Golden Rose Contest

2016 Golden Rose winners announced! See the full list here.

Contest Rules

The Golden Rose is a contest sponsored by RCRW for unpublished and non-PAN eligible (with the RWA Organization) authors and limited to current members of RWA. It offers the opportunity to obtain high quality feedback and, for finalists, the chance to get your work in front of a publishing industry editor. It is one of the few contests allowing a higher word submission count which provides our entrants with the greatest opportunity for feedback. In addition, many of our finalists receive requests from the final judges and many of those have gone on to be published.

The purpose of the Rose City Romance Writers Golden Rose Contest is to encourage, recognize, and reward the mastery of writing romantic fiction. For the purposes of this contest a work of fiction is defined as a novel that is made commercially available to the public.
Every writer who enters comes away a winner:

  • All entrants receive three comprehensive score sheets from the first round Judges. Judges are encouraged to make detailed comments explaining their scores.
  • Higher word count of 10,000 words provides entrants with not only detailed editing but story line judging as well.
  • The contest is limited to the first 120 entries.
  • Entries are submitted on-line (Click ‘Format Requirements’ for more details.)
  • Finalists will need to supply a 500 word synopsis for the final judging.
  • Early Bird entries must be received by 11:59pm PST on March 31st. The Golden Rose Contest closes to all entries at 11:59pm PST April 30th. Entry fees and manuscripts received after that date will not be accepted.
  • If entry is accepted for publication on or before April 30th, the contest coordinator must be notified and entry withdrawn. No refund will be offered if the contest entry deadline of April 30th has passed. Should a refund be issued, PayPal fees will be deducted from the fees submitted – if applicable.
  • Fees can be paid through PayPal or via check made out to Rose City Romance Writers and mailed to Rose City Romance Writers, Golden Rose Contest, PO Box 1272, Lake Oswego, OR 97035 (If you do pay by check, please put your pen name and title on the check memo line.)
  • RCRW reserves the right to combine categories if fewer than seven entries are accepted.
  • Score sheets will be returned to entrants in mid to late August – in plenty of time to revise manuscripts before the Golden Heart entry deadline.
  • Category finalists will have one week after notification to revise their entries before they are forwarded to the final round judges.
  • Finalists in each category receive an award certificate and gold rose lapel pin.
  • The highest scored manuscript in the first round judging is awarded overall winner of the Golden Rose Contest and receives a $100 gift certificate.

Final Round Judges

Contemporary Series Romance: Carly Silver, Harlequin
Contemporary Single Title Romance: Gabrielle “Elle” Keck, Avon
Historical Romance: Robin Haseltine, Entangled
Novel with Strong Romantic Elements: Amy Stapp, Tor
Paranormal Romance: Sinclair Sawhney, Tule Publishing
Romantic Suspense: Lizzie Poteet, St. Martin’s
Young Adult / New Adult Romance: Lauren Smulski, HQN


Please note: all heat levels and LGBTQ leads are accepted across all categories. RCRW embraces diversity across all categories.

Contemporary Series Romance: Romances that target series romance publishers (Harlequin, Silhouette, Entangled category lines) and focus primarily on the romantic relationship. The finished manuscript should meet the target line’s specific requirements for length, sensuality, and subject matter.

Contemporary Single Title Romance: Romance novels set after 1945 that focus primarily on the romantic relationship and are released as individual titles.

Historical Romance: Romance novels set in time periods prior to 1945. Manuscripts targeting both single title historical publishers and series publishers (e.g., Harlequin Historical, Entangled Scandalous) should be entered into this category.

Novel with Strong Romantic Elements: A work of fiction in which a romance plays a strong role in the story, but other themes or elements take the plot beyond the traditional romance boundaries (e.g., Women’s Fiction or Chick Lit, could also be Urban Fantasy). In this category, the protagonists may not meet as soon as in traditional romances. Happily-ever-after (HEA) not required by the end of the novel.

Paranormal Romance: Romances with paranormal, fantasy, futuristic, and supernatural elements, including steampunk and its subgenres. Entries targeting paranormal series romance lines may be entered in either this category or the contemporary series romance, but not both.

Romantic Suspense: Romance novels in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot. Entries targeting series romance lines that include suspense elements (e.g., Silhouette Romantic Suspense, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense, Harlequin Intrigue) may be entered in either this category or the contemporary series romance, but not both.

Young Adult / New Adult Romance: Romance novels or novels with strong romantic elements where the protagonists are new adults, young adults, or teens. Entries targeting both single title new / young adult publishers and series lines with a new / young adult audience should be entered in this category.


The Golden Rose Contest is open to all non-contracted RWA authors of romantic fiction unpublished in book-length (40,000 words or more) in the last three years and any member of RWA who is not eligible to join RWA-PAN. Please see the RWA website regarding PAN eligibility rules.

  • Entries must be the first 10,000 words of a full-length novel with a projected length greater than 50,000 words (no novellas or short stories).
  • Manuscripts previously released for public sale in any format are not eligible for the Golden Rose.
  • Previous first place winners of the Golden Rose Contest may not re-enter the winning entry, even in edited format. They may, however, enter another work. Previous 2nd and 3rd place entries will be accepted, revision encouraged.
  • If your manuscript is accepted for publication or you become eligible to join RWA-PAN during the time of our contest (March 15th through August 31st), you must notify the Contest Coordinator. Your submission(s) will be withdrawn from consideration for final round judging, however you will receive the first round judge critiques for your manuscript.
  • While not required, all entries should be part of a completed manuscript. Finalists often receive requests for the full manuscript from final round judges.

Important Dates

Deadline Description Date
Early Bird Entries Opens  March 15th
Early Bird Entries Close & Deadline for procurement of First Round Judges  March 31st
Regular Entries Open  April 1st
Regular Entries Close April 30th
Announcement of Winners / Finalists August 31st


First Round

All entries will be read and scored by three trained judges, at least one of whom will be a published author, or a member of RWA-PRO. The lowest score will be dropped. The final score will be the sum of the two higher scores. In the event of a tie, the dropped score may be taken into account.
Entries will be scored according to the following guidelines:

  • Opening (20 points)
  • Description/Setting (20 points)
  • Characters (20 points)
  • Story (Goal/Motivation/Conflict) (20 points)
  • Craft/Mechanics (20 points)
  • Style Voice (20 points)
  • Pacing/Plotting (20 points)
  • Dialogue/Narrative (20 points)
  • Category-specific Special Elements (10 points)

Finalist Round

The top three manuscripts in each category will be forwarded to the final round judges for ranking (first, second, third). In the case of a tie, no more than five (5) entries will be forwarded to the finalist judges. If necessary, ties may be broken by adding in the dropped score to the total.

Finalists will have the opportunity, for one week only, to edit their manuscripts based on the preliminary comments, before the manuscripts are sent to the final judges.

Note: RCRW reserves the right to discard all electronic entries and return fees if a minimum of seven (7) entries are not received in any category. Entrants will be contacted before the entries are returned and given the option to place their entry in another category.

Finalist Notification

Finalists will be notified via e-mail or phone by June 25th. Finalists will have one week to make any edits to their entries and return them along with a 500 word synopsis, to the Contest Coordinator (by July 2nd). Once all finalists have been notified, all other entrants will have their scored entries returned via e-mail.

Winners will be notified by August 31st, via a phone call or by e-mail. Please be sure to look for the announcement!


Early Bird Entries: March 15th – 31st
RCRW Members $25
RWA Members $30

Regular Entries: April 1st – 30th
RCRW Members $30
RWA Members $35

Refund Policy

  • Once the contest has officially closed to entries on April 30th no refunds will be issued.
  • Refunds will only be issued for submitted manuscripts that become contracted prior to contest entry closure.
  • Should a refund be issued PayPal fees will be deducted from the fees submitted – if applicable.

Format Requirements

  • Entries shall be no more than 10,000 words
  • One inch margins and double spaced
  • 12 point font in Times New Roman
  • Align text left
  • Each chapter must start a third of way down the page, approximately 6-8 lines from the top of the page
  • The title of the manuscript shall be in the upper left hand corner of every page using the ‘Header’ feature
  • The page number shall be in the upper right corner
  • The title on the manuscript must match the title listed on the entry form
  • The title of the manuscript shall be used as the file name for the document minus any special characters; for example: a manuscript entitled Rose’s Thirty-First Birthday, will be saved with the file name RosesThirtyFirstBirthday.rtf
  • All manuscripts must be submitted electronically as part of the Contest Entry Form
  • RTF file formats only
  • The name of the author must NOT be included anywhere in the manuscript. Your name must also be removed from the Document Properties information. Reference the following link for additional information: How to remove personal information from Word 2010 documents


Prizes for the Current Golden Rose Contest:

  • Finalists: certificate with ranking, website finalist banner, and gold rose lapel pin.
  • Overall winner: certificate, website winner banner, gold rose lapel pin, and $100 gift certificate (the overall winner will also receive their finalist certificate with ranking).
  • One-year RCRW membership* for the overall winner and first place winners in each category.

* Please note: The RCRW membership prize does not include RWA national membership fees. Only one RCRW membership per person, regardless of multiple wins. This prize is nontransferable and has no cash value.