Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Golden Heart: Is it for You?

In this my 3rd consecutive blogpost on the romance contest circuit, I’ll attempt to give you all the information you need to decide if you want to enter the prestigious Golden Heart contest.

First, a bit of background. Romance Writers of America is a 10,000 mbr writing group which holds 2 annual writing contests:

- The Rita contest for published authors in which 12 winners each received a golden statuette in 2009; and

- The Golden Heart contest for unpublished writers which awarded 10 golden heart pendants in 2009.

There are a few main differences between most romance writing contests and the Golden Heart contest (GH). First of all is the size. The 2009 statistics reveal the GH rec’d over 900 entries last year among its 10 categories.

But that was a slow year. The GH only accepts the first 1200 paid entries and apparently some years, they reach that weeks before the November deadline. Apparently the rush is on as soon as the contest opens.

Last week I said one of the biggest criteria I use to pick the contests is the feedback from preferably 3 judges. Well, GH entries don’t receive feedback. Just a score between 1- 9 although they are encouraged to give out tenths.

Instead of the one or 2 final judges, the GH has 3 acquiring editors waiting to see what you’ve written.

Also, remember when I said I only enter electronic contests so I don’t have to worry about the cost and effort of snail mail? Well, the only way to get your GH entries in are by mailing them. And the pkg is going to be thick because this is what you’ll send:

- 6 printed partials (the beginning) total of partial and synopsis not to exceed 55 pgs,

- 6 printed synopsis (max 15 pgs), and

- 1 complete manuscript either on printed paper or CD

The GH has 2 deadlines to remember: Nov 16 when your entry form and payment must be at RWA headquarters and Dec 2nd when your mailed package itself must have arrived. Considering that the head office is in Houston, TX, those of us in Canada should add an extra couple weeks to ensure a timely delivery. I also wonder when the RWA will crawl out of the dark ages and offer PayPal and electronic entry.

When you first look at the $50 US cost of the GH it doesn’t seem that much higher than other RWA sponsored contests which cost between $25-40 US. However the GH has hidden costs:
- approx $16 US for mailing your pkg to Houston
- approx $34 US for photocopying and the CD

If you add them up, you see the total is now $100 US or $120 Cdn. That’s a lot of money for a contest.

Is it worth it?

I guess it depends on how well you write. Without trying to sound like I’m bragging, I’ll admit my contest entries have consistently placed me in the top 25 percentile. It sounds real good, doesn’t it? But if you consider that only the top 10% of GH entrants final, then you know I need to work harder on this contest than any other.

So I ask again: Is it worth it?

The GH is the most prestigious contest open to unpublished writers. If you do manage to final, being able to add Golden Heart finalist after your name can open many doors.

Since the GH is only for unpublished writers and those who haven’t sold anything over 20,000 words, this may be my last year to enter this contest. I’ve already mentioned working with Wild Rose Press on one of my wips. If it’s turned into an eBook before Nov 2010, then that’s it. So this fall may be my only chance.

Having said that, I'd better start preparing because the GH will start accepting entries effective Sept 21st, 2009.

What do you think about the Golden Heart? Too expensive? Not worth it? Are you thinking of entering this year?


Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
The Golden Heart is a hard one, and you've laid out the pros and cons well. I entered once about 15years ago. It was time consuming and expensive to enter back then, and I didn't have to send the complete at that time (you sent it if you made the finals). As I recall, I got a couple of very good marks and one really low mark that totally took me out of the running. I never entered again.

But like you say for people who make the finals, it opens doors. However, it doesn't mean automatic publication. I've read about several authors who finaled but were not able to sell. But if you've got a kick-ass manuscript it might be worth the time and money.


Karyn Good said...

Thanks, Anita. You've given us a clear idea on what's involved in entering and thoughts to ponder. I now have a clear idea of what's involved. Am I going to go for it? Not so this year, but next year...who knows? The idea is the back of my brain and won't shake loose. But this fall I'm determined to enter a couple of other contests!

Thanks for these posts, Anita. I found them very helpful and I'll be coming back to them in the weeks to come!

Anita Mae Draper said...

I got a couple of very good marks and one really low mark that totally took me out of the running.

Uh oh... that's the kind of marks I usually get, Jana. And now, in the full light of day, I'm beseiged by doubts. :(

Although I'm cringing at the cost, I have a savings account I keep specifically for writing opportunities such as this. And if it's earmarked for contests and I don't use it for contests, then what the heck am I saving it for?

Silver James said...

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. (Says the writer who only entered one contest 30 years ago -- a short story contest for Redbook Magazine.)

Good luck to anyone who decides to enter! It can be a great experience. Personally, I'd like contests to have a "back-up judge" for those instances where an entry got really high scores and then got tanked by one judge. There's something wrong when that happens. Just sayin'!

Thanks for this series, Anita. It's been informative even though I probably won't be entering any contests. Except maybe the RITAs when I get one I think is good enough! LOL

Anita Mae Draper said...

If you want to enter contests as a pre-runner to the GH, Karyn, then you should try the 'Golden' ones. They run these as if it were the GH and at the end, give you an additional score of what you would have rec'd had it been the GH. That's how I ended up with a 2 and a 9. Actually, I think it was for the same manuscript, too. Ha!

Let me know when the time comes if you have more questions, Karyn.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Silver, actually, they do have discretionary judges. That one I just mentioned went to one because there was more than a 75 point difference between the first 2 judges. And then I finaled because the 3rd judge liked it, too. :)

I can see it now, Silver, your name hailed and the Chicks cheering as you go up to collect your Rita award. Go, Silver! Yay!!!

Something to aim for, eh.

Helena said...

Thanks, Anita, for taking the time to give us such a detailed look at contests. I will not be attempting a submission to the GH any time soon -- just not in the right place yet. However, it certainly would be a coup to final in such a prestigious contest.

I'll content myself for now with working as hard as I can, taking every opportunity I can get for feedback from authors, editors, and/or agents in other ways.

I was happy with the advice I received from the published authors who instructed the workshops I attended this summer. Very motivating! And I used different examples of my work in each instance. And started some new stories, too. So I have lots to work on. It also makes it harder to decide what to pitch at SIWC. (Next month already. Yikes!)

Good luck with your final crack at the Golden Heart!

Karyn Good said...

That a very good point for me to keep in mind. Thanks, Anita. Appreciate the offer of help. I was looking at a contest this morning called The Emily. Not a 'Golden' but sounded good and liked the list of judges.

Janet C. said...

Another great contest information post, Anita. I think you've covered it all - and if you enter, I wish you luck.

For right now, I'll continue my query process - maybe one day I'll get brave enough to enter a contest.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Helena, it sounds like you really worked at improving your craft this summer. Good for you.

Yes, I guess we all go through different stages. I don't want to linger too long in this one, but I won't feel too bad if I don't get a contract this year as only 3% of all writers who submit actually do. Apparently the stress doubles when you get your first contract and I'm not looking forward to that.

Hmmm let me rephrase that... I'm looking forward to the contract, just not the stress.

Thanks for sharing, Helena.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Yes, Karyn, the Emily is one of the good ones. You get detailed feedback from 2 judges - and maybe even a 3rd if it goes to discretionary judge. Also, they thoroughly check the judges' comments to ensure a professional level (face it, some judges can be nasty if they've had a bad day).

The Emily also has both an editor and an agent for the final judge which doubles your chances.

And, at 35 pages, you're going to get 2 really good critiques back even if you don't final.

You've done well, Karyn. The Emily is an excellent choice to get your feet wet on the contest circuit.

Good luck!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Janet, it's so 'comfy' to see you here again. :)

You know what though, there isn't much out on the web about the GH except for the actual RWA site and 2 of their pages are just an announcement that the contest will open in Sept.

So, I spent hrs in research and was feeling real good about being able to provide this info to everyone and then guess what...
I just picked up my mail from town and the RWR was sitting in my box...and they have this big spread on the Golden Heart and RITA. *sigh

So, if you want to know the official info on the Golden Heart, check your mailbox for the Sept issue of the RWR.

Janet C. said...

That's OK, Anita - I'll skip over the article since you did such a great job on getting us the information :)

Hope Chastain said...

Thoughts on good & bad marks. I have had that happen to me in contests, also, and one writer/judge told me it's because I have a very strong voice. There are pluses & minuses to having a strong voice, and getting tanked by one judge who doesn't "get" your writing is one of them. On the plus side, however, once you DO get a publishing contract and start selling books, your strong voice will draw readers who do understand and appreciate you, and they'll come back for more! So, hang in there, be thankful that some of the judges DO understand & appreciate your voice, and keep up the good work!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hope, that explains why I sometimes get one high and one low score since the judges have scored me well for a unique voice. Of course, I can't tell myself...

Thanks for stopping, Hope. I wish you well with all your submissions as well. :)

Oh and thank you Janet, too. 8)

Molli said...

Hi Anita. Here I am, late again, but I wanted to say thanks for the analysis on the GH. As Jana said, you've laid it out well.

I don't know if I'll enter the GH again or not. I've done it twice before, but that was almost 20 years ago, before I went on writing hiatus as it were, and I haven't really considered it since I started up again. It was an interesting experience, and I remember the excitement of getting the call that I had finaled in short contemporary, but I think I'd get more for my money and time from some of the Chapter contests these days in terms of getting a shot at being read by an editor or agent and feedback on my ms.