The Golden Pen Rules
ELECTRONIC FILE FORMATTING
CATEGORY MAXIMUM AND MINIMUM ENTRIES
EXAMPLE SCORE SHEET
The Golden Pen Contest is open to writers who have not accepted a publishing offer for a work of
original fictional narrative prose of 20,000 words or more within five years of August 15 of the contest
year. Entrant must retain all rights to the entry and not have granted any of them to a publisher or any
other party prior to or by August 15 of the contest year. Entrants must be 18 years of age by August 15
of the contest year. Previously entered manuscripts may be entered again, but no previously winning
manuscript can be entered, even if revised and/or retitled. There is no limit to the number of times any
eligible individual may enter the Golden Pen, but separate entries and payments are required for each.
Entries may not be entered into more than one category. Entrants and coordinators may not enter a
category that they are judging or coordinating. The Golden Pen Overall Coordinator may not enter the
Golden Pen the year in which she is coordinating it.
A Golden Pen contest entry shall include a synopsis (not to exceed fifteen pages) plus the first consecutive
pages of the manuscript in one document, together totaling not more than fifty-five pages. Any
entries with synopses longer than fifteen pages or a total entry longer than fifty-five pages will be
disqualified. Entrants may not combine non-consecutive sections of the manuscript for the partial.
Standard manuscript submission format must be used. Specifically:
- The synopsis must appear before the partial.
- Margins: No less than 1 inch on each side of every page.
- Lines: No more than 25 lines of text per page.
- Chapter Breaks: Begin each chapter on a new page.
- Spacing: Entire entry must be double-spaced.
- Font: A professional, readable black font must be used. Extensive use of italics or all-caps is
discouraged. Any entry formatted with a font visibly smaller than 12-point Times New Roman will
be disqualified. (Using 12-point Times New Roman will ensure that your entry is not disqualified
for font illegibility.)
- Headers: The manuscript title, contest category entered, and current page number must appear in the header of every page of the entry. If your entry is part of a manuscript intended for the series market, you may include the particular named series to which you are targeting your work, such as Harlequin’s Blaze or Special Edition. Example of proper formatting: Second Chances / Historical: Harlequin Historical / 1. You are welcome but not required to add “synopsis” to the header of the pages of your synopsis, as in: Second Chances Synopsis / Historical: Harlequin Historical / 1.
- Numbering: When numbering the entry’s pages, begin the synopsis with page 1, and also
begin the partial with page 1. For example: If you have a 10-page synopsis and a 45-page
partial, number the synopsis 1–10 and the partial 1–45. The last page of your entry would be
numbered “45,” though your entire entry would comprise 55 physical pages. See your word
processing software’s Help files on “section breaks” and “page numbering” for more information.
- An entrant may choose to include his or her name in the entry’s header and/or its metadata, but if an entrant prefers to remain anonymous, it is the entrant’s responsibility remove all personal information from his or her entry. The coordinators will not be checking metadata to see whether or not personal information has been removed.
- A cover page is not permitted, and an entrant should not include his or her address, phone number, or any other contact information on the entry.
ELECTRONIC FILE FORMATTING
- Each entry (a single document consisting of a synopsis and partial manuscript together not to
exceed 55 total pages) must be submitted in “Rich Text File” format, commonly known as “RTF.”
To create an RTF file, see the Help files of your particular word processing software. Any entry submitted in any other file format will be disqualified.
- Each entry file must be named with the title of the manuscript, with no spaces in between words,
and without any indication of the entrant’s name. For example, if the manuscript title is “Second
Chances,” the electronic RTF file would be named “secondchances.rtf”.
- An entrant may choose to include his or her personal information in the entry’s metadata, but if an entrant prefers to remain anonymous, it is the entrant’s responsibility remove all personal information from his or her entry. The coordinators will not be checking metadata to see whether or not personal information has been removed.
- All categories require entries to show the development of a romantic relationship, although the degree to which an entry is required to focus on it will vary with each category.
- All categories require entries to form the beginning of a story that has an emotionally positive and optimistic ending (a “happily-ever-after”).
- All categories are open to varying levels of sensuality, ranging from “sweet” to extremely hot.
- No category requires the romantic partners to be a male/female pair.
- All non-”series” romance novels are generally more than 75,000 words long.
- SERIES ROMANCE: A romance novel that is released as part of a common imprint or “series.” “Series” novels are usually numbered sequentially and are released at regular intervals, often monthly, with the same number of releases at each interval. Like periodicals, series novels are generally replaced each month by the next month’s newest releases. Series novels today are generally between 50,000 and 85,000 words in length.
- CONTEMPORARY SINGLE TITLE ROMANCE: A romance novel set in contemporary times that is intended for release as an individual title, not as part of a regular, often monthly “series” (as described above).
- HISTORICAL ROMANCE: A romance novel set before 1945.
- INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE: A novel of any setting or time period that blends the religious or spiritual journey of one or more characters with the development of a romantic relationship.
- PARANORMAL ROMANCE: A speculative novel that focuses on the development of a romantic relationship set in the future, in a fantasy world, or amidst paranormal events/beings.
- ROMANTIC SUSPENSE: A novel in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the development of a romantic relationship.
- YOUNG ADULT ROMANCE: A novel of which an integral part is the development of a romantic relationship between young adults.
CATEGORY MAXIMUM AND MINIMUM ENTRIES
- The Golden Pen Overall Coordinator reserves the right to limit the total number of entries in any
category to 50. Any excess entries will first be returned to those entrants who did not volunteer to
judge, and second in reverse order of receipt.
- The Golden Pen Overall Coordinator reserves the right to cancel any category receiving less than
10 entries by the contest deadline. Entrants in cancelled categories will be given the option of
entering their entry into another category or having their entry fee refunded.
- In the first round, each entry will be judged by three judges, including at least one Golden Heart
- Each judge will assign a score for each of the following entry elements: Romance, Plot/Story, Writing, and Characters. The Romance element is scored on a scale of 1 to 20 (with 1 being lowest and 20 being highest). The remaining three elements are each judged on a scale of 1 to 10, for a maximum possible score of 50. Judges will also indicate the manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses, and are strongly encouraged but not required to comment directly on manuscript pages. You can view an example score sheet here.
- Each manuscript’s lowest score will be dropped and the remaining two scores will be totaled to
determine the manuscript’s final score.
- The three highest-scoring entries in each category will proceed to the final round. In the event
of a tie, the dropped score will be tallied and used as a tiebreaker. If the tie cannot be broken, a
fourth finalist may proceed to the final round.
- All of a manuscript’s scores and judges’ comments will be returned to the entrant at the
completion of the contest’s first round, roughly one month before the Golden Heart entry
- The authors of the three highest-scoring entries in each category will have the opportunity to
revise their entries before final-round judging begins. Finalists will be instructed to submit their
final-round entries to the Overall Coordinator roughly one week after they have been notified of
their first-round status.
- Final-round placements will be announced in mid-December.
- Final round judges in 2013 are:
- Contemporary Single Title Romance – Deb Werksman, Sourcebooks
- Inspirational Romance – Melissa Endlich, Love Inspired
- Paranormal Romance– Leis Pederson, Berkley Publishing Group
- Romantic Suspense – Elizabeth Poteet, St. Martin’s Press
- Series Romance – Susan Litman, Harlequin Enterprises
- Historical Romance – Katherine Pelz, Berkley Publishing Group
- Young Adult Romance – Regina Griffin, EgmontUSA
- First place in each category: a golden pen, a certificate.
- Second and Third place in each category: a certificate.
- Final placements will be announced in the Romance Writers Report.
- $35 per entry received on or before midnight EDT July 15.
- $40 per entry received on or before midnight EDT August 15.
- $5 judging discount for any entrant who is also a first-round judge in a different category.
- Entry fees must be made in one of two ways: online via PayPal or by mailed check.
Instructions for both options will be detailed at Enter the Contest once the contest opens to entries.
- We cannot accept checks drawn from banks outside the United States, and all fees must be paid in U.S. dollars. Individuals without U.S. bank accounts must pay via PayPal.
- PayPal payments must be received no later than midnight EDT on August 15 of the contest year.
- Check payments must be received no later than August 22 of the contest year.
- If a check is returned, the replacement money must be submitted via PayPal no later than
midnight EDT on August 15 of the contest year.
- Any entry not paid by these deadlines will be disqualified.
- Payments received for disqualified entries will be refunded less any returned check fees charged
to The Golden Network.
- June 1: Contest opens to submissions.
- July 15: Early-bird entry submission deadline at midnight EDT.
- August 15: Entry submission and PayPal payment deadline at midnight EDT.
- August 22: Payments by check must be received on or before this date.
- October 1: All finalists notified of status.
- October 10: Finalists have the opportunity to revise their entries before final-round judging begins.
Finalists will be instructed to submit their final-round entries to the Overall Coordinator before
midnight EDT on October 10.
- October 10: All non-finaling entries will be returned on or before this date to allow entrants time
for revision before the Golden Heart deadline.
- Mid-December: Final-round placements will be announced.
Enter The Golden Pen
Contact the Overall Coordinator