to final?" or "This manuscript needs more work."

And let's talk about the costs:

The luncheon cost is not included in the cost breakdrown provided, as RWA would still need to hold its award luncheon (the GH was added to the luncheon for the service awards, bookseller award, etc.). However, RWA did include the cost of the emcee/keynote speaker, as well as the cost of the A/V - costs that would be incurred regardless of the GH being awarded or not. And yes, adding the GH back to the RITA ceremony would mean very few incremental costs to the overall expense of that ceremony. In addition, the RITA ceremony has a volunteer committee to help plan it, thus defraying the given staff costs.

Second, RWA said the GH had two receptions. It does not. It has one, which was held for the first time last year: a meet and greet with agents and editors. The second reception includes RITA finalists and the board of directors, and that reception would still be held with or without the GH.

Third, the staff costs.  If you break down the cost into hours, then at annual salaries of $60,000-$100,000, that would mean staffers spent 300-500 manhours on the GH alone. That's seven to twelve weeks, 40 hours/week. No RITA, no general conference planning, no working on other issues, Just the GH.  I'd love to know how RWA arrived at that cost calculation.

Fourth, the comp registrations for RWA for GH judges. Those aren't expenses. They are lost income or payment in kind, and they should not count against the expense of the GH as those editors might be otherwise comped for workshops/pitch sessions, or may not come to National at all if they aren't comped, therefore not incurring the lost income.

Fifth, "so much money for the benefit of so few." The 2016 audit report shows that RWA took in $119,250 in contest fees but spent $174,144 on contests. Using the (very imperfect, I know) assumption that Golden Heart expenses, as calculated in the cost breakdown, remained consistent from 2016 to 2017, then the Golden Heart would have accounted for $32,837 of these expenses, of which $17,747 would be a net loss. This means the RITA would have cost RWA $141,307 in 2016, with a net loss of $37,147 – and the RITA provided a career benefit to only sixty or so authors.

Yet no one called for the abolition of the RITA. Instead, the RITA was modified to eliminate expenses such as shipping physical books, while tiered entry and staggered submission costs were introduced to alleviate pressure on entries and increase the number of individual authors. Contrast that with Golden Heart statement, in which the board jumped to eliminating the contest as the first and only concrete solution given.

I agree the contest should be revamped. In fact, I believe RWA needs to take a long, hard look at its overall mission and who it wants to serve.  If RWA wishes to continue serving its communities of practice, then the answer is the Golden Heart should be modified to serve the needs of the PRO community while the RITA should be modified to serve the needs of the PAN community.  However, I take exception to claims made in this statement and I question why the board  put out such an apparently one-sided statment.

I also feel terrible for this year's Golden Heart class, who will now have this hanging over their accomplishments in Denver.  I'll also point out this statement adds insult to injury as it comes on the heels of  RWA eliminating, without any notice, the priority signup for agent/editor pitches from the 2018 finalists.


May 22, 2018 09:29 AM by Pamela LePage

I think there are two issues here.  First, entering the contest seems like a difficult process.  Second, for the contest to be taken seriously, the books need be read as full manuscripts, not just partials. I know it's hard to find judges, but you can have a two-part process.  People can judge the first three chapters and then narrow it down and read full manuscripts in the final round. You could then announce semi-finalists allowing more people to be recognized in the first round. That will bring in more contest participants. If you want more judges, find people who want to sell books and give them free publicity/attention for their books, that's what twitter pitch mentors get from their engagement.  

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