Get Your Unpublished Manuscript in Front of an Editor or Agent

Many publishing imprints are closed to un-agented authors. A good way to circumvent this closed door policy is to enter writing contests.

Writing contests are an excellent way to receive feedback on your unpublished manuscript and possibly have it read by an editor or agent. Before my first book, Spell Check, was published, I targeted writing contests that had editors and agents in my genre as final judges. This led to Spell Check winning the PNWA Literary Contest’s Zola Award, and First Place in my category (Young Adult). Not only did I earn a $600.00 prize, Spell Check was taken to Acquisitions by a senior editor at Scholastic (alas, where it was ultimately turned down).

I often judge the Heart to Heart Contest sponsored by the San Francisco Area Romance Writers. It is now open for entries! In the past, this contest has yielded many requests for full manuscripts from the final judges. Check them out below!

CONTEST CATEGORIES: Contemporary, Erotic, Historical, Paranormal, and Young Adult

WHAT TO ENTER: Send us that magical scene in which your hero and heroine meet for the first time, maximum 15 pages. (An optional one-page set-up may be included, but will not be judged)


Electronic submissions only — Rich Text Format (.rft) only

Cost: $15 for SFA-RWA members, $20 for non-members

Eligibility: Open to all writers unpublished by an RWA-approved publisher as of the entry deadline

Scoring: Scoring is based on 20 key areas. First round entries receive fours scores with the lowest being dropped.

Top three entries will be forwarded to the final judges.


August 31, 2014 – Deadline for submissions

October 5, 2014 – First-round finalists notification

November 6, 2014 – Final round winners announced

FIRST ROUND JUDGES: Our first round judges include RWA PRO and PAN members. Each entry is matched with at least one published author.

FINAL JUDGES: Three in each category: one agent, one print editor, and one e-pub editor. Judges listed below.

TOP PRIZE: Certificate.


For questions, email our contest coordinator at



Chelsey Emmelhainz, Harper Collins, Print Editor

Emmanuelle Morgen, Stonesong, E-Pub Editor

Jay Austin, EIC, Agent


Tera Kleinfelter, Samhain, E-Pub Editor

TBD, Print Editor

TBD, Agent


Nicole Fisher, Avon, Print Editor

Gwen Hayes, Entangled, E-Pub Editor

Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, Agent


Leis Pederson, Berkeley, Print Editor

Kerri Buckley, Carina Press, E-Pub Editor

Tamar Rydzinski, Laura Dail Literary Agency, Agent

Young Adult

Natashya Wilson, HQN, Print Editor

Kimberly Blythe, Omnific Publishing, E-Pub Editor

Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary, Agent


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