Golden Heart Survey Results Revealed!

Last Friday, I posted a link to a survey to gauge reader intentions for the upcoming Golden Heart contest for unpublished romance manuscripts. Today, I reveal the results!

42 individuals completed the survey. (Last year, 29 individuals responded.) 37 respondents were from the US, 2 from Canada, 2 from Australia, and 1 from France.

The survey branched to different questions depending on each respondent’s individual answers, so I hope this report makes sense. It’s kind of like reading a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book from start to finish, which doesn’t make for a sensible narrative.

At any rate, here are the results.The first column is the answer. The second is the number of respondents who selected that answer. The third is the percentage of respondents who selected that answer. I’ve arranged the answers in the order of most responses to least.

It’d be nice if I were better at writing blogs in HTML so that I could make this look really pretty, but I’m not. Sorry! Maybe next year!


Question 1. Do you plan to enter the Golden Heart contest for unpublished romance manuscripts this year?

Yes 26 62%
No 16 38%
I’m not sure 0 0%

If entering the Golden Heart:

Question 2. How many manuscripts do you plan to enter?

Two 13 50%
One 11 42%
Three 1 4%
Four or more 1 4%

Question 3. What category (or categories) do you plan to enter? Please pick just one per manuscript you plan on entering.

Contemporary Series Romance 9 26%
Contemporary Single Title Romance 8 23%
Regency Historical Romance 4 11%
Paranormal Romance 3 9%
Young Adult Romance 3 9%
Historical Romance 3 9%
Novel with Strong Romantic Elements 3 9%
Romantic Suspense 2 6%
Inspirational Romance 0 0%
Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure 0 0%
I’m not sure 0 0%

If not entering the Golden Heart:

Question 4. Why aren’t you planning to enter the Golden Heart this year?

I’m ineligible for the Golden Heart. 13 62%
I don’t like the contest rules, policies, and/or procedures. 3 14%
I don’t think I have a chance of finaling. 2 10%
I won’t have a suitable manuscript ready to submit by the deadline. 1 5%
I don’t think that finaling in the contest will help me achieve my goals as a writer. 1 5%
I’m too busy to worry about this contest. 0 0%
I’m worried that finaling would place too much pressure on me. 0 0%
I don’t think that this contest rewards true talent. 0 0%


Question 6. Over the years, how many times have you entered a manuscript into the Golden Heart?

1 6 21%
Never 5 17%
4 4 14%
5 4 14%
3 3 10%
2 3 10%
8 2 7%
6 1 3%
More than 10 1 3%
7 0 0%
9 0 0%

If respondent has previously entered the Golden Heart:

Question 7. Have you ever finaled or won?

No, I’ve never finaled 11 48%
Yes, I’ve finaled at least once. 8 35%
Yes, I’ve finaled and won at least once. 4 17%

If ineligible for entering the Golden Heart this year:

Question 8. You are ineligible for the Golden Heart. Are you able to enter the Rita?

Yes, and I will enter the Rita with at least one book. 5 38%
No, for a different reason. (Please explain.) 4 31%
No, because my book will not be released in time to enter the Rita. 3 29%
Yes, but I will not be entering the Rita this year. 1 8%

Everyone (mostly):

Question 9: If you could make any changes to the Golden Heart rules, policies, or procedures, what would they be? (No suggestions were given for these free-write answers, so each individual may have made more than one suggestion, but all were arrived at independently.)

19 responses: Allow electronic submissions.

7 responses: Allow judges to give comments or feedback of some sort.

3 responses: No changes needed.

One response each:

Add an erotica category.

Clean up judging guidelines.

Open eligibility to those who are not (and have never been) eligible for the Rita or PAN.

Create a more detailed scoring rubic.

Reshuffle/reorganize categories so that each receives approximately the same number of entries.

Remove the standard deviation clause and instead drop everyone’s low score.

Ensure that manuscripts postmarked by the deadline are not disqualified, even if they arrive after the deadline.


And…that’s it!

The same basic survey was completed last year, as well. See the results from last year’s survey here.

Once again this year we see powerful votes in favor of e-submissions. Intriguingly, I do think this is in our future, although not the immediate one. The new myRWA social networking and chapter management software includes a contest module that has electronic uploading and downloading capabilities. The fact that this module is pre-loaded in the software makes me think that RWA is thinking about e-contests for itself, not just its chapters, although of course it might just be doing its chapters a solid by making it easier for us to run our already e-only contests.

We also see strong support for judges providing feedback, but I don’t see any indication from RWA that this will change at any point in the near future. My understanding is that RWA used to allow feedback on the Golden Heart, but that this only led to hurt feelings (and lawsuit fodder). They seem to feel that it’s cleaner to just provide a number, and while I’d love to get more feedback than that, I recognize that feedback isn’t why you enter the Golden Heart, at least not anymore.

There’s plenty more fodder to discuss here – the popularity of the contemporary in both its single-title AND series forms surprised me, for one thing, and I’m also excited to see that we have so many in the Sisterhood intending to enter the Rita.

One question remains unanswered: Question 8 asked, “You are ineligible for the Golden Heart. Are you able to enter the Rita?” Four respondents answered, “No, for a different reason. (Please explain.),” but didn’t explain. If you were one of those respondents, could you elaborate, if you are comfortable doing so?

Let’s discuss! Tell us what you think!



ONE LAST ROUND OF RUBY TRIVIA BEFORE OUR BIRTHDAY BASH TOMORROW (be sure to join us bright and early for the cyber festivities and heaps o’ giveaways!!): 

Cate Rowan co-founded her college equestrian team (and, in unrelated news, was once pooped on by a monkey).

Addison Fox has climbed to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge twice.

Vanessa Barneveld is thinking about climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge since she works a couple blocks from it.

Beth Langston says she won’t cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge much less climb to the top

Rubies took home the Golden Heart® for Regency three years row: Sara Ramsey 2009, Elisa Beatty 2010, and Anne Barton 2011.

Tina Joyce has lived in 4 countries.

3 Rubies were cheerleading captains.

2 Rubies kept humongous snakes as pets.

Tamara Hogan was a competitive gymnast from 7th grade through senior year in college and racked up countless sprains, broke two bones: sternum and big toe.

Shea Berkley is an expert goat milker.

Rubies are definitely cat people (but lots of us like dogs, too!!).

 AND…. there is sooo much more. But the statute of limitations has not run out so it’s best not to share.



32 responses to “Golden Heart Survey Results Revealed!”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Very interesting results, Jamie! It’s fascinating to see this.

    At least among our respondents, Contemporary of one sort or another is far and away the most popular submission target. Anyone remember how that compares to the breakdown in category popularity for actual submissions last year?

    Count me among those who look forward to the day when the contest goes all electronic…though hopefully I’ll be ineligible long before then.

    How exciting that registration for the 2012 Golden Heart opens TOMORROW (which, not at all coincidentally) is the ANNIVERSARY of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog!!! I hope everyone will stop by again tomorrow for some cyber champagne and our ‘traditional’ birthday giveaway, where our much-beloved readers get the gifts!!! (But Rubies get to share in the cupcakes…definitely!!!)

  2. Thanks for collating the results, Jamie! How cool to see so many more Rubies are eligible for the RITA this year.

    I’m not in favour of allowing feedback in the GH. As a judge, I like the freedom of simply awarding a number. There are loads of other RWA-sponsored contests to choose from if you need feedback.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      I agree, Vanessa. One of the reasons I enjoy judging the Golden Heart is that it’s more of an instinctive, gut judge than some other contests because I’m not thinking quite so consciously about craft as I read. My baseline criteria is, DID I GET LOST IN THIS STORY? Am I hungry for more? And I think agents and editors share that viewpoint, and either ask for more, or reject. Yes, of course craft comes into it – such knowledge is part of what I bring to the party as a judge or reader – and if I DON’T get lost, craft issues likely exist.

      But I think the GH’s approach to judging gives authors who enter the smallest taste of what it’s like to be a working writer. As a book’s author, you’ll likely never know why someone liked or didn’t like your book. You’ll only hear from the smallest fraction of those who absolutely loved it or absolutely hated it. Managing uncertainty – and staying productive despite it – is part of the gig.

      • I go back and forth on this issue, and ultimately I think I quietly agree with you both. While sometimes I think it’d be nice to get a one-liner from a judge with what she liked and didn’t like, there’s also something very pure about this contest.

        Also, sometimes it’s nice to not know. Sometimes it’s nice just to get a score and know you either did or didn’t hit the mark. A low score can be depressing, but I think it has less potential to derail me than does a highly critical assessment of my work.

  3. Laurie Kellogg says:

    Interesting survey, Jamie. I would think electronic entries would save RWA a TON in postage.

    • Absolutely. I’m trying to be sensitive to RWA, because I’m not on the inside and I don’t know what their reasons are for not going e-only (or at least e-possible for perhaps a higher fee, which would benefit foreign entrants). I’ve heard various reasons, of course, but none of them from RWA directly, so I can’t be sure.

      The old “judges don’t want to read electronically” is holding less and less water these days, though. I had 160 or so judges sign up for the Golden Pen, and only one said she couldn’t do it without paper copies. I think I told her she could always just print them out herself, which is true, although probably not what she was interested in hearing.

      • Tamara Hogan says:

        I’m a judge who doesn’t want to read electronic entries – I spend too many hours a day looking at a glowing screen as it is. But if I want to make hardcopies, I figure that’s my choice, my issue – not the author’s.

  4. liz talley says:

    Wonderful post, Jamie, and so interesting to see the variation.

    Just a thought about the Ritas…not really sure how much it helps the finalists career-wise especially if they already have an editor and agent. And not to be inflamatory, but often it seems a popularity contest because we see the same people year after year (not saying they’re not good) but I wonder if the name were off the book, if there would be the same results. Maybe like an unintentional bias sort of thing?

    Also, if you have several books eligible, then it’s expensive. I have 3. That’s 150.00 plus shipping 18 books. So that’s kinda spendy. But then again, I’m gaining exposure to at least 18 new readers and the chance to splash my name about. Guess it’s cheaper than an ad but no sure thing.

    But, best of luck to everyone in the contest. I can firmly say it was one of the better things that happened to me 🙂

    • Yes, the Ritas are inherently unfair because they lack anonymity, although I’m sure our Rita judges would say that they do their very best to ignore the name on the cover (and the appearance of the cover!).

      Like you, I don’t think that the repeating of certain names year after year means those names are only getting noms because they’re popular — in fact, they’re probably just damned good. But still, one wonders what would happen if we could make the Ritas anonymous. It would would be fair, then. If only it were possible! We could have publishers print out anonymous page proofs or something, but I doubt they’re going to want to do that.

      But this is the way of writings contests for published authors. Plenty of esteemed contests are denounced as sausage fests or popularity contests, but still, they persist, as do we.

    • Kate Parker says:

      I wonder if they could strip the books sent in for the RITAs before sending them out to the judges? Booksellers strip books all the time, and while it’s a bit of a desecration, it would eliminate the name and the cover from leaping out at the judges (I realize it would be inside).

  5. Tina Joyce says:

    Interesting to see the results of the survey, Jamie. Looks like electronic entries is one of the biggest requests for the GH. For those of us living outside the U.S. (and who worry about entries arriving on time), it would cut down on both expenses and stress.

  6. Kim Law says:

    Interesting Jamie! I thought it intriguing what the top two categories were, too. I totally expected paranormal to be up there.

    Love these surveys! Thanks!

    • I had the same reaction! And I was surprised that Regency was slightly higher up than Historical…

    • Yeah, Paranormal was HOT last year (came in second in the number of total entries to NSRE), and I do expect it to continue this year. It just seems that the Ruby readership isn’t writing it!

      I’ve heard a lot of chatter about how popular YA is, but last year, it only had 46 entries, which was the third-fewest (to Inspirational with 40 and Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure with 29). I wonder how that might change this year.

      • Vanessa Barneveld says:

        The YA category would’ve had 48 entries if my mailed-early-but-nevertheless-late arrivals were accepted — lol! Actually, I heard a number of people were also DQ’d for missing the deadline due to mail delays. As I recall, FedEx (?) discovered explosives hidden in printer cartridges last Nov, and i believe this led to more security checks that slowed deliveries.

  7. Hope Ramsay says:

    About the RITA. I’m very excited to be eligible to enter this year. I do agree with some of Liz’s comments about it being a popularity contest. But the biggest thing that is curious to me, is that the RITA award means nothing to READERS. This is in stark contrast tot he awards that the SF community gives out. If a book is a Nebula Award winner that seal is on the front cover and it means something to me as a reader. But that never happens with the RITAS. If I had to make a recommendation to RWA (and the publishing world) it would be to think about launching a campaign to educate readers on the RITA. I have, for years, read every nominee in the Single Title category, and I have mostly found that those books have been great quality books. And I’ve found authors I love because of the RITA. But to do that, I have to go to RWA and print out a list of the nominees and then scour the bookshelves for them. Why are these books not set apart, marked on their covers, and promoted better? I think that’s a very good question RWA should turn its attention to.

    • YES. All of that!

      RWA could design a rounded logo that could be printed as a sticker or embossed onto a cover, and publishers could slap that baby on new shipments or ship them to bookstores for employees to hand-place them on the nominees and winners. It should be a much bigger deal — there should be special table at bookstores for the new RIta nominees, and a big media splash and bookstore rush once the winners are announced.

      Wouldn’t it sell more books? I think so.

      And the question of why RWA isn’t doing should be answered. To your knowledge, has anyone ever brought it up with them? We could just…do that.

    • That’s a great point, Hope. I’d love to see some sort of medal-like logo embossed on RITA winner books. Every other genre does it, why not romance?

  8. Rita Henuber says:

    Thanks for this Jamie. You always have the best surveys.
    I too wonder when the GH will go electronic. Honestly I don’t see it happening soon. I cannot say it loud enough- NO to comments on the GH. NO! NO! NO!
    As for the RITA I write RS and getting past Rocki St Clare, J D Robb, Allison Brennan, Brenda Novak, Karen Rose and the twenty other NYTs best sellers is my sticking point. Talk about a snowballs chance at the equator. Geeze!
    I’ve heard first time RITA winners say it did help their career from a business stand point. It still boils down to writing the best you can for yourself and then the readers.

    • Are you saying that you can’t get past those authors because they’re so darned good, or because they’re such big names?

      • Rita Henuber says:

        Both. Like Liz said a name on the book MAY give it a boost. We all know contests are subjective.What wins one month might not win the next. What is seen as brilliant in January, sucks in July. Or not. Shrug. Look at the academy awards. Brilliant movies and actors have been completely overlooked. Didn’t stop people from going to see them. I think people should enter both contests where eligible. It’s part of the romance writing process.

        • Kate Brady was nominated in the RS category one year with her debut book. So it can happen. But I do agree that RS has some huge guns that pretty much sew up the category year after year. But that’s okay. We’ll allow them to have their slot…for now…

          However, in a couple of years the Ruby RS writers will take the RITAs by storm! 😉

  9. Rita Henuber says:

    Hey is anyone else having fun with the trivia? Snakes??? ewww!!

  10. Sally Eggert says:

    Interesting! Thanks for doing this, Jamie. (I’m a little weirded out that the survey bot knows I’m in France… 😛 )

  11. Kate Parker says:

    Jamie, I was surprised at the popularity of contemporary as opposed to paranormal and YA. No surprise on larger numbers of regency vs. historical. 4 out of 5 regency GH finalists in 2011 went on to sell, while none of the historical GH finalists have sold since March (I think).

  12. Addison Fox says:


    Great job with the survey!!!



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