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Monday, November 05, 2007

Final round judging – demystified!

When you talk about what happens in the final round of the Golden Heart, and who judges, and how it all comes out, the stories take on urban legend proportions. Here to demystify the process is Stephani Fry, Projects Coordinator for the Romance Writers of America.

I want to thank Stephani for helping us out with this. If anyone has additional questions, please leave a comment. I’ll forward them to Stephani (keeping in mind she may not be able to answer all questions--there is still some secrecy involved).

Who are the final round judges?

The final round judges for the Golden Heart contest are editors actively acquiring romance fiction.

How many judges judge the final round for each category?

Each category has three judges.

What do the judges read? Only the first 55 pages and synopsis? The full manuscript? Is this at their discretion?

The judges read the synopsis and partial for every finalist in the category they are judging. Once they turn in their scores, they can request to read a finalist’s full manuscript.

How do you physically get the manuscripts to the judges? Email? Paper copies? A combination, depending on the judge?

Paper copies of the synopses and partials are physically delivered (by a service such as FedEx) to the final round judges. If an editor requests to read a full manuscript, this is also mailed, unless the editor requests an electronic version of the manuscript.

What is the timeframe for the judges to read?

Final round materials are shipped via FedEx in early April. Scores are due into the RWA office no later than June 1st. The editor has approximately two months to read all final round entries for the appropriate category and return scores.

What happens if a judge wants to request a full manuscript from an entrant? Does the entrant get a chance to send a revised copy?

In response to member concerns, beginning with the 2008 Golden Heart contest, the RWA office will notify the finalist that an editor with XYZ publishing house has requested to read her/his full manuscript. The actual editor’s name will remain confidential.

At this point, the entrant will have 24 hours to e-mail or overnight a revised version of the manuscript to the RWA office. Alternatively, the finalist can request that RWA send the editor a copy of the full manuscript already on file with the office.

How is the final ranking determined? Is the judging system similar to the first round or do judges rank manuscripts in order?

Judges in the final round of the Golden Heart rank the manuscripts, 1 – 8 (or the total number of finalists) with the best manuscript receiving a 1. Judges’ scores for each finalist are added together, and the entry with the lowest score in each category receives 1st place. Please see the example below.

Manuscript 5 received the lowest score, and therefore wins the Golden Heart in this category.


At 10:54 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

This is great! Thanks, Charity. I always thought there was only ONE final judge. Interesting.

At 12:03 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Great clarification, Charity! I realized a few years ago that it is actually very possible that a finalist not be given the top score by any of the judges and yet still win. But it's still the fairest way to determine the winner.


At 12:26 PM, Blogger Jennifer North said...

Thank you so much for the demystification!

One little point remains a mystery to me re: when an editor requests a full.

"At this point the entrant will have 24 hours..."

Does "at this point" mean when the rules change in 2008, or is this procedure in effect for this year's entries?

The phrase is probably quite clear, but my brain is kinda addled today. I'll use the time change as an excuse. ;-)

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Charity Tahmaseb said...


While manuscripts are entered in the contest in late 2007, the award is given out in 2008, at the 2008 RWA National Conference. This makes it the 2008 Golden Heart.

(This, incidentally, confused me when I first started entering the GH. So don't feel bad.)

At 1:06 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

This is a great post for all those entrants out there who are wondering about the mysteries of the final round. Thanks for checking with Stephani, Charity.

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank goodness they give the finalist an opportunity to revise. I think that's wonderful.

Is there such thing as a tie?

At 1:20 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

wow. I never knew this stuff.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Charity Tahmaseb said...


I don't know the answer to your question, but I've sent it along to Stephani. It will be interesting to see what she says.

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

oooh, good question, Beverley!

At 4:11 PM, Blogger Dianna Love said...

This is great. I had no idea exactly how the final judging works and get asked that often. I'm thrilled for the 2008 contest entrants that there will be a chance to submit a revised full if requested.

We'd have loved that option. ;)


At 5:31 PM, Blogger Charity Tahmaseb said...

Here's the tie-breaker answer, straight from Stephani Fry:

There are very specific tie-breaking procedures listed in RWA policy. We handle these manually and have multiple staff double-check that the tie-breaking is handled correctly.

At 5:43 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Charity, this is fabulous! Great post and a big fat thanks to both you and Stephani Fry for taking the time to explain how it all works.

At 7:00 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Let me add my thanks to the mix. I had no idea how it worked.

How exciting it must be, to sit in the room and add up the final numbers. Gives me chills!

At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does that mean they will break a tie? Or will I tie stand and be announced at such?


At 7:38 PM, Blogger Charity Tahmaseb said...


As I understood the email, it means they will break the tie and have one Golden Heart winner.

At 8:49 PM, Blogger JeanneD said...

Thanks for the information. Very interesting...I didn't know that!

At 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Charity,

As you can see I don't know how to edit my own posts!!!

At 7:56 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

One little point remains a mystery to me re: when an editor requests a full.

"At this point the entrant will have 24 hours..."

Does "at this point" mean when the rules change in 2008, or is this procedure in effect for this year's entries?

Banks, I think "at this point" means this is the current procedure. Editor wants the full; RWA notifies you; You have 24 hours to send the revised ms. Nice problem to have!!

Back in my day (hee hee- 2003)I was never informed that the editor wanted my whole manuscript. I just got "The Call" from out of the blue.


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