The Great Expectations Contest

~ a contest for unpublished works ~

The Great Expectations Contest is for unpublished material, including unpublished works from published authors*. Now in its 18th consecutive year, North Texas RWA can help you receive unbiased opinions from three judges on the first 5,000 words of your story. Get the results in a matter of weeks.

*Please consult our rules if you are a published author.

PLEASE NOTE: Please make your payment first! The entry form asks for your Paypal transaction number. Thanks!


Dates, Deadlines and Fees

Saturday, November 30, 2019 to Monday, January 20, 2020: Great Expectations open for entries.

Saturday, November 30, to Tuesday, December 31, 2019: early bird fee applies

  • $25 for one and all

Wednesday, January 1, 2020 to Monday, January 20, 2020: regular entry fee applies

  • $30 for one and all

Monday, January 20, 2020; 11:59PM Central Time: entry and payment must be received

Monday, February 3, 2020: approximate date entries by which entries will be distributed to first round judges

Monday, February 24, 2020: date entries should be returned to GEcoordinator @ ntrwa . org

Wednesday, March 4, 2020: approximate date to announce finalists

Thursday, April 30, 2020: approximate date to announce winners

Final Round Judges

PLEASE NOTE: This list of judges was for the 2019 contest–we are working to secure judges for the 2020 contest.

RED TEXT means they have not yet agreed to judge in 2020.

BLUE TEXT means they have agreed to judge in 2020.


Brittany Lavery ~ Assistant Editor, HQN

Romantic series novels. If your manuscript is a series romantic suspense, you may enter the Contemporary Series category or the Romantic Suspense category. Please check our score sheets to see which benefits your writing.


Elle Keck ~ Assistant Editor, Avon Books

Romantic novels with non-contemporary settings, including regency & gothic romances.


Raela Schoenherr ~ Acquisitions Editor, Bethany House Publishers

Romantic novels with an inspirational message/theme, including romantic suspense, historical, etc.


Cat Clyne ~ Editor, Sourcebooks

Novels that include an element of romance but in which traditional romance conventions are not followed and in which there are themes and conflicts beyond romance. Mainly women’s fiction and chick lit.


Lexi Smail ~ Assistant Editor, Forever / Grand Central Publishing

Romantic novels that include an element of mystery or suspense. Since the final round editor is from a single title publisher, contestants may want to enter series romantic suspense in the contemporary series category.


Gabi Kelly ~ Forever and Forever Yours / Grand Central Publishing

Romantic novels released as individual titles.


Kristine Swartz ~ Associate Editor, The Berkley Publishing Group

Romantic novels of any time setting (historical or futuristic) with Alternate Earth Histories, Dystopian, Futuristic, Fantasy, Time Travel, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy. The emphasis must be on the romance.


Alice Jerman ~ Associate Editor, Harper Collins Publishers

Novels appropriate for young adult readers. Includes young adult heroes and heroines not exceeding 18 years of age.


Due to a continued lack of entries, the Erotic Romance category has been eliminated. Erotic entries can now be entered in any category. Please indicate EROTIC in the header and on the entry form heat level. Please review our score sheets to see which category fits best or if your entry will benefit from comments.


Frequently Asked Questions



All work must be the author’s original work that has not been contracted for publication prior to the entry deadline.

This contest is open to all authors who have never been published in book-length romantic fiction as well as authors who have not been contracted or published in the entered category during the last three years (2017, 2018 or 2019). ‘Published,’ for purposes of this contest, includes traditionally published as well as independently / self-published works.

Previous first place winners may not re-enter the winning entry, even in edited format. They may, however, enter another work.

Authors may enter up to two entries per category.

Failure to comply with any of the rules may disqualify the entry, resulting in a forfeit of the entry fee.


Our final round editors have agreed to complete the judging score sheet and will hopefully include comments. ** Dependent on the final slate of editors.

All payments must be submitted via Paypal.


PLEASE NOTE: Please make your payment first! The entry form asks for your Paypal transaction number. Thanks!


Entry fees are refundable if the contestant becomes ineligible (as in publishes) before January 20, 2020. Paypal fees will be deducted from the returned amount.

The Great Expectations committee will make every effort to adhere to the above time schedule.


Entry Instructions and Format

Payment must be made via Paypal.

Make payment first. You’ll need the transaction ID number.

Please put “GREAT EXPECTATIONS CONTEST” in the ‘Comments’ area if possible.

Do not send payments to the contest coordinator.

PLEASE NOTE: Please make your payment first! The entry form asks for your Paypal transaction number. Thanks!



Five thousand (5,000) word limit (approximately 20 pages of text); double spacing; indented paragraphs; chapters begin 1/3 down the page. Use 14 point Times New Roman font in black. Do not include icons, text boxes, or any other type of decorative embellishment in your work.

Your entry will be sent to judges with standard manuscript formatting: 14 point Times New Roman. We will reformat entries to ensure consistency if necessary.

Define the heat level of your 5000 word entry:

  • Warm = Romance
  • Medium = Tension and/or banter
  • Hot = Sex
  • EX Hot = All erotic romance references

The heat level selection should be based on the 5000 words of your entry in order to assign appropriate judges. If the first 5000 words have no reference to sex, it should be considered ‘warm’ even if the rest of the book has tension, banter, and sex throughout.

Headers: manuscript title and heat level (warm, medium, hot or ex hot) on the left, page number on the right

Example for no sex: Your Title–warm

Example for attraction: Your Title–medium

Example for erotic: Your Title–exhot

Names and identifying information will be removed from the manuscript.

Save the file as a MS Word document .DOC only.

Use your name and book title as the file name.

EXAMPLE: YourName-EntryTitle.doc OR

EXAMPLE: AngiMorgan-TheMarinesLastDefense.doc


Your computer’s safety and security is important to us. The safety and security of our computers and our judges’ computers is important to us.

For that reason, we have chosen not to accept docx files for this contest. Docx files carry a much higher virus infection rate than other file formats.

While we do scan all files for viruses, it’s another layer of security to ask you to save your file as a .doc file* before uploading. That means our judges can rest easier opening your files, AND it means YOU can worry less when you get your comments back that the file might infect your computer.

We still recommend you scan the returned files for viruses before opening, but you know the old cliché, “Better safe than sorry.” Thank you for understanding and cooperation.



Complete the online Contest Entry Form & electronically signed Contestant Agreement.

Please include your Paypal email address and Paypal transaction number.

Attach your entry to the form before you submit it.

Make sure you submit your entry and payment by 11:59PM CST, Thursday, January 31, 2019.

You will receive a confirmation e-mail within three days. If you do not, please contact the contest coordinator.



Each entry will receive a detailed score sheet from three qualified judges. NTRWA will strive to obtain at least one published judge per entry.

Judge Sign Up

Judges will be encouraged to comment on the score sheet. NTRWA cannot guarantee that all judges will comply with this suggestion.

A fourth judge will be used for any entry whose two lowest scores differ by 30 points or more and has the potential of being a finalist. The lowest of the four scores will then be dropped.

The top three or four entrants/scores in each category will advance to the finals. All finalists must have received 75% to advance.

The GE coordinators intend to notify the finalists of their status by phone or email in mid- to late February.

Final round judging will be done by editors.

The GE coordinators intend to announce the winners in late March. If delays occur, an announcement will be sent to all finalists.

Non-finalist entries will be returned after finalists are determined and statistical information is complete.

Judge Sign Up



First = $50.00


In the event a writing team places, only one monetary prize will be given.

NTRWA prefers to award monetary prizes through Paypal.

International winners must receive their monetary prize through Paypal.

All finalists receive certificates.

Each finalist and winner will receive an appropriate website icon.

Winners will have their names printed in the RWR.

All decisions of the judges are final.

PLEASE NOTE: NTRWA reserves the right to clarify these rules and will notify all contestants upon their update.

An easy way to stay informed about the contest is to follow our contest blog.

GE: Frequently Asked Questions

PLEASE NOTE: Please make your payment first! The entry form asks for your Paypal transaction number. Thanks!

If you have any questions, please contact the contest coordinator.