Entry Requirements and Formatting
Entry Category Eligibility
Category Descriptions and Judging Guidelines
Announcement of Finalists and Return of Scores
The entry fee for the Golden Heart contest is $30 per entry. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The 2019 Golden Heart Contest will be the final Golden Heart Contest. Next year’s RWA president has committed to make replacement programming an institutional priority for the coming year.
The purpose of RWA’s Golden Heart contest is to promote excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding manuscripts written by members who have not published a Novel or Novella.
For the purpose of determining eligibility to enter the Golden Heart contest, “Novel” means a work of fiction of more than 40,000 words (as defined by computer word count) that has been commercially available. “Novella” means a work of fiction of 20,000-40,000 words (as defined by computer word count) that has been commercially available.
Each preliminary-round entry will be scored individually on a scale of 1.0 to 10.0, with 1.0 being the lowest (poor) and 10.0 being the highest (excellent). Judges are allowed and encouraged to use decimal points (7.5, 8.8, etc.) when scoring.
Preliminary-round judges will be required to answer the following three questions in addition to assigning one overall score:
- Does the entry contain a central love story?
- Is the resolution of the romance emotionally satisfying and optimistic?
- Does the entry fall within the category description?
If there are 3 negative responses to any one question, the entry is disqualified.
Overall preliminary-round scores will be determined using a trimmed mean (the highest and lowest scores will be discarded and the remaining three scores will be averaged).
The top 10 percent of each category’s entries (based on the number of qualified entries received) will advance to the final round. However, no entry receiving less than 80 percent of the total possible score will advance to the final round.
Final-round entries for the Golden Heart contest shall be ranked from first to last place (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) with the lowest score signifying the winner.
The identity of judges is confidential. RWA discourages any communication between judges and entrants, other than editors and/or agents who judge the final round.
Until the contest winners are announced, to protect the integrity of the contest, judges should not discuss the entries, post comments in e-mail, on social media, or review the entries they judge. All questions about entries should be directed to RWA staff.
Each author’s preliminary-round scores will be made available to the author once the contest is concluded and winners have been announced.
The Golden Heart contest is open to RWA members who have not accepted a publishing offer for, or Self-Published, a work of original fictional narrative prose of 20,000 words or more by January 11, 2019. Entered works must not be published as long as they are under consideration for the Award.
Previously entered manuscripts may be entered again, but no previous Golden Heart-winning manuscript can be entered, even if revised.
If an entry is the result of collaboration, all collaborators must be RWA members in good standing. Any lapse in the entrant’s or collaborator’s membership during the course of the contest (from the time of entry until the winners are announced at the Awards Ceremony) will result in the entrant being required to renew membership within 10 days of notification or the entry will be disqualified from the contest.
Entrants must be 18 years of age by the date of entry.
Entrants are required to check a box on the website indicating their acceptance of terms.
Neither employees of RWA nor members of their immediate families are eligible to enter or judge any RWA contest. “Immediate family” is defined as spouse, parents and children. Adopted, foster and step members are included in this definition.
The Golden Heart contest is open to 1,200 paid entries.
Entries must be submitted to RWA's contest site no later than 5 p.m. CT, January 11, 2019. Entrants who fail to meet this deadline will be disqualified, and the entry fee will be forfeited.
PAN, PRO, and other interested RWA members are eligible to judge the preliminary round. The final round will be judged by three editors.
Each entry must be an original work of Romance Fiction, which means the work must contain a central love story, and the resolution of the romance must be emotionally satisfying and optimistic. The work must be at least 40,000 words as determined by computer word count.
Entries with word counts less than 40,000 will be disqualified.
Entrants must upload the partial manuscript, the synopsis, and the complete manuscript, each as separate PDF files.
The body of each document must be double-spaced.
The manuscript title and page numbers must appear in the headers (top of page) on every page of the complete manuscript, partial manuscript, and synopsis.
Other than the author’s name, which may (at the author’s discretion) appear in the header on the full manuscript, partial manuscript, and synopsis, no other personal identifying information (such as address, e-mail, or phone number) may be included on the entry.
A partial manuscript is the beginning portion of the manuscript. (Entrants cannot combine non-consecutive sections of the manuscript for the partial.) It must consist of consecutive pages beginning with page one. The synopsis may be no longer than 15 pages. When numbering, begin the synopsis with page one, and also begin the partial with page one. (For example: If you have a 5-page synopsis and a 50-page partial, number the synopsis 1–5 and the partial 1–50.) When added together, the partial manuscript and synopsis cannot exceed 55 pages in length.
An entry will be disqualified and the entry fee forfeited if the combined total of the partial and the synopsis exceeds 55 pages.
The complete manuscript must be uploaded as a single computer file formatted as a PDF file that preserves all aspects of the written copy.
If for any reason the staff is unable to open any files, the entrant will be disqualified. Entrants are responsible for verifying that all files are properly uploaded and readable.
An entry will be disqualified and the entry fee forfeited if an entrant fails to meet any of the eligibility or formatting requirements.
The entrant selects the category. Entrants may designate a second category for the work in the event the first-choice category does not receive the required number of entries to be judged. No category changes can be made after submission, with the exception of entries in a cancelled category.
Each manuscript may be entered in one category only. For example: a historical work that has a strong suspense element may be entered in Romantic Suspense or Historical Romance category, but not in both.
There are no limits to the number of eligible manuscripts that may be entered for each author in each category.
Categories with fewer than 25 contest entries shall not be judged and the fees will be returned, unless the author designates a second category for the work.
The RWA staff shall send confirmations by e-mail to all entrants.
All entries must contain a central love story and the resolution of the romance must be emotionally satisfying and optimistic.
With the exception of Erotic Romance, all categories may have varying levels of sensuality.
Manuscripts that are set from 1950 to the present that are greater than 65,000 words.
Contemporary Romance: Short
Manuscripts that are set from 1950 to the present that are less than 65,000 words in length.
Manuscripts in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These manuscripts may contain elements of other romance subgenres (such as paranormal, historical, etc.).
Manuscripts that are set prior to 1950.
Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance
Mainstream Fiction novels in which themes or elements other than the romance are integral to the story even though a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic resolution to the romance are still present. This category is intended for romances that do not fit neatly into any other category due to their mainstream fiction nature but where the central romance could not be removed without damaging the storyline.
Manuscripts in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot.
Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements
Novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may be set in the context of any religious or spiritual belief system of any culture.
Manuscripts in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.
Young Adult Romance
Manuscripts in which young adult life is an integral part of the plot.
The official finalist list will be posted on the RWA website by 2:00 p.m. CT on March 21, 2019. On March 21, 2019, the RWA staff shall notify finalists via email.