How To Final – Getting the GH Call

19 Mar

A week from today the Golden Heart Finalists for 2012 will be announced and, if they’re anything like me, they won’t be ready.

It is one of the biggest finals – and honors – an unpublished author who writes romance or books with a romance can achieve. 

For those of you who don’t know about the GH, it’s sponsored by RWA. The material judged is the first 50ish pages and your synopsis in specific categories (Young Adult, Historical, Paranormal, Romantic Elements, etc).

Every year roughtly 1,200 writers enter. Every year no more than 80 people final.

Last year, there were 68 finalist… and I was one of them.

Before I finalled in the GH, I had a lot of preconceived ideas about what it meant. I’d had very good friends who had finalled in several different categories over several years. I’d seen what it was like from the outside and thought I knew what that meant.

I had no idea.

First off, when you get the call you will have no idea how you’ll react. I’m not a crier. Not really. I started sobbing like a baby and had to ask the woman to repeat herself 3 times. Don’t worry. You’re not the only one. Peoples sob, scream, go dead silent. I heard about a woman who passed out and her husband had to take the call. Urban Legend? Maybe, but to be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me.

After I made the inner-circle-and-agent calls, I posted it on twitter.

The initial bombardment of incoming email is INSANE. You’ll hear from people who you hadn’t heard from in years. You’ll hear from people you would have thought didn’t know your name. Other writers will be extremely kind and supportive and excited for you. It’s totally overwhelming. Plan for that day to just be gone… in the best possible way.

Get on social media. Like, today. If you’re not on either facebook or twitter now, if you don’t have a blog – do it. People will want to follow you on this crazy ride.  Don’t waste this opportunity.

If you don’t know this, there’s a yahoo loop. Ours is 2011GHFinalists. Go look for the loop. The veterans will start one pretty quickly and you’ll want to be on it for info and support. It’s fun and exciting. Even if you’re just going to lurk, get on there.

Don’t underestimate how much time being a finalist will take. There’s a lot to learn and 80 women to get to know. You may or may not do a group blog or have a name. I recommend taking your time on both of those. Just like any group of women you need to get to know one another and see what works for you. On top of that, people will ask you to blog and do interviews.  Don’t feel like you have to say ‘yes’ to everything right away – make sure you have a reasonable timeline for everything you commit to.

Professionally, this is the biggest time consideration: Is your manuscript 10000% done? About a month after the finalist are announced, the Final Judges (editors in your genre) have the opportunity to request your manuscript.

No, you won’t know who they are.

No, you probably won’t find out later unless they’re interested.

The only thing you need to do is be ready.

Do you have an agent? If not, this is the time to query. Make sure to put in your subject line that you’re  Golden Heart finalist. Agents want the opportunity to sort these out and look at them to see if they’re interested. There’s going to be a rush on finalists before the conference. Don’t miss out on this. Don’t feel bad or like you’re jumping the cue. Here’s why: THE GH IS NOT A MAGIC BULLET. Agents aren’t going to blindly offer to rep you because that manuscript finalled. I watched GH sisters broken-heartedly get rejections every week.

It wasn’t that their manuscript wasn’t great… but agents know what they’re looking for, what they can sell, and how they want to grow their list. Those two little letters don’t mean that you fit their list.

Which brings me to the next point…. THE GH IS NOT A MAGIC BULLET. I know, that looks really similar to the last point, right? This doesn’t mean your book will sell.

Before you get annoyed or discouraged, let me say this… It’s not a magic bullet, but it is a great weapon. It’s a machete that will help cut you through slushpiles. It will be the extra stone that may weight on the “read or pass” scale. It may make the difference between requests and form rejections. If you are rejected, it may mean the difference between a form letter and some words of advice. It will probably get you on editor and agents internal lists.

I have several friends who didn’t sell their GH manuscript, but because their name was familiar, they did a second look… send us what you’ve got or maybe you’re next project.

Do not underestimate the power of moving forward.

For all those GH sisters I watched pulling in rejections every week there’d be a big success story. Agents signed. Books sold. Contacts made. It is amazingly exciting to watch it all happen and to get to be part of it.

Don’t miss it. Get involved. I treasure so many of the friendships I made and wouldn’t trade them for anything. (Dear Editors, I would totally trade them for a great book deal. Just kidding… maybe…um, yeah.)

Which brings me to my next one: While you’re balancing getting all this don’t forget to be working on the next thing. Not only in case you don’t sell, but because everyone will ask,what are you working on now.Be ready to tell them.

I highly recommend going to the conference. There are tons of opportunities to network and to introduce yourself to people who you otherwise wouldn’t have an excuse to approach. Do it! The worst that happens is they smile awkwardly and then you walk away. Because of the GH excuse (and often a brave GH sister) I got to meet several editors and some very, very famous YA writers. Consider the conference your party and don’t miss out on anything.

Also, have a plan. Know what you want to talk about when given the opportunity. If you have an agent, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to pitch. I did… over and over again. People will ask you constantly about what you write and what your GH book is about. Be a pro! Talk about your stuff with easy and confidence. If that takes practice, make every person you know listen to you for the months leading up to the conf. Leave a great impression with everyone you talk to.

Know what’s right for you.

What I mean is, I’ve watched a bunch of my GH sisters have great successes — but those successes aren’t the same for everyone. Some have sold, some have gotten agents and are working their business plan with them, some have self-published, some have put that book aside to work something else. Success means something different to everyone. Know what it means to you… be ready for that to change.

No matter where your GH Final Path takes you, it can only be good. It’s an exciting time so make sure to hold onto every second of it.

This is one of those times you have to stop and remember: Life has given me something good, I’m going to enjoy it for all it’s worth!


10 Responses to “How To Final – Getting the GH Call”

  1. Marnee Bailey March 19, 2012 at 11:04 am #

    Wow, Bria. Great advice. I entered this year, but I’m trying not to think about it. Trying.

    I’d like to tell myself it’s just like any other contest but I know that isn’t true. And I tell myself it’s great that I finally finished the book. But I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I would love to final. 🙂

  2. briaq March 19, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    In a lot of ways, it IS just like any other contest 😉

    (see: the GH is not a magic bullet rules)

    Did that help?

  3. Julie Brannagh March 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Bria, I’m not a crier, either, but I sobbed like a baby when my GH finalist call came last year. Great advice to those who will be answering the phone at an ungodly hour on March 26th.

    I hope it’s both of us, woman! 😉

  4. briaq March 19, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    I give everyone permission to be absurdly emotional on GH Call Day. 😉

  5. Ashlyn Macnamara March 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    Not a crier so much, but when I got the call last year, I found out I am a screamer. *ahem*

  6. briaq March 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Well, when I called Jeannie Lin immediately after, I just screamed. She almost drove off the road!!! But, she guessed right what was going on 😉

  7. julialexander March 19, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    Great post, Bria. I think it was very much like joining a writing sorority, a key to the secret society. Sisterhood and instant credibility. Anyone who finals in the GH should move heaven and earth to go to the conference!

  8. briaq March 19, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    It’s a huge opportunity. No matter how that bit of your ride ends, it’s an amazing ride!

  9. March 20, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    Oh, this was so fun to read and remember everything. Thanks Bria.

    Has it already been a year? I didn’t cry, but I grabbed both dogs, picked them up under each arm, and ran around the house screaming like a banshee. Good times! : )

  10. briaq March 20, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    OH MY Valerie – I hope those dogs weren’t too big!!!!

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