Romance Writers of America’s 2012 RITA and Golden Heart contests are now accepting entries. These awards for published and unpublished authors, respectively, honor the best works of fiction created over the last year. These are some of the most prestigious fiction awards and are always coveted. The contest is open to all authors, both aspiring and published, as long as they meet the guidelines. Both the RITA and Golden Heart contests are held in two rounds, a preliminary round and a final round. Each contest is open to the first 1,200 entrants who are eligible and submit their entries and fees on time. To help you figure out if entering in the contest is right for you, we’ve broken the information down by how to enter into either contest.

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Are you a published author? If so, your novel or novella may be eligible to win this year’s RITA contest. 

First, you (or your publisher, who may also submit your entry) must make sure that your original work of fiction, which has a 2011 copyright date, meets all of the rules for contest eligibility. Some of these requirements include that the book or novella at least a 40,000 or 20,000-40,000 words in length, respectively, according to your computer’s word count. This work must not be self-published or published by a vanity press. Additionally, it must be available to the general public to purchase. You must have received payment for the work of fiction as the result of a written contract between you and your publisher. Your novel or novella must be distributed by a publisher that did not request money from you for any service such as editing, preparation or assessment of your work. Furthermore, you must be 18 or older by November 30, 2011. To read the complete contest eligibility requirements click here.

Next, you must decide which category you would like your work to be judged in. The categories range from Contemporary Series Romance to Historical Romance and beyond. For example, you could enter your work into the Inspirational Romance, Young Adult Romance or Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category. You can see the complete list of Category Descriptions and Judging Guidelines here.

You are encouraged to select two categories for each work. Thus, if your first choice category does not receive enough entries to run that year, the book may be judged in the second category. That being said — with the exception of the Best First Book category — you may not enter a single book into more than one category. The example that RWA gives is that a historical novel with a suspense subplot may be entered either as a Historical or as a Romantic Suspense but it cannot be entered into both categories as the primary categories. Instead, you could select one of those categories to be your second choice category. Additionally, if you have never been published before this novel or novella, then your work also qualifies for The Best First Book category, which is open to any work written by an author (or team of authors) that has never been published before.

You may enter as many different books into each different category as you like. So, if you have four eligible books and would like to enter them all in, for example, the paranormal romance, category, you can do that. However, each book must be entered separately, with it’s own entry form and registration fee.

Finally, if you do meet the rules for contest eligibility, after you have selected the category that you would like to enter your work in, there are several entry requirements that must be fulfilled. When you submit your novel or novella it must be in traditional print format and include the copyright page that the publisher produced. The entry requirements are careful to note that the text and formatting must be identical to the published version of the book. The book must also be published in an English edition. (The judges aren’t expected to read entries in say, Spanish or French.) The entry requirements also allow that if the work is a novel or novella which is part of a collection, not every work in the collection must enter in the contest. Each novel or novella will be judged as if it stands alone. You can see the complete entry requirements here.

Five copies of the book are required for the preliminary round. In this round the books are judged by fellow published romance authors. This round narrows the contestants down to the top 100 entries. At this point, if your work makes it into the final round, RWA will reach out to you to get five additional copies for the final judges to read over. 

In order to be considered for the category of your choice, all of your entry forms and fees must be received by the RWA office by November 30. The registration fee for RWA members is $40, and the fee for non-RWA members is $80. This contest is limited to the first 1,200 paid entries, so be sure to get everything in order and send along your novel or novella! 

For more information click here.

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Are you an aspiring author? If so your manuscript may be eligible to win the Golden Heart contest.

First, you must make sure that your original work of fiction meets all of the rules for contest eligibility. Some of these requirements include that work be at least 40,000 words in length, according to your computer’s word count. Additionally, you must retain all rights to the work and not have given them over to any part or publisher before November 15, 2011. You may enter a manuscript that you have entered before, but not if that manuscript has ever won a Golden Heart. Furthermore, you must be 18 or older by November 15, 2011. You can read a complete list of the contest eligibility requirements here.

Next, you must decide which category you would like your work to be judged in. The categories range from Contemporary Series Romance to Historical Romance and beyond. For example, you could enter your work into the Inspirational Romance, Young Adult Romance or Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category. You can see the complete list of Category Descriptions and Judging Guidelines here.

You are encouraged to select a primary and secondary category for your manuscript. So that if your first choice category does not receive enough entries to run this year, your work may be judged in the second category. That being said you may not enter a single book into more than one category. The example that RWA gives is that a historical novel with a suspense subplot may be entered either as a Historical or as a Romantic Suspense but it cannot be entered into both categories as the primary categories. Instead, you could select one of those categories to be your second choice category.

Finally, if you do meet the rules for contest eligibility, after you have selected the category that you would like to enter your work in, there are several entry requirements that must be fulfilled. You must send in printed copies of your partial manuscript and synopsis and one copy of your complete manuscript. All of the work you turn in must be double-spaced and have the manuscript title and page numbers at the top of every page. You can see the complete entry requirements here.

Six copies of the partial manuscript and synopsis are required for the preliminary round. In this round the books are judged by RWA members. This round narrows the contestants down to the top 100 entries. At this point, if your work makes it into the final round, Your complete manuscript will be forwarded onto the final round of judges, comprised of editors at romance publishing houses. (If you include a SASE, your full manuscript will be returned to you. However, no other entered materials will be returned.)

In order to be considered for the category of your choice, all of your entry forms and fees must be received by the RWA office by November 15. The registration fee for RWA members is $50, and the fee for non-RWA members is $100. This contest is limited to the first 1,200 paid entries, so be sure to get everything in order and send along your manuscript!

For more information click here.

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The RITA and Golden Heart contest winners will be announced during the 32nd Annual Conference of Romance Writers of America, which will be held in Anaheim, Florida, on Friday, July 27, 2012. If you win a RITA award you will be joining such authors as Sherry Thomas, Virginia Kantra and Karen Rose who all won in 2011. If you take home a Golden Heart you will also be in good company. Past winners include Annette McCleave, Jeannie Lin and Donna MacMeans. For more details about the awards history, how to enter either contest or RWA you can visit their website: www.RWA.org

Tags: Aspiring Authors, Romance
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