Updated Golden Heart & RITA Rules!

Every year prior to conference the RWA National Board meets and makes changes to the contests.  This is the ONLY time such changes can be made because it is the only board meeting when the contest is not actively in session.  The new rules were released following the meeting and I’m sure will soon be posted in more detail on the individual contest pages, but for now here is RWA’s SUMMARY OF CHANGES.

And here’s a little breakdown of the highlights:

  • Entrants are required to judge. 
  • Entrants will not judge in a category in which they are entered.
  • Judges will be allowed to opt out of two categories.
  • Contemporary romance is divided into three categories and historical into two categories, based on word count, with the goal of dividing the number of entries equally among the available categories. Please note that the number of entries, by category, vary from year to year, and the resulting number of entries in each category may not be equally divided.
  • Each entry will be scored between 1.0 (lowest) and 10.0 (highest). (Yay!!!)
  • Judges will assign one score to each work, with the final score calculated by dropping the high and the low score and averaging the remaining three scores (trimmed mean).
  • The top 4% of each category’s entries (based on the number of qualified entries received) will advance to the final round, except each category will have no fewer than 4 finalists or more than 10 finalists.

Also, the minimum number of RITA entries for a category to avoid being eliminated due to lack of entries has been set at 50 (as opposed to last year’s 5% of 2000, or 100) so Young Adult should be back!  (Minimum 25 entries for the Golden Heart.)

Category changes for contemporary and historical above are for the RITA not the Golden Heart.  The Golden Heart categories will remain the same as last year.  Also, finalists for the Golden Heart will be the top 10% per category not 4%.

Aaaaand a little birdie told us at the AGM that they will be LOWERING the entry fee for the Golden Heart this year!  If my notes are correct you can enter (Golden Heart, not RITA) for only $30 per entry!  So get your multiple entries ready, darlings.

What do you think?  Do you like the new rules?  Are you excited to enter? 

21 responses to “Updated Golden Heart & RITA Rules!”

  1. Gwyn says:

    Barring a MAJOR hiccup in my plans, I won’t be entering again, but I’m glad to see the changes. Not being allowed to judge the category in which you’re entered is a no-brainer, IMO, and the 4% for the RITAs is a must. I was also glad to see an indie author pull in a RITA this year. The times they are a-changin’!

  2. Tamara Hogan says:

    I missed this year’s Annual General Meeting because I was upstairs in my hotel room’s bathtub, trying to warm up! But I was so glad to see the rule change tweets coming out of the meeting, and to read the more detailed description of the rule changes at the RWA website.

    I’m pretty sure I won’t have a horse in the race for the 2015 contest, but I look forward to judging both the RITA and the GH under the new rules.

  3. Liz Talley says:

    I’m pleased with these new changes even though I still have a slight chance to final in the Rita. I really don’t have too much else to add other than I’m still bummed that there is no Elements/Women’s Fiction category. I’d like to see that come back because I think it’s reflective of the membership.

    I know the mean thing has to be done, but I do hate the thought of two judges’ scores not counting at all. I’d hate to think I took the time out of my schedule to read a book and the score may not count if it’s the highest or lowest. Feels wasteful, but I do understand the necessity.

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      I’d love to see Elements come back, too. Maybe someday.

      Also, there was an interesting idea brought up at the AGM – about the idea of having a Best of the Best category – sort of like the Best First Book – which would draw the highest scoring books from each category. Intriguing idea…

    • Stephanie Scott says:

      I think dropping high/low is a good idea. I’ve done enough contests now where I’ve seen some really head scratching scores. For the GH this past year I had one score of 100 and another as 50. Now, there is no way my MS was perfect. It also did not deserve half the points taken away–I am far enough along that I know my writing doesn’t suck that bad. Those scores were either lazy or highly subjective. The scores in between were what I paid attention because they weren’t all 10s or all 5s.

      Unfortunately, being required to judge when you enter is going to get judges who don’t put the time in like other writers, like you.

      • Vivi Andrews says:

        Like you, Stephanie, I can definitely see the benefit of sheering off the top and bottom scores to compensate for judging oddities – though it still seems like there’s quite a bit of luck involved in the scoring. Judging is so subjective. You never know who you’re going to trigger in a positive or negative way.

        • Stephanie Scott says:

          So true! I notice that in myself. The GH win for romantic suspense is one I read this year, and I never read RS. But I loved that entry so much. It was solid from the opening line.

  4. Elisa Beatty says:

    I’m very happy with these rule changes, too–especially the return to a single score on a 1-10 scale, which I think is FAR more reflective of how we actually read and enjoy novels than the clunky two-part, “romance as a separate entity” scoring from last year.

    Like Liz, the #1 thing still stuck in my craw is the absence of Strong Romantic Elements, which still seems obviously to be a subcategory of Romance to me. Some of my favorite, favorite romances are in that category.

    Similarly, I’d like them to remove the language from YA insisting that the romance needs to be the center of the book. Just not appropriate for YA.

    Anyhow, most of the errors have been corrected, so HURRAY for RWA!! (Plus, can’t beat the lowered price!)

  5. Good information, Vivi!

    All good changes. It will never be perfect, and there will always be complainers, but these are much better rules than the ones that applied for the past year! When there are only two finalists in some categories and eighteen in others, something is askew. Hopefully the number of finalists next year will be more equitable anyway.

    And the drop in price for the GH is only fair. Now that they distribute most of them online, the postage cost has gone way down.

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      Exactly, Jacquelyn. And I think there are fewer people entering the Golden Heart these days with the rise of self-publishing. Though the RITA is sure to max out again. 🙂

  6. Stephanie Scott says:

    Additionally, I saw on the RWA site that the newly proposed YA definition was accepted, which adds a caveat about “coming of age elements” which are integral to YA. Last year’s definition read so restrictive that many YA authors didn’t bother to enter the Rita for fear their books no longer qualified as a romance. So silly over just a few words, but as writers, we understand every word counts! The definition change plus the other rule changes, I’m also 99.9% certain YA Rita will be back.

    I’m also glad the 20pt romance is gone. I get the idea behind doing that, but I found it difficult when scoring, personally.

    Here’s to hoping I won’t be qualified to enter the GH this year 😉 but if so, I’ll be glad for the rule changes.

  7. Thanks for the summary, Vivi. I like the changes and may consider entering again this year. After only 4 people finaled in my category this year, it was discouraging.

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      I think RS judges are probably very tough – for contemporary perhaps reading is about getting swept away in the story and characters, but RS is all details and grit. And the 20 pts romance when they’re also chasing a killer? Please. I’m looking forward to a much more robust RS category this year!

  8. The changes sound good to me. I kind of wish they’d lower the entry fee for the Ritas, too. Of course, then there’d be that much more competition. 😉


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