Linda Howard Award of Excellence


Important Dates


  • Must be submitted by
    May 31, 2017, no later than
    11 p.m., Central Time
  • Finalists will be announced in August 2017
  • If you're a finalist:
    Finalists have 7 days to provide a synopsis. This will be returned to category coordinator via email. The synopsis should not exceed two (2) double-spaced pages although one double-spaced page is preferred.
  • Winners will be announced in November 2017 at the Southern Magic Readers Luncheon.


Submission Process

Pay for Entry

Submit Entry

Email entry in appropriate format to:

"This has been a fabulous experience, one that I cherish. Thank you for the helpful feedback as well. I will continue to hone this story. Congrats to the finalists."
-Kelly Rife, 2017 LHAoE contestant

"It's great to get useful, actionable feedback!"
-Jean Estridge, 2017 LHAoE contestant

For Unpublished Authors

The Linda Howard Award of Excellence, sponsored by RWA chapter Southern Magic, was conceived in honor of best-selling author Linda Howard to award excellence in unpublished romance fiction and their authors. The contest is judged by trained, PRO and published authors. Finalists are judged by top editors and agents looking to contract romance fiction authors
View the Previous Winners
2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011
2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017

  • All work must be the author's original work. Contest is open to unpublished and published authors. Published authors may submit only never-before published, non-contracted manuscripts that will remain unpublished until the contest has concluded.
  • Previous winners and finalists may not re-enter the same manuscript, even in edited format. They may enter another manuscript.
  • Entrants may enter as many manuscripts as they wish; however, each manuscript may be entered in only one category.
  • Failure to comply with any of the rules may disqualify the entry, resulting in a forfeit of the entry fee.
  • First 5,000 words or less of each entry. This includes prologue, if applicable.
  • Must be in one of the following formats: .doc, .docx, .rtf, .pdf
  • All entries must be submitted to

The entry fee is $25 for the first entry and $20 for each entry thereafter. Payment options will be listed on the RWA website after you register (link to the left in the red box).


Complete required fields on entry/payment form. Attach entry in .doc, .docx, .rtf, or .pdf format to Upon payment and emailed sumission form, an acknowledgement of receipt will be sent.


Receipt of funds for the entry and submitting the Linda Howard Award of Excellence entry form constitutes your agreement to the conditions therein of the entry form.



  • Our judges are trained, PRO, or published authors.
  • Three judges will fill out a detailed score sheet on each entry. Comments on manuscripts will be requested, but not required. Lowest score of the three will be dropped.
  • Score sheets will be sent after finalists are announced.
  • Entries with 31 points or more difference will be sent to a discretionary judge, and the highest two scores will be final.
  • In the case of a tie, the lowest score will be used to determine the placement.
  • The top three to five entries in each category will be announced as the finalists.
  • Score sheets will be sent after finalists are announced to those that didn't final.
  • Overall score sheets with ranking of entries will be made available upon request after winners are announced in November.
  • Finalists will be judged by editors and/or agents.
  • First place will receive a pin and certificate.
  • Second to third place will receive a certificate.
  • First place to third will have their names printed in the RWR.

*New or returning this year*


Note: In a single category, if fewer than ten entries are received, the authors will be placed in their alternate category and notified.

  • Contemporary Romance
    Manuscripts that are set from 1950 to the present that focus primarily on the romantic relationship. Word count: 70,000-110,000 words
    Final Judge – Michelle Grajkowskiagent, 3 Seas Literary Agency
  • Historical Romance
    Romance novels set in any historical time period prior to 1950. Word count: 40,000 to 110,000 words
    Final JudgeBarbara Rosenberg, agent, The Rosenberg Group
  • *Insiprational*
    Romance novels in which religious or spiritual beliefs are an inherent part of the love story. Word count: 40,000 to 110,000 words
    Final JudgeElizabeth Mazer, editor, Harlequin
  • *LGBTQ Romance*
    Romance novels in which a member(s) of the LGBTQ community is central to and an integral part of the plot. Word count: 50,000-100,000
    Final Judge – Rachel Haimowitz, editor, Riptide Publishing
  • Paranormal/Futuristic/Fantasy Romance
    Romance novels in which the future, a fantasy world, or paranormal elements are an integral part of the plot. Word count: 70,000 to 110,000 words
    Final JudgeVictoria Lea, agent, Aponte Literary Agency
  • *Romantic Suspense*
    Romance novels in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot. Word count: 70,000-100,000 words
    Final Judge – Cheryl Yeko, editor, Soul Mate Publishing
  • Romantic Sensual and Sizzling
    Romance-based novels that include a high (often explicit) element of sexual tension or sexual play.These novels may contain elements of other romance subgenres, such as paranormal, historical, etc. Word count: 40,000 to 110,000 words.
    Final Judge – Ric Savage, editor & CEO, Black Velvet Seductions Publishing
  • The Write Magic
    All Southern Magic members who either final in their category or earn a score of 90 or higher will be automatically entered into The Write Magic category final round.
    Final Judge – Patricia Nelson, agent, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency
  • Young Adult/*New Adult* Romance
    Manuscripts in which young adult life is an integral part of the plot. Word count: 50,000-110,000 words
    Final JudgeKristy Hunter, agent, The Knight Agency

Linda Howard Contest Coordinator
Jill Odom