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Golden Heart Rotisserie by the Numbers

Winning the Golden Heart takes more than luck, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the odds. If you’ve written a fence-sitting manuscript and you aren’t sure where it belongs, this information might help you make your decision.

Now, everyone knows that each year’s class of Golden Heart finalists represents the top-scoring 10% of manuscripts entered in the contest. Right?

Wrong, at least it was in 2009. Last year’s sixty-seven finalists represented, on average, 8.2% of their categories. Those sixty-seven manuscripts comprised just 7.4% of the total entries received. Only one category (Inspirational Romance) graduated exactly 10% of its entries to the final round.

Why?

Golden Heart rules are funny. Here are two that tend to skew the number of finalists above or below 10% of the total:

  1. FINALIST CAPS: Contest policy states that there can be no more than eight finalists in any category, nine in the case of a tie.
  2. NO PARTIAL FINALISTS: Because the number of entries in a category is rarely evenly divisible by ten, RWA must round to ensure that the number of finalists is a whole number (we can’t have 6.2 finalists, can we?).

Here’s how the numbers broke down in 2009:

2009 Golden Heart Categories

# Entries

# Finalists

Percent of Category

Novel with Strong Romantic Elements

152

8

5.3%

Paranormal Romance

141

8

5.7%

Contemporary Single Title Romance

111

8

7.2%

Romantic Suspense

110

8

7.3%

Contemporary Series Romance

103

8

7.8%

Historical Romance

107

9

8.4%

Regency Historical Romance

62

6

9.7%

Inspirational Romance

40

4

10.0%

Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure

29

3

10.3%

Young Adult Romance

46

5

10.9%

TOTAL

901

67

7.4%

AVERAGE

90.1

6.7

8.2%

While this data doesn’t imply anything about reader trends or the quality of manuscripts in any category, it does show us the relative popularity of each genre within the romance writing community. Clearly, more of us are writing, finishing, and submitting Novels with Strong Romantic Elements to the Golden Heart than any other genre. Thus, that category was more mathematically competitive than any other genre last year.

I’d love to do this analysis on previous years, but I haven’t been able to find total entry data from previous years. (If you have it, please email me!) I do know how many finalists there were in 2007 and 2008, and from that we can draw limited conclusions. It’s likely that if a category had less than eight finalists, then those finalists represent around 10% of the total entries. Viewed through this lens, relative popularity trends have remained stable over the past three years.

Number of Finalists 2007-2009

CATEGORIES

2007

2008

2009

Contemporary Series Romance (added 2008)

9

8

Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure (added 2008)

4

3

Short Contemporary Romance (ended 2007)

8

8

8

Contemporary Single Title Romance

9

9

Short Historical Romance (ended 2007)

5

Long Historical Romance (ended 2007)

8

9

8

Historical Romance (new 2008)

4

5

4

Inspirational Romance

6

Long Contemporary Romance (ended 2007)

7

Novel with Strong Romantic Elements

8

8

8

Paranormal Romance

6

6

Regency Historical Romance

8

8

8

Romantic Suspense

8

Young Adult Romance

5

4

5

TOTALS

67

70

67

No category has varied by more than one finalist over the past three years. Even figures from the categories that have been merged or deleted suggest consistent interest in each genre.

What does this mean for 2010 Golden Heart entrants?

Nothing. Or everything. If you enter a category that happens to receive more than eighty entries, your chances of finaling are automatically worse than they’d be if you entered a smaller category. That isn’t to say that you can or should avoid entering perennially popular categories–or that any category will be as popular in 2010 as it was in 2009, 2008, and 2007–but if you’ve written a fence-sitting novel and are desperate for a reason to enter one category or another, consider adding mathematical competitiveness trends to your mental gymnastics.

Why does it matter how many finalists are in any category?

If you final, you’re more likely to win if you have fewer competitors. As the winner of the smallest group last year, I know that my odds of winning (one in three) were better than they would have been in, say, Historical Romance (one in nine, ouch!). Odds like these apply to all competitors, and tell us nothing about the quality of one manuscript over another. And no, I don’t think judges roll dice to select scores or winners, but I can’t help but keep an eye on historical data as I think about what category I’ll enter my baby into this year.

Will you take any of this into consideration when you select your category for the Golden Heart? Do you wish your category were more or less popular? Have you written a novel in a less-popular genre with the hope that you’ll have a better chance of standing out? Or do you think it’s unwise to write in what may be a fading fashion?

One lucky commenter will receive his or her choice of a first chapter critique (up to 25 pages) or a cool, Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood mug.

Disclaimer: For official Golden Heart rules and regulations, consult http://www.rwanational.org and the most current Policies and Procedures manual in the governance documents section of RWA’s website (http://www.rwanational.org/cs/rwa_governance/governance_documents).

113 responses to “Golden Heart Rotisserie by the Numbers”

  1. Tina Russo says:

    I was just discussing this with someone. It’s a no brainer. Unfortunately I didn’t figure it out until this year. LOL

    I have single title manuscripts and I have inspy manuscripts. I wasted my money putting my odds on the ST when clearly the Inspy category was the one to enter.

    Magic is a wonderful thing, but the numbers don’t lie.

    Great post. Thanks.

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    • CJ Chase says:

      Tina,

      I entered one each in the Historical and Inspy cats last year. One finaled — the historical. Go figure. And the scores on the Inspy (which had won — and garnered an editor request — the only other contest I’d entered it in), were well below finalist level — barely making it into the top half of entries in the category. Only one judge really liked it. That’s where that element of luck (or maybe Divine Providence if you are entering inspys ) comes into play. Can you get five judges who “get” your book?

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    • Tina, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      The stats can’t tell us everything, as CJ points out. They can’t tell us whether our book is a better fit for this or that category, or whether or not we’ll happen to get five judges who like to read the kind of book we’ve written. I wish I could divine more direction from numbers, but sadly, the answers to our hardest questions can only be found in our hearts.

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  2. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    Jamie,

    Fabulous post! You’ve a dab hand with statistical data.

    I, of course, was entered in Long Historical in 07 and Historical in 09 so am always fighting the long odds, but can’t imagine writing anything else but Science Fiction—which would have to be entered in paranormal. Lacking vampires and/or werefolk, I figure the odds would be slim to non-existant.

    This breakdown does put a lot of things in perspective. I appreciate the time and effort involved. Numbers are just not my forte.

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    • Thanks, Gwynlyn. I figure most writers don’t have much choice when it comes time to picking their category for the GH, and you’re one of them. What matters more than odds is the quality of your manuscript versus all others, and clearly, yours have done well, despite all odds.

      Anyone else getting that gorgeous Phil Collins song in their heads this morning?

      “And you coming BACK to me (!) is against all odds, and that’s what I’ve got to faaace…”

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  3. June Trubia says:

    The numbers are great.

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  4. Vivi Andrews says:

    This is fascinating, Jamie. I’d be curious to see how the number of contest entries in a certain sub-genre compare to the number of books published each year in that sub-genre. Are certain books more popular to write, but less popular to read? And vice versa? Hmmm.

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    • Oh, that would be interesting.

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    • Perhaps comparing the same data in the RITA would give us an idea? Not concretely, but it would be easier than trying to collect true publication data. 🙂

      I’m always fascinated by this stuff–thanks for the analysis, Jamie!

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    • Vivi, I had the same thought. I’d love to figure out whether writing trends follow or lead reading trends. I was thinking of hitting it from a sales angle, but data on books published will be easier to come by.

      I’m thinking about writing an article for RWR on the topic. I wrote one on standard deviation that will come out next March, when everyone’s staring at their scoresheets trying to figure out what it all means.

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      • Vivi Andrews says:

        Oooh, look what I found! Yay! (I’m such a nerd.)

        http://www.rwanational.org/cs/the_romance_genre/romance_literature_statistics/industry_statistics

        Romance Subgenres Published in 2008
        Of the romance releases tracked by RWA in 2008:

        Contemporary (series): 25.84 percent
        Contemporary: 18.37 percent
        Historical: 15.91 percent
        Paranormal: 12.65 percent
        Romantic Suspense: 8.4 percent
        Inspirational: 7.82 percent
        Romantic Suspense (series): 4.79 percent
        Other (chick-lit, erotic romance): 3.78 percent
        Young Adult: 2.34 percent

        And this: http://www.rwanational.org/cs/09_RITA_Stats

        RITA Awards: 2009 RITA Contest Statistics
        Contemporary Series Romance: 269
        Contemporary Series: Suspense/Adventure: 77
        Contemporary Single Title Romance: 86
        Historical Romance: 113
        Inspirational Romance: 94
        Novel with Strong Romantic Elements: 68
        Paranormal Romance: 142
        Regency Historical Romance: 55
        Romance Novella: 89
        Romantic Suspense: 83
        Young Adult Romance: 29
        Total entries*: 1,105

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        • Vivi, you complete me. You realize that I’m going to make another graph, now, don’t you? For my own pleasure, probably, though I may go balls out and do a math-related post next go-round, too.

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  5. Fabulous job in crunching the numbers, Jamie. I write YA. On the one hand, I’d love to see growth in my category. But with only 46 entries in 2009, it looks like the odds were in my favour! I’m sticking to YA, thank you! Besides, I couldn’t possibly contemplate writing anything else right now.

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    • Vanessa, I was surprised when I saw how few GH YA entries there have been the past few years. I predict more in 2010. It’s “hot,” right? I mean, it feels hot. I know lots of people writing it. Maybe YA authors aren’t as aware of the Golden Heart as other genres are.

      I’d love to see more CSRSA entries in 2010. I felt a little abashed when I saw how few there were. I mean, for crying out loud! Chapter contests can get 29 entries in a single category. The GH should get much more than that. With 10 categories and a cap at 1,000 total entries, each category would ideally get around 100 entries, IMHO.

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    • Elizabeth langston says:

      I finaled in YA in 2005. There were 3 of us. I think RWA told us there had been about 25 entries. My, how times have changed.

      As a really lovely outcome, both of the other finalists, Julie Linker and Heather Davis, are published. (I’m doing my best to catch up 🙂

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    • CJ Chase says:

      Vanessa, I’m pretty certain the YA was canceled a few times years ago because it did not get the minimum entries. (Minimum is, um, 30 entries maybe?) So just having a viable YA category shows you how much the market can change.

      I also think that in some cross over/mixed genre categories, you’re going to get lower numbers because writers in those categories are being siphoned off by other organizations — particularly for those categories that don’t share editors/houses with most of the other RWA categories (like YA and Inspirational). For example, an Inspy romance writer could be a member RWA, ACFW, or both. The ACFW conference has a better selection of Inspy publishing house editors and agents who target them, so a writer may well choose only membership in ACFW.

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      • Good points, CJ. I didn’t know that there was another, perhaps better org for Inspirational writers to join, but that goes a long way toward explaining the numbers.

        Minimum number of entries in a category is 25. Since RWA rounds up at 5, a category with 25 entrants would allow 3 finalists, 4 in the case of a tie.

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      • Wow, CJ, I didn’t know about that cancellation. I’m glad to see YA is making a comeback in the Golden Heart.

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  6. Tamara Hogan says:

    Thanks for crunching the numbers, Jamie! A very interesting picture indeed.

    Despite the odds, it’s Paranormal, Urban Fantasy and SciFi that fire up my imagination as a writer, so I can’t imagine writing anything else for long, long time.

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    • Absolutely. These figures mean nothing to writers who do not straddle fences! It’s got to be nice to know what you want, eh?

      Anybody else envy Tamara self-awareness? I know I do. (I also covet her cool new website.)

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      • Tamara Hogan says:

        Thanks, Jamie – I love my website too. 😉

        This is probably the best place to admit that, yesterday, I discontinued my (feeble, rarely-updated) personal blog and linked it here instead. The reduction in guilt is amazing.

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        • LOL!

          There’s a link to this page from my website, but I still need to create a “blog” navigation button. I don’t have a personal blog, either. This is it for me!

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  7. Sure gave food for thought, Jamie, for those writing an on-the-fence manuscript. Way to go!

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  8. Great article, Jamie!

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  9. Jeannie Lin says:

    This is great info. There was someone who wanted to know whether she should enter her manuscript in Regency or Historical and I had thought about telling her that there were more entries in Historical, but I couldn’t remember the breakdown.

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    • Yeah, I saw that thread (I think it was on your post, but can’t quite remember) and figured it might be a good time to bust out my calculator. I hope whoever it was is reading today.

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  10. Katrina C says:

    Thanks for this, Jamie. Maybe I’m a numbers nerd, but calculating the odds was one of the first things I did when I found the GH page on RWA’s site.

    One other thing I noticed is that their main GH page says 1,200 manuscripts are entered every year, but if you dig deeper (as you have), you find that *only* 901 were entered for this year. I wonder if there’s a downward trend, and, if so, why that would be.

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    • I’d love to know, but RWA didn’t have that information at their fingertips when I requested it. It may require a fair bit of digging.

      My guess is that old scapegoat, the economy, has everyone’s pockets in a pinch. $50 is a lot of dough for anyone, let alone someone who is out of work or hasn’t had a raise in a decade.

      It does seem like RWA might want to consider adjusting their stated typical entry totals, perhaps with a rounded average of the last few years, to make their website more accurate.

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  11. I could have entered RS, ST or RE. If I’d known the odds, I might have gone a different direction, but I’m sort of glad I didn’t know the odds, cuz it all worked out despite the numbers being against me.

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    • Well, at least your mathematical odds of winning wouldn’t have been any better if you’d entered ST or RS. You happen to be writing in three mathematically competitive arenas. Lucky you?

      😉

      Best of luck with the upcoming release of “Lily in Wonderland”!

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  12. Diana Layne says:

    I saw these numbers this year, but didn’t know they were available in previous years. It makes the whole thing quite fascinating. And yes, it might possibly alter what category I enter, thanks!

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  13. I’ve got to run to PT, but I’ll be back shortly, and I look forward to continuing conversations with everyone!

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  14. June says:

    Jamie, I loved seeing the numbers. Since 2009 was my first final, I didn’t have a clue how it worked. Now, that I know, it does make a difference. Thanks!

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    • Me, too, June! Only after the contest did I start to wonder how the heck it all worked. All I knew is that general, “top 10% final” thing. I’ve been reading the rule book, though, and I feel pretty confident that I understand its intricacies now.

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  15. Laura says:

    Hi, Jamie,

    Thank you for doing all this work. It should be helpful!

    How cool that your Mom commented. She sounds great. Congratulations to you both.

    Laura

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    • Thanks, Laura, for your comment and for stopping by!

      (yes, my mom is super cool. have i mentioned that yet? my mom rocks, though not literally, because she has a fake knee now.)

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  16. Tina Joyce says:

    Wow, it’s fascinating to see those numbers laid out on paper. I had no idea some of the categories fell that far short of the 10% mark (I didn’t realized there was a cap on the number of finalists–but that explains everything). I feel even more fortunate to have finaled, now. Good job with this!

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  17. Liz Talley says:

    Hmmmm….very interesting.

    Never knew the exact numbers so it was great seeing them. I think I would have to enter what I had though. This year I was planning on contemp category with 2 manuscripts. If the categories reflect the world of publishing, then I’m up against all those other people on an editor’s desk anyway.

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    • Liz, that’s how I figure it works, too. May as well not fool ourselves by pretending our book is something it’s not, but the problem is that lots of us don’t know exactly what our book is.

      That’s where this information may come in handy. It won’t tell you where you belong, but if someone honestly believes that their book could be a legitimate CSR or a CSRSA, well, I’d say she should go with the latter. If it’s truly 50/50 on where your baby belongs, go with the odds. If it’s 51/49, go with your gut.

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  18. Hmm. A little too much math for me early in the morning — or any time of day, really … but very interesting all the same. Looks like I have a bit better chance in Series Contemporary (which I’m entering) than Single Title Contemporary (which I was planning to enter with my other MS — you know, the one that’s not finished yet!)

    I’ll definitely give numbers more thought next year!

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    • Arlene, if you’ve written a dynamite Single Title, screw the odds! Forge ahead and make your own luck.

      I’m an athlete and watch a lot of sports. I often see calls made by refs that could have gone either way. The team who lost the call gets mad, stomps their feet, and complains, but I always think that even if they’re right — even if that call should have gone their way — they’re at fault for letting it get so close. A player can never rely on a ref to make the right decision. A player has to make a play that doesn’t let it come down to a judgement call.

      Like, if you’re a volleyball attacker and you’re hitting a ball, you’d better make darn sure it goes down inside the court. You can’t rely on a linesman to call it in for you. You have to slam that ball down a foot inside the line, with authority, and leave no doubt in that linesman’s mind as to what call needs to be made.

      Writing’s just another sport. It requires many of the same skills, and has many of the same perils. Aren’t we all looking to “go pro” as writers? So step up to the big leagues. You’ve got to slam it through the hoop, crush it to the floor, and hit it out of the park. Write such an extraordinary work of fiction that your judges have no choice but to give you 9s.

      Anyway — I’m ironically passionate about not relying on luck to win. I’m also ridiculously competitive and occasionally over-confident, but I’ve never known any other way to overcome an obstacle.

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  19. Christine says:

    Wish I had seen these numbers before I selected my category–might help with what I do next year.

    Thanks for doing this work!!

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  20. Nancy Naigle says:

    So the question is … will this awareness skew all the entries for this year? Maybe we’ll see it all go upside down with tons of Inspirational, YA and Single Title entries and less RS.

    That will be interesting.

    Best wishes to all those planning to enter in any category 🙂
    Nancy

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    • Ha! I only dream of so many people reading my blog post.

      It’s more important for the GH to reflect the community, rather than the community reflecting the GH. Maybe there should be more sub-categories for Paranormal. It’s a crowded category, and those entries aren’t getting a 10% shot at the finalist position. I’m not sure what changes could be made to the NSRE category, but it’s certainly busting at the seams.

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  21. Fascinating, Jamie. Thanks for sharing! I’m particularly surprised to see how many “Novel with Strong Romantic Elements” entries there were, and that they had more than any other category. Interesting…

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    • Thanks, Anne Marie. I found that interesting, too, because most people I know aren’t writing that type of book. So where are they? Not in Maryland, I guess.

      🙂

      Your category was pretty full, too. You had to hack through a jungle of fierce competitors to take the title. Congrats, again.

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  22. rita says:

    Jamie,
    Do you know what drive chnages in categories being added or dropped

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    • I would lurve to know that info! I have to assume that someone at RWA analyses the numbers each year. It really doesn’t make sense to have one category with 29 entries and one with 152. It’s hardly even the same contest at that point (and as a finalist in that itsy bitsy group, I think I’m qualified to admit it). There are few things RWA could do:

      1. Drop the finalist cap. Allow as many finalists as needed to make 10% of the total entries. There would have been 15 NSRE finalists, but at least we all would have been the top 10% of our groups. That would make it a lot harder for any one of those 15 finalists to win, though…

      or

      2. Cap the number of entries into each category at 80 (or 100, say, and bump up the finalist cap to 10). They could also increase the minimum number of entries, maybe to 35 or 45.

      or

      3. Create more sub-categories to break up the behemoths. Delete or merge the smaller categories.

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  23. Great post! I’m a statistician by trade so this was right up my alley. Loves numbers and words. *G* I checked out the stats on RWA before your post just because I was curious. Will the numbers influence where I enter my story? No. There is no wiggle room with my ms. Do I wish the category were less popular? No. In the real world, you have to compete against not only GH entrants but also pub’d authors so why should this contest be any easier? As it is, the pub’d authors are already excluded, making our chances of finalling that much easier. *G* Good luck to everyone entering!

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    • Hi Jennifer! Thanks for stopping by. When I saw that you were a statistician, I bit my lip, wondering if you’d find an error.

      Now that I’m thinking about it, I may as well point out that the 8.2% figure shown on the first table as the average of “percent of category” is confusing, because it’s not calculated in the same way as the “percent of category” figures above it. If it were, it’d be 6.7 / 90.1, which equals 7.4%. But I calculated it as the mean of those “percent of category” figures, making it 8.2%.

      But no one’s complained, so I figure it’s not a problem. It’s not an error, but it could be confusing.

      🙂

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  24. Ami Weaver says:

    I judged NSRE last year. Most of them were straight romances, and one could have been a series romance. I wonder if NSRE ended up being the catch-all category–people weren’t sure where to enter so they picked that one?

    Also, do those numbers reflect those who entered but never sent in the entry? (Like, um, moi)

    Still, very interesting. I love numbers like this, seeing my odds, even if they are long.

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    • Ami, how interesting!

      That explains a lot. I bet you’re right — NSRE ends up being a catch-all. I judged a contest recently and only one of the three read like an NSRE. I’d completely forgotten about that.

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  25. Lisa Kessler says:

    Great blog! 🙂

    I’m in sales by day and I’m a big believer in the numbers don’t lie… very interesting stuff you compiled here!

    Thanks!

    lisa

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    • Thanks, Lisa.

      I agree. I think that numbers only lie if you take them farther than they should be taken. It’s hard to not read too much into data, though, especially when we think they prove what we believe.

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      • …that would be, “take them further…”

        If I didn’t correct that, I’d have thought about it all night. I’m ashamed to admit that I only recently learned that there’s a difference between further and farther, and now it haunts my dreams.

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  26. Tina Canon says:

    Looking at this from a statistic standpoint is interesting.

    I write paranormal/sci fi romances and am entering the paranormal category. One concern I’ve had is the popularity of paranormal even though I started writing it BEFORE it took off. But that’s my writing style.

    Thanks,
    tina

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    • You know, one way to look at the popularity of a genre is to wonder if some of the authors working in it are only there because it’s popular. Like, if paranormal wasn’t “big” right now, would a portion of those authors be doing something entirely different? Would you?

      There’s no way to know if it’s true, but it might be a comforting salve to those of you who are writing in a popular genre.

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      • CJ Chase says:

        Oh, there is definitely some of that. Writers reinvent themselves in order to sell and keep selling, and we may decide to try something that will increase our chances of selling if our favorite genres aren’t “hot.” But we are voracious readers who read across the categories, so it’s not like we write things we hate just to sell. I’ve entered something like 5 or 6 different GH categories over the years. (I keep hoping someday I’ll figure out what I want to be when I grow up.) I loved every one of those books, even the ones which aren’t where my heart most wants to be.

        And Jamie, I realized I forgot to compliment you on your article. I love numbers. Yeah, I’m a geek.

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        • Thanks for remembering to stop back in, CJ! Writers are, in general, interested by everything, from the backs of Cheerios boxes to random pages of an encyclopedia to stories about monster rats invading New York City (“Ratzilla”). So I’m never surprised when a writer says she likes to write in several different genres. I think it can make her a harder brand to pin down, and perhaps a tougher sell to agents and editors who like “branded” authors, but branding isn’t everything.

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  27. This is very interesting! Good job!

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  28. Katrina W says:

    What a great post! I was curious how the competition stacked up – I don’t have a choice either, mine’s futuristic so I’m in the second most popular category. I’m hopeful that because it’s not actually paranormal, I’ll stand out instead of being automatically dismissed. Thanks for the information and I’m going to be crossing my fingers the odds are in my favor.

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    • Gosh, Katrina. The wide variety of possible worlds in the paranormal umbrella just boggles my mind. Does it drive you crazy that there’s such a specific category as “Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure,” but you have to put your futuristic up against high fantasy, urban fantasy, shape-shifters, and whatever else can’t exist in a “normal” world? Lots of urban fantasy readers won’t touch high fantasy. Lots of futuristic readers aren’t interested in shape-shifting. Etc, etc…

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  29. Pamela Cayne says:

    Given that agents say they can receive at least 100 queries *a day*, I don’t know why more people don’t enter this contest.

    Thanks for the stats!

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  30. Dara says:

    Well I guess I’ll really have to strive to make mine stand out. Both categories that I would lean towards are the top 2.

    Sigh…:P

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    • Yup! Not much you can do. Did you catch my long-winded, volleyball-themed pep talk in response to Arlene’s comment above? I firmly believe in making your own luck. Even something like being in the right place at the right time means that you were in the RIGHT place at the RIGHT time. It’s not “random” place, “whatever” time.

      Anyhow, good luck in 2010. I’d love to cheer your name in Nashville.

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  31. Elisa Beatty says:

    Cool post, Jamie! Thanks for unlocking a bit more of the mystery!

    This makes me more grateful than ever that GH has a separate category for Regency, which most contests don’t… and it does make me think that there should probably be at least one more subcategory for Historical (Highland romances, perhaps, since that’s the most popular subcategory after Regency…)

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    • Interesting point, Elisa. I don’t know anything about current trends in historical romance to comment, so I’m glad you’re here.

      I’ve also been wondering where steampunk writers will put their work. Paranormal? I guess they’d have to, but they’re awfully historical, too. They have a historical flavor. But so do lots of high fantasies, I suppose. Not literally, of course. But many wizard-and-dragon fantasies have a deep authenticity that makes me forget that I’m reading fiction.

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  32. Cathy P says:

    It’s interesting NSRE drew the most entries since very few chapter contests offer that category. Something to think about in next year’s planning.

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  33. Shea Berkley says:

    Knowing that I would have more competition in a category isn’t a bad thing. It’s more realistic. So, would I change my genre just to final. Heck no. I have to love what I write, and when I do, it shows.

    All those numbers are interesting, Jamie. I had no idea the strong romantic elements category was so popular. For those who think it’s a catch all category, you’d be half right. Any subgenre (contemporary, historical, paranormal etc.) can enter that category so long as the romance isn’t the main focus of the story, so it appears as if it’s a catch all category. The problem I’ve come up against is that some believe the category is only for Chicklit or women getting a divorce stories. It’s not. If I were going to enter SRE, I’d make sure I liked to read and write commercial women’s fiction because, in my opinion, that’s more along the lines of what the editors and readers of SREs are looking for.

    0
    • Shea Berkley says:

      I should add that commercial womens fiction is incredibly diverse and encompasses every subgenre I can think of.

      0
    • I really like reading women’s fiction, and I guess that’s sometimes shorthand for chick lit or divorce lit, but there’s SO much more to it than that, as you pointed out.

      NSRE is a legitimate category, but a writer who uses it for her “I dunno what I’ve written” novel runs the risk of shooting herself in the foot.

      Note to self: see what’s happened to the last several NSRE finalists. If published, by whom? Did they stay NSRE, or were they re-branded?

      0
  34. Elise Hayes says:

    These are such interesting numbers, Jamie! Thanks for posting them. I’m surprised that the Regency entries are so low–it’s such a popular area within historical that I assumed it would be the biggest slice of the historical pie.

    On the other hand, I guess “historical” covers such a wide variety of settings–from Roman times to pre-WWII–that I suppose it makes sense that it gets more entries than the rather narrow historical period of Regency.

    Fascinating stuff–thanks!

    0
    • I love (!) Regency romances, but I think that their popularity is ridiculously out of proportion to how long that era actually lasted. I’m so glad to see the historical category widening, not just to additional time periods but also to non-English-speaking countries. (Yay, Jeannie Lin!)

      0
  35. Great post! Except that it’s making me want to re-think my decision to enter romantic elements. LOL. I’m typically consider myself an RS writer (that’s what I entered and finaled in), but this new book is different than anything I’ve ever written and because of the type of story it is, the romance is almost non-existent in the beginning (just hints at what is to come). So…I think I’ll have to stick with RE. Let’s hope it’s not as hot of category this time around. *G*

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    • Gosh, it’s so hard to decide, isn’t it? I see why you’re picking NSRE. A judge might be perturbed not to see much romance developing in the short section she reads for the GH. Even if the book eventually sells as a RS, that first fifty-page section might be more of an NSRE.

      Interesting point. Sometimes you have to think about how your entry will be perceived, rather than how your whole book would be perceived.

      0
  36. I wish there was a place that updated numbers as contestants officially sign up. I’d love to know how many people are in each category for 09, thus far.

    And great post! I love the crunching number entries, especially if the numbers have already been crunched before I cheeck the blog! 😉

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  37. Darynda Jones says:

    Wow, this is great, Jamie!!! I’ve always wondered what the numbers were. Thanks for breaking this down for us.

    I almost, almost entered mine in NSRE in 2009, but it’s more because of my ending than my beginning. So I figured I could get away with PR since the judges would have no idea what happens in the end. 🙂 I still consider my ms a paranormal romance, but neither my agent nor my editor does. Hmmm…it’s all so interesting.
    ~D~

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  38. Really? From what I know of “First Grave on the Right,” I’m shocked that your editor and agent don’t consider it a paranormal! Isn’t your heroine a grim reaper? That ain’t normal. It’s definitely … paranormal.

    Is there a twist at the end?????? OOOOOOOOO!

    0
  39. I entered paranormal, but now I’m wondering whether I should try switching to romantic suspense. If you have light-to-moderate paranormal elements (no vamps, no shifters, only an immortal) in a traditional chase and suspense plot, can you enter RS or would they automatically consider it a Paranormal?

    Really, both categories are pretty full, so I suppose I should stay in paranormal. Any ideas?

    0
    • CJ Chase says:

      Sounds like one of those books that could go either way, Anna. Back in the dark ages (2003), I put my historical (1815 setting) in the RS category and finaled, so judges do seem to accept a certain amount of overlap in the categories.

      My suggestion would be to tweak your synopsis to fit the category you decide. If you decide paranormal, make certain you highlight the paranormal aspects in the synopsis. Same thing for suspense if you choose that.

      One thing to consider — it’s my understanding that RS isn’t as popular right now as a few years back while paranormal has been hot, hot, hot. You might find it easier marketing the book to editors if you call it a paranormal. I doubt it would matter in the first round of the GH, but something to consider if you final.

      0
    • Could you see it as a series romantic suspense? That category was small last year. I know Silhouette Romantic Suspense editors say they won’t accept any paranormal elements at all (though there are still lots of psychics and empaths and whatnot), but Harlequin Intrigue may be more lenient.

      One of the two lines published a book in the last three years in which a sexy alien came down to Earth and got some lady to help him find some ancient family amulet that would…aw, I really can’t remember the rest of it. There was a cat involved, and bullets. But the hero was definitely an alien. I probably enjoyed it, but I remember thinking that it was a fish out of romantic-suspense water.

      0
  40. Jennifer Hilt says:

    Thank you for your post! I was wondering just this kind of thing but thought it was too crass to mention. I can only write what I want to read, my attempts to do otherwise are painful to all involved including myself. I do appreciate seeing how things break down though because man do I hate math:)

    Thank you! Jennifer

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  41. Rebecca Neely says:

    Dear Jamie-
    Thank you for the breakdown of entries. I have a degree in Accounting so numbers appeal to me! I think it shows you what you’re up against. Thanks for taking the time to do so.
    Sincerely,
    Beckie Neely
    BTW, I write romantic suspense. I’m on my 2nd manuscript. Have a good one!

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  42. June Trubia says:

    Ok Jamie
    It’s mom again, great job crunching all the numbers. Dad and I are so pround of the woman you have become. So stop stalling and get back to writing. You never change!
    Love Ya,Mom

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  43. Regina says:

    so it sounds like you could have a book that will go no where but if you hit the stats just right you get to win? That doesn’t sound like a contest that truly judges writing skill but more like if your numbers work you win.

    0
    • Saying “if your numbers work you win” means “if your manuscript scores well enough, you win,” which is certainly true, so you’ll get no argument from me. And sure, you could have a book that does better in one category than another, so a writer should consider these historical stats among many other factors when choosing which category to enter.

      0

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