2016 Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest

Celebrating 26 years of helping romance writers!

Trained judges provide feedback with track changes throughout manuscript.

In-depth scoring-sheets to better educate writers.

TWO acquiring editors judge category finalists. 

ELEVEN entries in 2015 had requests from editors to see full manuscripts.

TWO IGO entries won RWA® Golden Heart in the last two years!

2014 Romantic Suspense category winner won in 2015 and 2013 Young Adult category winner won in 2014!

2014 Young Adult category winner is a finalist in the 2016 Golden Heart!

We welcome you to the Indiana Golden Opportunity (IGO) Contest, one of the premier chapter contests in RWA®. The Indiana chapter of Romance Writers of America (IRWA) has a well-deserved reputation for offering detailed constructive comments to our entrants from published authors and trained judges. Designed to identify the fundamentals of storytelling and grammar, our four-page category-specific score sheets will assist entrants by defining the elements in their manuscript that require more attention. Our goal is to assist IGO entrants with constructive feedback to help them polish their manuscripts. Many past winners have successfully gone on to catch an editor’s eye and/or final and win in RWA’s Golden Heart Contest. IGO attracts some of the most respected names in the industry as category and final judges.

Many past winners have gone on to successfully catch an editor's eye and/or final and win in RWA's Golden Heart Contest.


  • In keeping with the ever-changing publishing industry, IGO will offer two (2) acquiring editor judges for each category finalists -- one (1) traditional print and one (1) e-pub when possible.
  • Updated rules, categories, and score sheets
  • Twenty-seven finalists received requests from our fabulous editor judges to see their full manuscripts over the last three years!


Please review the category definitions carefully. Manuscripts entered in the wrong category may be disqualified.

Please note that categories may have varying heat levels. All entries should have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic resolution to the romance.

  • Contemporary Romance – Romance manuscripts that focus primarily on the romantic relationship and have a contemporary setting.
  • Erotic Romance – Romance manuscripts in which the sexual relationship plays an integral part of the romantic relationship and the sex scenes are explicit in both description and language.
  • Historical Romance – Romance manuscripts set in any historical time period.
  • Inspirational Romance – Romance manuscripts in which religious or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system) are a major part of the romantic relationship.
  • Paranormal Romance – Romance manuscripts in which the future, a fantasy world, time travel, or paranormal elements are a key part of the plot.
  • Romantic Suspense – Romance manuscripts in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.
  • Young Adult Romance – Romance manuscripts geared toward young adult readers.

      FINAL JUDGES FOR 2016:

      Contemporary Romance                                                                                 

           Traditional Print Editor                Megha Parekh                      Editor Grand Central Publishing

           E-Pub Editor                                 Heather Howland                 Editorial Director Entangled Publishing

      Erotic Romance                                                                                  

           Traditional Print Editor                Allison Janice                       Editorial Assistant Berkley Publishing

           E-Pub Editor                                 Michele Paulin                     Editorial Director Resplendence Publishing   

      Historical Romance                                                                                           

           Traditional Print Editor                 Elle Keck                              Editorial Assistant Avon Books                          

           E-Pub Editor                                  Erin Molta                            Senior Editor Entangled Publishing

      Inspirational Romance                                                                     

           Traditional Print Editor                   Shana Asaro                        Associate Editor Harlequin Love Inspired

           Traditional Print Editor                   Jodi Hughes                        Associate Editor HarperCollins Christian Publishing                        

      Paranormal Romance                                                                                       

           Traditional Print Editor                   Tara Gavin                          Executive Editor Kensington Books                  

           E-Pub Editor                                   Angela James                      Editorial Director Carina Press/Harlequin

      Romantic Suspense                                                                                           

           Traditional Print Editor                   Patience Bloom                    Senior Editor Harlequin Books

           E-Pub Editor                                   Deb Nemeth                         Developmental Editor Carina Press

      Young Adult Romance                                                                     

           Traditional Print Editor                   Lauren Smulski                     Editorial Assistant Harlequin

           E-Pub Editor                                   Stephanie Taylor                   Owner & Editor in Chief Clean Reads


      First place winners in each of the categories will continue to the Best-of-the-Best round.

      Best of the Best                                   Katherine Pelz                      Assistant Editor Berkley Publishing Group    


      OPEN FOR ENTRIES: May 1, 2016

      DEADLINE FOR ENTRY: July 1, 2016

      AWARDS: Category winners – First place entry will receive $50 and a certificate

                          Best of the Best – Winner will receive a special keepsake award


      The Indiana Golden Opportunity contest is open to any unpublished author in novel- or novella-length romance fiction. Published authors who have not been contracted for publication or self-published in the romance genre in the past three (3) years are also eligible to enter. If any rights (print, digital, audio, foreign, etc.) have been contracted to a publisher or exercised through self-publishing in the past three (3) years (2013 to present), author is not eligible to enter. Failure to follow IGO rules will result in disqualification and entry fee will not be refunded.

      NOTE: Previously entered manuscripts that have been revised may be entered again if they did not final or win in a prior IGO Contest. Members of the Indiana Romance Writers of America are not eligible to enter.





      Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest Rules

      IGO is 100% electronic. IRWA reserves the right to limit each category to the first thirty (30) paid entries. A category may be dropped if fewer than ten (10) entries are received. Entrants will be contacted about withdrawing from the contest (fee returned) or they may choose an alternate category.

      ENTRY FEE: $35.00 (by check or Paypal)


      Each entry shall be no longer than fifty-five (55) pages. Entries are comprised of the first pages of the manuscript (including prologue if one is used), and the synopsis. The synopsis may be no longer than ten (10) pages. For example: With a seven (7) page synopsis, the first forty-eight (48) pages of the manuscript should be submitted, for a total of fifty-five (55) pages

      Remember, Mac and Windows can cause changes to spacing of a document.  To be safe, leave space so your document doesn’t go over the 55-page limit.

      Use a header that includes the contest category, title, and page number on each page. To ensure anonymity, author name must not appear on any page, or the entry may be disqualified.

      Manuscripts must adhere to industry standards:

      • 1” margins
      • Chapters start on a NEW page with a chapter header; 1/3 down the page with double space before chapter start
      • All entry pages double-spaced (including the synopsis)
      • Times New Roman or Courier font
      • 12-point typeface
      • Clean manuscript with no track changes or comments showing
      • .doc or .docx format only
      • Synopsis should follow manuscript portion of entry

      More than one manuscript may be entered, but each entry requires a separate entry form, payment, and document file. Name the file: Category-Short Title.doc (.docx). Example: Historical-Desperado.doc(.docx)


      1.      Compile manuscript pages and synopsis into a single document that conforms to the contest regulations in the Format section.

      • Place the synopsis at the end of the entry.
      • The combined document should total no more than fifty-five (55) pages.
      • Save the document as a .doc/.docx file with this file name.

                Category-Short Title.doc (.docx)

       Example: Historical-Desperado.doc (.docx)

      • All manuscripts must be novel length (as defined by RWA), having an anticipated final word count of 40K or more.

      2.      Please note that all required sections of the IGO Entry Form must be completed in order for the form to be sent to the contest coordinator.  This includes payment information.

      3.      Two (2) payment options are available.

      • PayPal—To ensure proper matching of the payment to the entry, please include the name on the entry form and the title of the entry on PayPal’s description line.
      • Check—Make checks payable to Indiana Romance Writers and mail to: IRWA Chapter #15, P.O. Box 126, Fishers, IN  46038. Include the name on the entry form and the title of the entry in the memo field.

      Allow ample time for payment by check to arrive by the deadline. All fees must be paid US dollars. If entering from outside the US, please use the PayPal option.

      4.      All correspondence will be done through e-mail. Score sheets and judged entries will be returned to the entrants as .doc or .docx files.

      5.      Contact the Category Coordinator with questions.


      Two (2) trained judges will judge each entry in the first round. IRWA requires that all IGO judges undergo chapter-hosted training.

      Manuscripts entered in the wrong category may be disqualified. Please review the category definitions before submission.

      Following standard publishing industry practices, IGO uses only Track Changes for comments within the entry.

      In the case of a seventy-five (75) point disparity between first-round scores, the entry will be sent to a discrepancy judge. The two (2) closest scores will be used for scoring purposes. All three (3) judged entries and score sheets will be returned to the entrant.

      The top three (3) scoring entries in each category will be sent to the two (2) acquiring editors for final ranking. If a tie results in a category during round 1, the synopsis scores will be used to determine the 3 category finalists. 

      The editors will rank the category finalists with the lowest score winning.  If a tie results with the editor rankings, winner will be determined by highest first round score.

      The first place winner in each category will move on to the Best-of-the-Best editor to determine the overall winner.


      • Contemporary Romance
      • Erotic Romance
      • Historical Romance
      • Inspirational Romance
      • Paranormal Romance
      • Romantic Suspense
      • Young Adult Romance


      • Finalists will be notified on or about September 9-13, 2016.
      • Non-finalist entries will be returned on or about September 20, 2016.
      • Category winners will be announced on or about October 8, 2016.
      • Best of the Best will be announced on or about November 20, 2016.

      Notification dates are tentative. We always try to get finalist and winning results back before the deadline, but we cannot guarantee it.


      E-mail questions to the appropriate category coordinator or the IGO Contest Chair, Lynne Greeley at IRWA_IGO@yahoo.com.

      Category                                                                    E-mail Address

      Contemporary Romance                                            IGO.Contemporary@yahoo.com  

      Erotic Romance                                                          IGO.EroticRomance@yahoo.com  

      Historical Romance                                                    IGO.Historical@yahoo.com   

      Inspirational Romance                                                IGO.InspirationalRomance@yahoo.com 

      Paranormal Romance                                                 IGO.Paranormal@yahoo.com   

      Romantic Suspense                                                    IGO.RomanticSuspense@yahoo.com

      Young Adult Romance                                               IGO.YoungAdultRomance@yahoo.com