Every year the RWA, Romance Writing Association, hosts a writing contest called the The RITA for published romance fiction novels and the Golden Heart for unpublished romance fiction manuscripts.

So is winning the Golden Heart your ticket to fame and publication? Not necessarily. I know a wonderful writer who won the Golden Heart in 2008 and has yet to be published. She instantly garnered herself a great agent who is working tirelessly for her because she is a wonderful writer but to date, not a dime of money has been made by entering the most prestigious contest in the romance industry.

And she’s not the only Golden Heart winner to not be published. It happens more often than you’d think. However, just as often authors who enter and win the contest, or final or receive an honorable mention receive instant publication and success.

So what’s the difference?

The Difference is Timing and your Romance Writing Career Strategy.

Publishers are interested in one thing – making money. Guess what, you are too, right? Yes, writing is satisfying and fulfilling but in the end this is about making money writing romance, right?

So the key is to write your best novel in a genre publishers are interested in. In the case of my friend she wrote a magnificent novel about nautical salvaging. However, at the time vampires, paranormal and fantasy novels were all the rage. That’s what was making publishers money.

So, to answer the question about whether or not you should enter romance writing contests, the answer is YES.

Entering romance writing contests:

  • Provides exposure
  • Is fun
  • Can be profitable
  • Adds credibility to your career (even if you have 5 honorable mentions and no wins it still adds credibility to you as an author)
  • Helps you learn about the industry
  • Boosts your confidence
  • Puts your manuscript in front of industry representatives which gives you exposure but also helps you learn about what they’re looking for by reading their feedback and manuscript critique
  • And it can lead to agent representation and publication

Beyond the Golden Heart

While the Golden Heart is the end all be all in romance writing contests, there are literally hundreds of other notable contests to enter. Specifically, the RWA chapters host contests regularly and you do not have to be a member to enter these contests. To find out which chapters are hosting contests, you can join RWA and receive their monthly newsletter, you can also visit the RWA website, click on “about” then “Chapter listings” and visit the chapters to find out when they hold their contests and what the submission requirements/procedures are.

These smaller contests can accomplish the same things the Golden Heart accomplishes. A great friend of mine and a critique partner won a chapter contest which led to immediate representation and publication. She turned that instant notoriety into three published books (in a matter of months). And then finaled for the RWA Rita contest in 2009.

Entering Romance Writing Contests can be a great way to launch your career. Approach them with a strategy. Focus on contests that cater to your sub-genre, who have industry experts reading and critiquing your submission – there’s no point in entering a contest where the only people reading and judging your submission are other unpublished writers. This is your career, your goal is to make a living writing romance, entering romance writing contests is one more tool to help you achieve your writing career goals.


This $1.63 billion segment of the publishing industry with over 50 million readers is practically desperate for fresh voices. Editors in this market publish over 2000 titles per year. They don’t need writers with fancy degrees who only want to write the Great American Novel. They need volume… and they need to keep their readers happy. Find out how you can join this exploding genre by using an easy system for success that will have you turning out titles, even if you’ve never written a word in your life<!–
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