Next Monday, March 26th, the Romance Writers of America® will announce the 2012 Golden Heart® and Rita® finalists. These awards recognize excellence in romance writing, YA’s, and other novels with strong romantic elements. While the Rita celebrates published novels, the Golden Heart is a great opportunity for unpublished authors to promote their manuscripts. Each year, thousands of entrants hope to see their names on the finalist list.
For those of you sitting on the edge of your seats, waiting for The GH Call, here’s a little preview of what you can expect if you final, along with some tips on how to prepare for the GH whirlwind.
The Call: Finalists usually get a phone call before the official announcement is made. Those living overseas get their calls first, and then it moves across the country from east to west. It’s fun to watch the names trickle in as the calls go out.
Tip: Be prepared. When they call you, they will want to know if you want the announcement under your real name or a pseudonym.
The Flood: I was absolutely stunned by the number of people who took the time to congratulate me after I finaled, and those who invited me to guest blog. At the same time, the GH finalists were all contacting one another to figure out what they were supposed to be doing. It was impossible to keep up with the flurry of emails.
Luckily, there’s The Golden Network, an RWA special interest chapter for GH finalists. Their members do a wonderful job of guiding the finalists through the GH process.
The Name: Every class of GH finalists adopts a nickname. If you’re bored waiting for the announcements, you might think of one for this year’s group. But chances are, that name will come from something you experience together. The “Unsinkables” came out of solidarity with the Nashville flood victims.
The List: After all the joyful squeals die down, you get the official to-do list from RWA.This includes things like submitting a professional photo and choosing newspapers to receive your press release.
Tip: Might as well get that picture ready now. The List has deadlines.
The Preparation: Preparing for Nationals as a GH finalist can be a little overwhelming. Finalists have wonderful opportunities to sign up for special receptions, retreats, and pitch sessions. As a conference first-timer, I found it challenging to sort through all the events, get signed up for them, and pack appropriate clothing. Luckily, I had my wonderful GH sisters to explain everything. They were also there for my horrible, hideous hair disaster, and all the drama that went with finding The Dress.
The Submissions: If all that doesn’t sound overwhelming, it’s because I forgot to mention this is also the time to submit your queries to editors and agents. You may find the agent who’s rejected you five times on query letters alone is suddenly willing to read your pages. Go for it.
Tip: Finish polishing that full now. Conference is sooner than you think.
The Weird: Agents aren’t the only ones who will treat you differently when you’re a GH finalist. Other writers will have their own emotional responses to the announcement. Be prepared for some odd behavior from both friends and strangers.
Tip: Remember that this has nothing to do with you. It’s about how they feel about their own writing.
The Conference: As a finalist, it’s easy to go into panic mode at Nationals. You may feel like this is it, make or break, your one big chance to get published. It can be frustrating to realize everything is scheduled at the same time, your feet hurt, and you can’t attend every function.
In reality, the tough work is over. You’ve written the book and made it the best it can be. Pitch sessions aside, there’s nothing more you can do. Try to relax and enjoy yourself. The hardest part might be choosing who’ll sit up front with you at the awards ceremony.
Tip: Skip the workshops and focus on the people. You can always listen to the workshops on tape, but this may be your only chance to meet your online friends, your agent, and possibly, your future editor.
The Prize: No one wants to be a perpetual GH finalist. Most would much rather be published. But the truth is that not every finalist will ink a deal. The real prize for GH finalists is the camaraderie of the GH class. It’s having a group of kindred spirits beside you on the road to publication. And knowing, that no matter how your writing career turns out, you will always have the support of your GH sisters along the way.
Have I left anything out? For those who have finaled, what was your favorite perk of being a finalist? And for those who hope to final, what perk are you most looking forward to?