General Questions About RWA

Where do I update my contact details?

Head to the MY RWA Tab, then click on the MY ACCOUNT link. (You’ll need to log in using the information provided when you joined). If you’d like to change your member category, please contact administration.

How do I find out about everything that happens in RWA?

The website is your main source of information about Romance Writers of Australia and the services we offer. However, there are other ways to keep abreast of what’s going on. They include: –

Where can I interact with other RWA members?

RWA offers a number of options for its members to interact with each other, either online or offline.



RWA’s annual conference is a great place for members to meet face-to-face. We also offer roadshows and one-off events during the year as well. If you would like more regular face-to-face contact with other writers, consider joining a group in your area, or maybe even start one of your own (we’ve got a great resource available in how to do just that).

What is the RWA forum and how do I join?

The RWA Forum is on a hiatus until further notice.

How do I join RomAUS or other e-groups?

The ROMAUS e-group is an online discussion group for RWA members only. The group currently has about 350 members, ranging from the published to those just starting out. For all members, both isolated, and not so isolated, it is a wonderful means of getting to know each other, sharing the pain of rejection and the joys of acceptance as well as providing a forum for advice and discussion on all matters to do with the craft of writing.

There are two ways to join RomAUS:

1. (recommended) go to the E-Group website at and follow the instructions for joining (you will need to become a member of Yahoo first)

2. OR send a blank email to Once you have subscribed, the address for posting messages is

For links to the other groups available, visit the eGroups pages of this website.

Who can I ask about…?

RWA is a volunteer organisation, and as such there are many different people involved in the running of our various programs and services. Check out the RWA Committee page for a list of available contacts.

What events does RWA hold throughout the year? How do I find out about them?

RWA runs a variety of events throughout the year, including the annual conferenceonline workshops, and roadshows. For a full list, visit the Events section of this website.

Details on upcoming events are included in Hearts Talk and on the RWA blog, RomAUS and social media.


Do I have to be a member of RWA to enter a contest?

We have one contest for unpublished writers that’s open to non-members of Romance Writers of Australia: the Valerie Parv Award. All our other unpublished writer contests are for members only. For information on joining, go here. You do not have to be a member to enter the Ruby for published novels and novellas.

Can I enter if I’m published? What if I’m self-published?

Your eligibility for each contest depends on your RWA membership category, and whether you have works of fiction commercially available. The method of publication (digital or print; traditional or self-publishing) does not matter.

Information on membership categories can be found here.

Which contests can I enter?

Aspiring: Ripping StartSelling SubmissionEmeraldLittle Gems, Spicy BitesFirst Kiss and Valerie Parv Award.

Emerging, with no works commercially available:  Ripping StartSelling SubmissionEmeraldLittle GemsSpicy BitesFirst Kiss and Valerie Parv Award.

Emerging, with work/s commercially available:  Ripping StartSelling SubmissionEmerald ProLittle GemsSpicy BitesFirst Kiss and Ruby.

Established: Selling SubmissionEmerald ProLittle GemsSpicy Bites, and Ruby

What does ‘commercially available’ mean?

For the purposes of contest eligibility, RWA deems ‘commercially available’ to mean:

“Any work of fiction (or part of) that is (or has been at any time)available for purchase or download in any format for any price including free:

(a) in any marketplace where books are available (this shall include physical or digital bookstores, a publisher’s website or store, and any other retailer or distribution outlet for books in any format);

(b) at any other venue where the work includes (or is followed by) links to non-free content, or otherwise appears with the intent of selling or encouraging purchase of any of the author’s works (this shall include story-sharing or file-sharing sites, blogs, social media sites and other author websites.)

If you have works commercially available, it will determine which contests you are eligible to enter (see above, under ‘Which contests can I enter?‘).

Also, a work that is already commercially available or contracted for publication can’t be entered in our contests (except for the Ruby, which is for published works).

How do I know which contest is best for me?

You can see a summary of all our contests here.

The Emerald and the Valerie Parv Award accept any kind of full-length (40K+) romantic fiction, including romantic elements novels, and the Emerald also accepts novellas (10K+). The Ripping Start is for the first 1,500 words of your manuscript, and accepts entries from novels and novellas (10K+).

The Little Gems is for romantic short stories up to 3000 words. Spicy Bites is for erotic romantic short stories up to 5000 words. The First Kiss is for a scene involving the first kiss between your romantic protagonists. And the Selling Submission is for a full synopsis of your novel or novella, plus a query letter and blurb.

Does my manuscript have to be finished to enter?


NOTE: if you reach the second round of the Emerald or Emerald Pro, you will be required to submit the full manuscript at very short notice. So, for the Emerald and Emerald Pro, we strongly recommend you enter only a finished, polished manuscript.

Can I enter my erotic romance manuscript?

Yes. But erotic romance only – no erotica if it isn’t a romance!

NOTE: the Little Gems short story contest is for ‘M-rated’ stories only. If you enter a story with strong sexual elements/language in the Little Gems, be aware that even if your story scores highly, it is unlikely to be included in the anthology. Instead, enter your sexy short stories in the Spicy Bites.

Can I enter my same-sex romance manuscript?


Can I enter my women’s fiction manuscript?

Yes, so long as it features a romantic relationship for the protagonist/s. Enter under ‘romantic elements’ unless the romance is the main focus of the story.

Can I enter my fantasy/science fiction/horror/crime/thriller/comedy/{insert other genre here} manuscript?

Our contests are for romantic manuscripts: that is, where a romance is an integral part of the story. If your {insert other genre here} manuscript includes the development of a romantic relationship for the protagonist/s,it is eligible.

Just make sure you enter under ‘romantic elements’ as applicable. For instance, if an entry is marked ‘fantasy’, the judges will be expecting a fantasy romance, and will mark accordingly. So if your manuscript is mostly fantasy with a romance sub-plot, enter it under ‘fantasy with romantic elements’.

Bear in mind also that for most contests, your entry is only a small portion of the beginning of your manuscript. If the romantic relationship does not appear in that excerpt, it’s unlikely you will score highly.

Entries and formatting

What are the formatting requirements?

The formatting requirements for each contest can be found in the instructions on the entry form. Links to samples are on the contest websites.

Why do I have to follow formatting instructions? Editors don’t care, right?

We have formatting requirements for two reasons: first, it’s a lot easier for our judges to read neatly formatted entries; and secondly, we think that following submission guidelines is an important skill for our members to learn. The formatting rules are simple, and aren’t designed to catch you out. If you have any doubts, email the contest manager and ask before you submit.

Are there examples of the required formatting that I can follow?

Formatting for Emerald and Little Gems

Formatting for Valerie Parv Award, Ripping Start and First Kiss

Formatting for Selling Submission

What does ‘targeted line’ mean? How is that different from ‘sub-genre’?

Your targeted line is the publisher or imprint to whom you want to submit your manuscript. For instance, you might have written your short romance for Harlequin Desire or Entangled Covet. Or, if it’s a long romance, you might be targeting Avon or Destiny Romance as your preferred publisher. If you’re writing rural romance, maybe you are targeting Harlequin MIRA or Random House.

Your sub-genre describes the kind of story it is, irrespective of the publisher. For instance, your manuscript might be contemporary romance, futuristic romance, Regency, fantasy with romantic elements etc..

I always use .docx — how can I change my file to .doc?

Select ‘Save As…’ and choose ‘Word 97-2004 Document (.doc)’ from the Format drop-down menu.

My manuscript has a prologue — should I include it?

If you have a prologue, include it. It forms part of the allowable word count.

How do I calculate my word count?

For all our contests, we use computer word count. To be fair to all entrants, the word count limits are exact, so make sure you don’t go over, even by one word.

Can I enter by email?

Yes. All our unpublished writer contests are email-only.


What section should my book go in?

Choose the section with the correct word count that you think best fits your book. The book must adhere to the word count for the section. If your book is eligible for more than one section, it’s your choice which one you put it in.
Ruby sections are:

  • Short Romance: Novels between 40,000 and 65,000 words, where the love story is the main focus of the novel, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying and optimistic. Novels may be set in any place or time. Includes the shorter category lines from HM&B. Love scenes may contain any level of sensuality. 
  • Long Romance: Novels over 65,000 words, where the love story is the main focus of the novel, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying and optimistic. Novels may be set in any place or time. e.g. most single title romance, the longer Harlequin lines (Superromance, Nocturne, Historical, Romantic Suspense, Heartwarming). Love scenes may contain any level of sensuality.
  • Romantic Elements: Novels over 40,000 words, of any tone or style, set in any place or time, in which a romance plays a significant part in the story, but is not the central plot; OR, a romantic book where other themes or elements take the plot beyond the traditional romance boundaries.

e.g. women’s fiction, saga, some romantic suspense titles, urban fantasy, books from a series where the romance is a multi-book arc, books where the romance is a subplot or does not end optimistically. Love scenes may contain any level of sensuality.

Novella: Books between 10,000 and 40,000 words, of any tone or style, set in any place or time, where either the love story is the main focus of the book, or a romance plays a significant part in the story. Love scenes may contain any level of sensuality.

What if my book doesn’t have a happy ending? What if the romance is a multi-book arc? Can I still enter?

Yes. So long as your book features the development of a romantic relationship between the protagonists, it’s eligible. If the romance does not end optimistically, your novel belongs in the Romantic Elements section.

What section should my romantic suspense novel go in?

If the romance is not the central plot, your book might fit better in Romantic Elements. If it’s romance-heavy, try Long Romance or Short Romance. In the end, it’s up to you—you know your book best!

Which subgenre should I choose?

Subgenre is for judging purposes – it enables us to allocate your book to judges who are likely to enjoy it. Choose the subgenre that best fits your book.

Why isn’t erotic romance listed as a subgenre?

Enter your erotic romance like this:

  1.  In the ‘Subgenre’ field, choose the best fit. e.g. for an erotic paranormal, choose ‘Paranormal’. For an erotic contemporary, choose ‘Contemporary’.
  2. Then, in the ‘Heat Level’ field, choose ‘Erotic Romance’.

Why aren’t romantic elements or women’s fiction listed as subgenres?

Enter your romantic elements or women’s fiction novel like this:

  1. In the ‘Ruby Section’ field, choose ‘Romantic Elements’.
  2. Then, in the ‘Subgenre’ field, choose the best fit. e.g. for a historical women’s fiction, choose ‘Historical’; for a fantasy with romantic elements, choose ‘Sci-fi/fantasy’.

Should I enter print or digital copies?

If you have an ebook edition available, you must enter that – choose ‘Digital’ on the entry form and upload your files. We accept .pdf, .mobi (Kindle) and .epub files. Please upload ALL of these that you have available – if you’ve got all three, we want them all!

Print entries will be accepted only from those authors who don’t have access to a usable digital edition of their book. For instance, if your ebook edition has DRM—and hence can’t be emailed or uploaded—you’ll need to enter print copies. Also, if your only ebook edition is an advance copy that’s significantly different from the published book, or if it has a watermark that covers the text and makes it hard for judges to read, you can still enter print.

What if I have a difficulty with the entry form or questions about the Ruby rules?

Please email the managers on to discuss.


Who judges these contests?

In the preliminary rounds, our contests are judged by writers, both published and unpublished. Most of our judges are RWA members. The Emerald and Emerald Pro are judged by readers (people who love reading romantic fiction, but who aren’t writers). The Little Gems and Spicy Bites are judges by a mixture of readers and writers.

Generally every entry is judged by three judges in the preliminary round. You can see more on how our contests are judged here.

Who are the final judges, and how are they chosen?

Our final judges are agents and/or editors, enlisted by our contest team for their expertise and interest in romantic fiction. Different final judges are used each year, in order to create a range of opportunities for our finalists.

The final judge for each year’s contest will be listed on the contest’s web page shortly before the contest opens.

Are contest winners/finalists likely to be published as a result?

It happens! If the final judge likes your entry, they may ask to see more. Usually the final judge will offer a critique of your entry regardless of placing. And yes, we’ve had some finalists go on to be published. A contest final is also a useful credit when you’re querying agents or publishers.

I’d like to be a judge. How can I sign up? What experience do I need?

We always welcome volunteers from writers (members or not!) for contest judging. The only experience we require is that you’re a writer. You don’t have to be published or have years of experience. We offer training for all our judges. It’s a great way to get involved and to hone your own writing skills by critiquing others.

We also welcome keen readers of romantic fiction who’d like to judge for the Emerald or Ruby.

For information about judging or judge training, please contact our judge co-ordinator at

Other contest questions

How do I know if I am good enough to enter?

There is no such thing as not being ‘good enough’ for our competitions. Beginner writers can benefit just as much from entering a contest as a more experienced writer. You just need to be aware that in entering a competition you have asked for 3 strangers’ opinions on your work – so you need to be prepared to take positive criticism and learn to use it to your best advantage.

Is it okay to ask questions?

Absolutely. Questions are welcomed by our contest managers. They would far prefer you to ask a question prior to submitting and help you hone your entry, rather than you guessing and losing points for incorrect formatting etc.

What are the benefits of entering contests?

Many of our members have honed their craft on competitions. It is a great grounding for being published, as it helps you to work toward deadlines, learn how to take positive criticism and use it to improve your work, but also learn that most important lesson any published author has to learn – you can’t please everyone. Entering competitions is also a great way to bypass the slush pile and get your work in front of an amazing selection of agents and editors and sometimes even get feedback from them too. Many of our published authors have been offered a contract on the back of a competition.

Professional Development

What professional development does RWA offer?

RWA provides a variety of services to help you develop your writing, wherever you are in your career. These include:

How do I get my work assessed?

Entering contests is a great way to get your work assessed. Many of the contests offer feedback as part of the judging process, and this can be invaluable when gauging how your writing is received by others.

For more one-on-one assessment, you could consider finding a critique partner through the CP scheme, the Individual Writer Scheme, or joining a writing group.

What is/how do I get a critique partner (CP)?

A critique partner can provide valuable assistance with your manuscript, whether that’s in the structure of your story, the development of your characters, or pointing out where things might have gone wrong.

RWA provides a self-selection critique partner register where applicants can be appropriately matched with the view to forming ongoing critique partner relationships. For more information about the register, visit the Critique Partner Scheme page.

Where else can I get help with my writing?

Outside of RWA you might like to consider attending writing courses run in your state or territory. There are often plenty available that are run out of writers’ centres, universities, TAFE and other adult education institutions.

How do I know when I’m ready to submit to a publisher/agent?

There really is only one way to find out whether your work is of a suitable standard to present to a publisher or agent – trial and error. Rejections are a vivid but disheartening clue that your work is not yet ready to be submitting.

But you can use some of the services RWA offers to be as prepared as you can for success. Access the critique-partner register to work with another writer on polishing your work (you’ll start noticing when the critique returned gets less and less which means your writing is getting stronger and stronger); use contests as a gauge of the quality of your work (when you start finalling, your work is probably ready to go to a publisher); build your own network of crit-buddies using some of RWA’s social loops.

Does RWA offer financial support to members?

In certain situations, RWA does offer financial support to its members. Currently, RWA offers financial assistance through three schemes: –

RWA National Conference

For specific information about this year’s conference, visit the conference page.

What is the benefit of going to a conference?

Writing is an isolating task. It can be easy to fall out of regular contact with other writers and lose touch with the industry. Conference is a wonderful, face-to-face way to ensure you keep your business-mind sharpened and your friendships with other writers strong.

Conference offers you access to intensive and conveniently grouped professional development, access to editors and agents, and opportunities to network and make new writing friends. It presents a mix of workshops chosen to help you hone whichever skills you feel need work – an aspect of craft, an element of business, a facet of industry.

It’s my first conference and I don’t know anyone

No problem! Each year we have special arrangements for first-timers (there’s always a good sized group) where you can go to find your feet or ask that question you’re too embarrassed to ask anywhere else or just say hello to others who are there for the first time and maybe don’t know anyone.

Every delegate wears an ID badge showing who they are and what they write (or who they write for) which makes it easy to just start up a conversation. The best conversations start in line for morning tea!

At an RWA conference, you can never go wrong with the simple question: “What do you write?

I want to pitch but don’t know what happens.

Pitching is the love-child of speed dating and a job interview.

Registrants get a pre-appointed opportunity to sit down with your editor/agent of choice and talk about your book. About 10 minutes before your appointed time you tip-toe out of whatever session you’re in and come to the pitching area. It’s usually very much in demand which means the opportunities are brief (5-10 mins), but should be enough for you to ‘pitch’ your story’s basic premise and key characters and for the editor/agent to ask you a few questions about yourself.

If the editor/agent likes what they hear they may ask you for more and give you a card so you know where to send it. Later, after you’ve polished your baby until it shines, you email them what they’ve asked for.

It can be hard to ‘cut through’ the ever growing slush pile, but a face-to-face pitch helps the editor remember you and your work and maybe forge a bit of a connection to help you stand out.

Does everyone dress up for cocktail party?

No, it’s not compulsory. But it is a heap of fun. You can go all out (and lots of people do) or you can just wear a single element that fits the theme or just come dressed nicely for an evening out. It’s a chance to let your hair down for a bit during what is otherwise an intensive weekend of professional networking.

Conference etiquette

The rules of thumb for RWA conferences is to remember:

  • Comfort – dress in layers, wear comfy shoes and only carry what you think you’ll need for the day. For the comfort (and allergies) of others please don’t wear perfume.
  • Professional – as fun as it is, conference is a professional event. Smart casual dress is recommended and remember that everyone there is a fellow professional. You may have breathless moments over your chosen editor/agent or a favourite writer and they are there to be available to you but be professional when choosing your moment to say hello. Under the toilet door or when they’re rushing to present a workshop may not be the best moment.
  • Workshop Etiquette – Three or four days of conferencing can be full-on. It’s perfectly acceptable to skip a session to go have a quiet cuppa and some mental down-time. It’s also accepted and expected that you’ll quietly tiptoe out of a session to attend a pitch session or an editor appointment–no need to excuse yourself or feel embarrassed on the way out or on the way back in. Phones off during sessions, of course, and if you’re taking notes on a laptop or device please be considerate of those sitting around you who may find the clack-clack-clack of long nails on plastic distracting.
  • Books Etiquette – Publishers will display a lot of book product in the foyer. Please treat these with the same respect you’d show the bookshop stock and don’t wander off with the displays. There is usually a ‘book exchange’ table where you can put any book you’ve received in your conference satchel and swap it for one someone else had left there. It’s an honour system. Please don’t bring old books from home to exchange.

I can’t afford to go to conference. What alternatives are available?

In certain situations, RWA does offer financial support through the Members Assistance Fund to assist members who would otherwise be unable to attend RWA events. You may like to investigate this as an option to help fund your attendance.


Agent                      A person contracted by an author to conduct the business side of publication; usually paid about 15% after sale.

ARC                        Advanced Reader Copy, a standard way of formatting a manuscript. Example and instructions given in the Contests section of the RWAus website.

Blog                        Web log is the proper name, shortened to blog. This is a personal webpage that can take any form but is often a diary-like account.

Book Trailers           Short ‘movie’ to promote a book.

CP                          Critique Partner; a person who assists with your writing. RWAus has a successful scheme that introduces members to each other with the view to forming critique partnerships. For more information, see the members section of the RWAus website, Critique Partners page.

Call story                 A member’s recounting of their acceptance for publication, including their writing journey.

Category                 Book that belongs in a publisher’s series (the most relevant and well-known being the Mills & Boon romance). Each book stands alone but is promoted as part of a series, with new titles available each month.

Chat room               A dedicated and private (password protected) area on the RWA website to facilitate real time discussion (chat by typing).

Claytons                  Online conference held on the same weekend as the RWAus Conference. It is open to members who cannot attend in person.

Clendon                   RWNZ major contest.

Conference              Event held annually for personal development and face to face meeting, usually the third weekend in August.

Crit groups              Group of writers who assist and support one another. Can be face to face or online. RWAus organises and supports many groups across Australia. For more information see page 2 of Hearts Talk.

e-loop (or loop)        The word some use to describe ROMAUS or any number of the RWA’s genre-based online (Yahoo-based) discussion groups.

Editor                      Employed by book publishers to acquire books and work with authors on their publication.

Ella                         RWAus contest. Romantic Novella of the Year. For more details, see the Contests section of the RWAus website.

Emerald                   RWAus contest for unpublished writers where judges are romance readers and not writers. The winner is announced on the awards night at the conference. For more details, see the Contests section of the RWAus website.

F2F                         Face to face.

Facebook                Internet site used for linking people; social media site.

First Kiss                 RWAus contest where writer judges assess the first kiss scene in your unpublished manuscript. For more details, see the Contests section of the RWAus website.

Forum                     A message board/online discussion site where members can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. The RWA Forum is found at

Genre                      A category or grouping of literature. Genre fiction is popular fiction and can take any form (eg romance genre, mystery genre, crime genre).

GMC                       Goals, Motivation, Conflict; requirements of a good story; also a book by Debra Dixon.

Golden Heart           RWAmerica’s major contest for unpublished manuscripts.

Good Reads            Internet reading/reviewing site.

HEA                        Happy Ever After; an ending of a story that leaves readers happy & satisfied.

HFN                        Happy For Now.

High Five                 RWAus contest. For more details, see the Contests section of the RWAus website.

IWS                         RWAus Individual Writers Support Scheme for those looking for a mentor for a one-off critique.

Little Gems              RWAus contest. For more details, see the Contests section of the RWAus website.

Logline                    The ‘selling’ line of your story.

m/s                         Manuscript; the typed pages of the story you are working on.

Pitch                       A few moments of time ‘selling’ your novel; also, a short (<25 words) sentence that describes your novel.

POV                        Point Of View; which character is telling the story.

QL                           Query letter; a letter to an agent/editor which asks if they are interested in reading your manuscript; usually gives one paragraph description of your story and your writing credentials.

Ruby                       RWAus contest. Romantic Book of the Year. For more details, see the Contests section of the RWAus website.

Roadshow               RWAus mini-conference that travels to the locations where the conference is not usually held (e.g. Adelaide, Perth, Cairns, Tasmania).

ROMA                     Romance in the Media; an award to a media identity who portrays romance writing in a positive light. For more information see the RWAus website.

ROMAUS                 The main online discussion group for RWA members. A Yahoo-based group with about 400 members, ranging from the published to those just starting out. You can join through .

RSS                        Really Simple Syndication; allows for the continuous update of websites, blogs, news, or such internet sites that you may be interested in.

RWA                       Romance Writers of America (can also be Australia, so check which it is referring to!).

RWAus                    Romance Writers of Australia.

RWNZ                     Romance Writers of New Zealand.

Sci-Fi (SF)               Science Fiction.

SS                          Selling Submission, RWAus contest; for more details see the Contest section of the RWAus website.

Shelfari                    A social media website focussed on books

Social Networking    Internet sites that promote friendship or communication (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs).

Synopsis                 A shortened form of your m/s which details character growth, major turning points, emotional growth and changes. Includes the ending of your story.

ST                           Single Title; a novel that is sold alone by a publisher, not as part of a publisher’s weekly (or other) series.

STALI                      Single Title (And Loving It) RWAus contest; for more details, see the Contests section of the RWAus website.

Tweet                      A short (<140 characters) message left on Twitter.

Twitter                     Internet site for short forms of communication in social networking.

VPA                        Valerie Parv Award; RWAus contest; for more details, see the Contests section of the RWAus website.­­