I received an email this week from a writer asking for information about the Tony Hillerman award. I decided to update a post from a year ago that discussed the value of entering contests. So, Becky, if you are reading this, make sure to check out the Crime Wrting link below in addition to the Hillerman!

I’m working on a magazine article that relates the steps I took to getting published via a writing contest. For the article I asked Carol Ritter, from Romance Writers of America, if she could offer any advice for prospective entrants. She stressed the importance of following directions carefully and using the contest checklist. She said they typically have about 1,200 entrants, so if an application isn’t followed perfectly it is not accepted. She also stated that the Golden Heart is highly competitive, and that writers must have the manuscripts technically perfect, but there also must be a great story.

Ritter also explained that the Golden Heart is awarded in ten categories, with a total of sixty-five to seventy finalists. “Twenty to twenty-five percent of the finalists will receive requests for full manuscripts by the contest judges.” She stated that one of the contest finalists recently participated in an agent pitch session at a conference. Telling the agents she was a Golden Heart finalist was like, “having the golden ticket!” Agents knew that she had a quality manuscript and were immediately more receptive.

I also talked with  Larry Light, Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America. He said, “Winning MWA’s First Crime Novel Competition is a terrific career springboard for beginning authors. The winner, culled from 200-plus entrants, gets a publishing contract from St. Martin’s Minotaur, one of the premier imprints in the mystery field.” Peter Joseph, Editor at St. Martin’s Press said that there are a similar number of entrants for the Hillerman. There have been years when the awards have gone unclaimed because they were not able to choose a book ready for publication, but if your book is ready, it is a great way to narrow your odds.

Conducting a simple internet search for your particular genre will yield results. Following are the contests mentioned above:

Next week – the one-line agent pitch.