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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Golden Heart – You Have Nothing to Lose but Money

It’s only money! I’m teasing, of course. Believe me, you’re not the only one feeling the recent economy crunch. I haven’t entered the 2009 Golden Heart yet because I am still pinching pennies and saving up. But if you can manage and you really think your book is ready for the big time then you don’t want to miss entering the RWA Golden Heart.

Finaling in the Golden Heart is a lot of fun. If you get really lucky you could make a sale! That’s just a rumor I heard. It took me FIVE attempts before I finaled for the first time in 2003. Since then I have finaled six times. I’ve been writing without selling for so long, I need all the motivation I can get.

Once you’ve made the decision to spend the money, you need to decide how many books you’re going to send in. If you’re like me and you’ve been writing for a while, deciding which book(s) to enter won’t be easy. IMO, you should send in ANY and ALL finished manuscripts that you think are ready to be published. If you have a manuscript that finaled already, keep entering it! Unless you WIN the Golden Heart, the rules state that you can enter the same manuscript again and again. Some people have a problem with this, stating we need to make room for others. I say forgettaboutit. Until I sell, I’m going to keep on entering. You never know when an editor might finally take notice and you need to take advantage of all opportunities out there. I have a friend who won the Golden Heart in 1999 and just last week she sold that book! That’s almost 10 years later. Most people would have told her to shove it under the bed, but she believed in her book. It was just a matter of timing and luck. If we don’t believe in ourselves, who will?

If you have ANY questions at all about the Golden Heart, please ask! The Noodlers are here to help you!

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At 4:50 AM, Blogger Margay said...

Is it really worth the expense? I live on a very tight budget and I would love to enter, but I can't justify spending that amount of money on the entry.

At 5:02 AM, Blogger MaryF said...

Margay, in my opinion, if you aren't going to conference, it's not worth it. Yes, you get quicker attentions on queries (for the most part) but it's by no means the magic ticket.

That said, I'm pinching pennies to enter the Rita.

At 5:05 AM, Blogger Margay said...

Thank you, Mary. No, I don't plan on going to conference, so that's good to know. I've heard about the Rita, but I'm not sure what it entails.

At 7:51 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Theresa, first of all, good, good, good for you!! I'm so impressed that you kept and keep entering, and I agree, I don't think anyone needs to "move over". No one in any other real-life business "moves over" for new people; if you're good, you'll rise to the top through hard work.

When you publish, I hope you have the party to end all parties. :)

Hey, would you mind explaining all the pins and ribbons on your nametag? I was so curious when I went to Nationals in Dallas, but too embarrassed to ask what everyone's "decorations" meant.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

The Rita is the same contest, only for published books. I've already sent in my application. :) On your first book, you're eligible for two categories: Whatever subgenre is applicable, and "best first book."

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

I totally agree with everything you said, Theresa. I've had the same ms final more than once, and the second time it won. I've had others that I entered more than once -- the first time it didn't final and the second time it did. Sometimes it's luck of the draw with judges, but sometimes it's because revisions have been done to the ms, making it better.

I entered the RITA too!

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Who is this friend who recently sold her 1999 GH finaling ms? What's her subgenre? Who bought it? That's so cool!

At 11:36 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Hi everyone! Margay, I DO think it's worth it, at least for me, in terms of MOTIVATION. My Golden Heart finals helped to keep me motivated to keep going. Because of the Golden Heart I know that readers are connecting with my stories. That means a lot to me. FIVE judges need to like your story enough to score it high enough for you to final. I understand the money thing, but if you really feel that your manuscript is ready for New York then I would give the Golden Heart a try. If you final, your book is sent to an editor for the final round and you get some name recognition. I think it's worth pinching pennies or going without Starbucks...but hey, that's just me!

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Gillian, I am going to have the biggest party ever after I sell!! I imagine it all the time! :)

Here's the deal on the ribbons. There is a yellow ribbon that is for the people who VOLUNTEER at the conferences. There is a PINK? ribbon for RITA finalists, a lavender ribbon for GOLDEN HEART finalists (I had two this year because I finaled in two different categories). And there is now another ribbon for FIRST TIME CONFERENCE peoople but I don't know what color that is.

Now on the tag where you see my name there is a blue stripe through the tag with "PRO" on there. That's for RWA members who have applied for PRO status. Anyone who has submitted a mss and has been rejected by a publisher or agent can become a PRO member. It means you are seriously pursuing publication. (I think I have that right). If the tag says PAN then the member is published. then there is something else for AGENTS and EDITORS. I don't know if their tag actually says AGENT or EDITOR. Maybe Trish Milburn could tell us!

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Mo, I would LOVE to tell you the name of this author and I might be able to by the end of the day. She wants to sign her contract before she tells anyone, so I've sort of let the cat out of the bag a little early! I will let you know as soon as she signs on the dotted line. It was supposed to happen on Friday!!!!

At 11:44 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Hi Trish! I agree, it could be luck of the draw sometimes because there are some TOUGH judges out there! I must say that my medieval time travel that finaled twice, did not final the first four times and that was without ANY changes... so who knows???

Trish, I love that your mss WON the second time it finaled! I wonder if it was the same final judge??!!

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Oh, Gillian, I forgot to explain the pins. The hearts are for finaling in the Golden Heart. If I ever WON, which I have not...then I would get a beautiful necklace.

I also have a Golden Network heart pin. Once a member finals in the Golden Heart you are invited to join a group called the Golden Network and they give you a heart once you become a member. They even have a Hall of Gold for members who final three or more times in the Golden Heart.

I also have an OTSF pin for winning the On The Far Side contest.

The other pins are from attending conferences. I have been to 7 conferences. Each time you go, you get an RWA pin showing the them of the conference for that year.

There is also a PRO pin on there and a pin from my Sacramento chapter! I think that covers them all!

If you have any more questions on scoring or anything at all, let us know! We're happy to answer.

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

one thing about entering the Golden Heart is that the manuscript really has to be ready for publication. You have to feel it is that good. If you are unsure, there are many chapter contests at lower cost that will give feedback.

Chapter contests are an alternative to the GH. Look for ones that are judged by an editor you would like to have interested in your work.
Chapter contests are usually listed in the RWR (RWA's monthly magazine)

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

I always considered the Golden Heart an investment in my career. True, it doesn't feel much like it if you don't win the GH, but you still profit from the experience in a lot of ways. First, it's excellent practice in slanting a partial toward an acquiring editor because the first round judges function in much the same way an editor does. They're looking most for appeal to a reader, a very elusive quality. You're also getting hands-on experience in honing and tightening a partial, and I think there's never enough of that. You can't tell a lot without comments, but your scores will clearly tell you if this limited "cold read" audience thinks you're on the mark or headed n the right direction.

Of course if you do final, you get an opportunity to be read by acquiring editors, often much sooner than you could from a slush pile. And even if you aren't acquired on those reads, you may have made a strong enough impression on editors that they remember you and look for more from you in the future. I've made the acquaintance of several editors through reads of my GH finals, particularly some who couldn't buy at the time because of their own limitations, but who have kept in touch with me anyway.

One of the things that is really difficult for an unpublished author is gaining name recognition. You have to build that piece by tiny piece. And any time you get your name out there, you are building your future.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

I've had a manuscript, LADY WICKED, final more than once, and it won the second time. I did have that "not fair" argument thrown at me. My answer is that the rules are very clear than a manuscript can be re-entered. And this is not Second Grade where everyone gets to be Student of the Week at least once. This is a competition, and we're talking about future careers as published authors. I can't imagine that someone might suggest an author had no right to re-submit a previously rejected manuscript to an editor. A politician who lost an election shouldn't be required to retire from public office and "make room" for others. Nor should a person who applied for a job but didn't get it have to give up on working and "give someone else a chance". This is about the Best, not the Best of the Leftovers.

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

I'm glad you're entering the RITA this year, Mary. Even though we have the same publisher and my book was bought before yours, I won't be able to enter until next year because my printed books won't come out until January and April. So I'll be cheering you on, along with all the other Noodlers who will enter.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Norah Wilson said...

Great post, Teresa. And wow on that busy name badge! Talk about a lot of hardware!

I never entered a ms. again after it finalled, but I might have if I'd had the benefit of such good advice! I finalled in 01 and 02, but didn't fall in with this crowd until 03. ,-)

However, I DID enter a manuscript every year after I figured I was ready for publication. I missed by a long shot the first time, got closer the second time, then finalled each year after that until I was ineligible.

And I felt it was well worthwhile, even though I had no plans to attend RWA National in any of those years.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Kris Kennedy said...

Great topic, Theresa, and I agree with everything you said!

Finaling in the GH isn't magic, of course, but it's worth entering even if you're not going to the national conference. The attention you get at conference is nice, of course, but that is a little blip on the screen of Why The GH IS Good For Your Career.

It's a fabulous accomplishment to put on your query letters. And before the winners are annouced, being a finalist is all you CAN be, so it's great! It opens lots of doors.

People who'd do an auto-No will pause, and almost always ask to see more of the ms. Foot In The Door.

Finaling brings you on contact with so many great people, too. Including other GH finalists like...Theresa! :-)

I finaled this year w/ a couple mss, and sold one of them before winners were announced. Being able to say it (and another ms) were GH finaling-mss helped people to agree to review it. I know it.

People remember you, your name, your picture. It matters, even if you're not at the conference to enjoy it.

If you win, it's a great self-promo.

Getting your name out there is the name of the game. A GH final and/or win is a fabulous & prestigious way to do so, within the biz.

And outside of the writing biz, actually. When I told people I sold a book, a great number of them say "Oh. How nice."

They have no idea how hard it is.

But when I tell them it's up for an award? Their eyes light up, excitement crowds their voice. "Really?" they say, immediately interested.

And I totally agree that this is not 2nd grade, and we're not all going to be up for Student Of The Week.

If a story keeps finaling, that means it keeps touching people. That's good!!

K, that's my long-winded 2 cents. :-)

Here's to another final, Theresa, and a sale right on the horizon.


At 3:26 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Hi Norah!

Hi Kris! Thanks for stopping by! Great advice. Kris is another example of someone who has used her Golden Heart final for all its worth! Look for THE CONQUEROR by Kris Kennedy in stores now!

And all the other noodler books, too! :) Diane Gaston's SCANDALIZING THE TON and Anne Mallory's THE BRIDE PRICE and Trish Milburn's A FIREFIGHTER IN THE FAMILY and M.J. Federick's WHERE THERE'S SMOKE! Wow!

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Kris Kennedy said...

Thanks for pitching my book!'s not on the shelves until May. May 1st, to be exact. A Tuesday, to be even more precise. At 7am...

No. LOL. I can't say the exact hour it will appear, but I do know, quite clearly, that May 1st is a Tuesday. I already have child care arranged for that day. :-)


At 3:45 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Oh, that's funny, Kris. I thought I saw September 2008??? What was I looking at? Just wishful thinking I guess! LOL

Well, thanks and keep us all updated! Glad you got the day off 7months early! It's not like you're counting down the seconds...huh?! You should be VERY excited. We all wish you the best!

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Keli Gwyn said...

Finaling in the Golden Heart has been the high point of my writing journey so far. I was treated like royalty by RWA at Nationals, which was cool.

Meeting the other 2008 finalists has been wonderful. The Pixies are such a great group, and I'm happy to be part of it. And Theresa is my chapter mate, so I get to see her from time to time, which is cool.

I know the GH is pricey, but finaling can get you noticed. Twelve of the 2008 finaling manuscripts have already sold, including six of the ten winners' entries.

A nice benefit of being a finalist is that we got to register for one agent and one editor appointment before anyone else. Getting the opportunity to pitch to your first choice agent and editor is quite a benefit.

All we get on the Golden Heart is a score, so if you've just started writing and don't feel your manuscript is ready for publishers' eyes, I'd suggest entering chapter level contests first. You'll receive helpful feedback. Chapter level judges have done so much to help my writing.

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Annette said...

Great post, Theresa!

I've entered the Golden Heart six times and finaled twice.

Yes, the entrance fee is expensive, especially when combined with the shipping costs.
BUT, it's worth its weight in gold if you final. It's one of the few contest kudos that makes an impression with editors and agents.

As for whether it makes a difference if you go to Nationals or not, I don't think that's a factor at all. This year I entered the Golden Heart with my latest manuscript and finaled. I danced at the news, because even finaling feels like you won a huge prize.

I mentioned my GH final in my next batch of queries and got some great interest. Better yet, I managed to snag an agent. At that point, I thought my investment in my GH entry fee had already paid off. But the excitement wasn't over.

I wasn't able to go to Nationals this year, which disappointed me because it would have been great to meet my brand new agent and my fellow finalists (the friends you make with other finalists is a big part the value). I meant to stay up and 'watch' the GH & RITA ceremonies via the RWA website, but I live on the east coast and I was tired, so I went to bed.

I got a call at 1:30 in the morning from my friend, Slvia Day, who I had begged to be my stand-in on the very off-chance I won. You guessed it, I won the Golden Heart.

Six days later, my agent sold my manuscript to NAL. All because of the GH, and all while I was sitting at home.

No, the GH is not a magic ticket--I finaled in 2005 with none of the same results. But I still felt like a star and got a healthy boost of pride in my writing. I think the key factor in deciding whether to enter is whether your writing is ready. If you feel strongly that you're ready for publication, it can be a great investment.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Hey, Kris. Great to "see" you here. :)

Theresa, I can't remember for sure, but I think the editors' and agents' badges say something like Publishing Professional, or perhaps it's Agent and Editor. I'm pretty sure they're a different color.

At 4:59 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Keli: Thanks for reminding of us of that important benefit -- getting first pic of agents and editors at conference!

It really does make a difference when submitting to agents. They get SO MANY manuscripts to read. Seeing "Golden Heart" finalist or winner tells them to sit up and pay attention. This manuscript has already pleased a bunch of people!

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Anne Barton said...

Hi Theresa! I enjoyed your post and all the comments. I think the GH is kind of like a lottery ticket--even with a really good ms there's a certain amount of luck involved. But you gotta play to win! :) --Anne

At 5:23 PM, Blogger MaryF said...

Theresa, it's true the GH can give you a mental boost. I know it did for me.

Delle, I'm not entering my Samhain book - it won't be in print till February. I'm entering my Wild Rose Press book. It's my first book, anyway.

At 5:44 PM, Anonymous Susan Gee Heino said...

Great topic! I wrestled with the high price and lack of feedback from the Golden Heart for a few years, so I just focused on chapter contests. They were wonderful! I got some great feedback and I really learned a lot. Specifically, I learned what contest judges were looking for.
Finally last year I had a manuscript that started doing very well in chapter contests, so I decided I might be ready for the Golden Heart. Miraculously, I finalled. It really was a blast, getting to meet all these other talented finalists, going to National, pitching agents and editors, wearing all those do-dads on my name badge... ah, what fun.
In the end, things worked out exceptionally well for me and I went home from Nationals with a necklace, an agent, and an offer from an editor.
The chapter contests were what really helped me hone my writing, and I've had some very helpful critique partners, but the Golden Heart ended up being what pushed me over the edge, I think.
It is expensive, though, and since there's no feedback you don't learn much from it. My advice to folks would be to get as much feedback as you can. When you think your manuscript is ready to buy a Golden Heart lottery ticket, then go for it.

At 6:13 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Annette, what a great Golden Heart story you have! You just never know what will happen. You did not have these results in 2005 and yet you still entered and look what happened!!! Congrats again!

At 6:15 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Anne, thanks for stopping by and great have to play to win!!! Love it! Anything can happen!

Mary, wishing you lots of luck in the RITAS! How cool is that?!

At 6:18 PM, Blogger MaryF said...

Thanks, Theresa!

I thought of something else - I wouldn't spend the money unless you've gotten really good feedback on it. I waited till I'd finalled in another contest before entering.

At 6:22 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

My advice to folks would be to get as much feedback as you can. When you think your manuscript is ready to buy a Golden Heart lottery ticket, then go for it.

Good advice, Susan. Thanks for stopping by. And congratulations again on your two-book contract! MISTAKEN BY MOONLIGHT will be out next fall.

The Golden Heart was golden for many finalists this year!

At 10:16 PM, Blogger Lynn Raye Harris said...

I'm late coming by, but I have to say that entering the GH and finaling in it were such a validation for me. This was the 4th time I'd entered, but the first for this manuscript.

I got my first pick of an agent appointment with a top agent who ultimately signed me. And I just landed a two book contract with Harlequin Presents, though not with my GH book.

But the GH final helped build name recognition for me in the industry, which never hurts. I was fully aware when I entered my book that it might be for nothing. But I was confident and I knew I didn't need feedback. If the mss hadn't finaled, it would have been disappointing -- but still worth it.

I didn't win a necklace in SF, but I can't complain. :) If you final, it's amazing. And I have my Pixie Chick sisters out of the experience! Yay!

At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Theresa~~
That was me!! Caroline Fyffe! Yes, I did believe in my little ol’ western—and I’m so thankful I did, too. I kept entering it until I was at the right place, at the right time and all the stars had lined up for me. It won the Short Historical Golden Heart in 1999 and went on to gather four firsts and four seconds in other contests. As a result of winning this years Tara contest, it was requested and bought. So, it’s no wonder I'm a firm believer in contests. But, all along I kept polishing the full, using the judges suggestions if I liked them, adding conflict and evolving my hero and heroin.

Thanks for sharing my good news with your bloggers. The new title is, Where The Wind Blows, and will come out in August of next year.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Thanks for stopping by Lynn! Better late than never! Meeting all the pixie chicks and the noodlers definitely made spending the money on the GH worth every penny!

Hi Caroline! Mo, Caroline is the person I was talking about! The author who sold after winning the GH way back in 1999!!!


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