About the 2020 TARA Contest

The 29th TARA Contest is closed

The judged entries are estimated to be returned the first week of August. Thank you for entering the TARA Contest.

The Tampa Area Romance Authors chapter promotes Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in our contest. Any persons regardless of their race, color, gender, gender expression, religion/creed, age, disability, or sexual orientation are welcome and encouraged to enter the TARA Contest. We maintain the highest degree of anonymity, therefore every entry is judged solely on the fundamentals of writing.

Contest Rules and Regulations for 2020

Submit the first 4500 words of your polished manuscript to receive detailed feedback from our trained judges and the opportunity to get your entry in front of an awesome lineup of final round editor judges.


Contest Opens: The 29th TARA Contest opens for entries at 12:01 am EDT, March 15, 2020.

Deadline: TARA must receive the entry document, a summary of the manuscript, the signed entry form, and payment by 11:59 pm EDT, May 17, 2020.

Eligibility requirements: The TARA Contest is open to unpublished and published writers of romance fiction. The author does not have to be a member of Romance Writers of America® (RWA) or Tampa Area Romance Authors to enter the TARA Contest; however, the entry must be unpublished and the author’s original work. Entries that have been contracted, previously published, printed, and/or either partially or fully posted in any form or format visible to the public or made available for distribution during the duration of the contest will not be accepted. Ineligible entries will be disqualified, and the entry fee forfeited.

Fee: $30.00 (U.S. funds) per entry for non-TARA members, or $25.00 for TARA members. Fees are non-refundable.

Payment: Make payment with a check, credit or debit card via PayPal, your PayPal account, or mail a check made payable to Tampa Area Romance Authors to the address below. Note: mailed checks must be received – not postmarked – by May 17, 2020. Please include the title of your entry on the check’s memo line.

TARA Contest
P.O. Box 443
Plant City, FL 33564

Contents: A TARA Contest entry consists of the first 4500 words of a qualifying manuscript. The maximum count of 4,500 words per manuscript will be verified. In addition to the entry, we must receive up to a three-page summary. The summary’s word count is NOT included in the 4500 count of the entry.

Entries in all categories must be from novel-length fiction and contain elements of romance with the exception of women’s fiction category. Women’s fiction stories should center on the female protagonist. Short stories, nonfiction, and fiction in genres other than romance or women’s fiction will not be accepted. The TARA Contest reserves the right to reject any entry that does not meet the acceptable industry standards for romantic fiction.

An author may enter multiple manuscripts, but each manuscript may only be entered once and only in a single category. A separate entry form must be completed for each title. Manuscripts that were previous finalists, but not TARA Contest winners, are eligible for entry. Manuscripts that have previously won the TARA Contest award may not be re-entered. All fees and rules apply to each entry.


  1. ENTRY REGISTRATION FORM – the completed and signed contest entry form.
  2. ENTRY DOCUMENT FILE – the maximum 4500 words contest entry document.
  3. REQUIRED MANUSCRIPT SUMMARY – up to a three page summary of the full manuscript. The summary is required, but will not be judged or given a score; it’s only to help the judges assess the entry for a more accurate score. The words in the summary are not included in the entry’s 4500 word count.
  4. FEE – $30.00 per entry for non-TARA members (U.S. funds) or $25.00 for TARA members. Payment selection is available on the entry form and may be made via PayPal or by check. The check must arrive to the TARA mailing address on or before April 26, 2020.

Submission format for entry and summary:

  • At least 1″ margins on the top, bottom, and both sides of entry and summary
  • Minimum 12 point font. Times New Roman preferred.
  • Manuscript title in the upper left-hand corner of the header on the entry and summary.
  • Page number in the upper right-hand corner of the header on the entry and summary.
  • The first line of each chapter in the manuscript must start approximately three (3) inches from the top of the page. Summaries may start one inch from the top.
  • Text must be double-spaced, aligned left, and unjustified on the right in the entry and summary.
  • Paragraphs should be inset one-half inch (.5) on the entry and summary
  • The author’s name must not appear anywhere on the manuscript or summary.
  • Deductions in score will be made for manuscripts not in the standard format as defined above.
  • The manuscript and summary must be sent in ONE (1) Word doc or docx file with the summary placed at the end of the entry. Please use a page break between the manuscript and summary.

All submissions must be uploaded electronically via the registration form located at the TARA website www.fwcwriters.com. The entrant agrees to hold TARA harmless in the event of the transmission of any unwanted files, viruses, trojans, worms or any other destructive entities currently in existence or not yet discovered.

Judging: In the first round, judging is based on the Diederich scale for a possible maximum score of 50 points. TARA judges are encouraged to make written comments directly in the manuscript, the summary, and on the score sheets. Judging is subjective. The degree and depth of judging are guided by the TARA Contest Committee but are ultimately at the discretion of the individual judge. A minimum of two (2) judges read and score each entry. All first-round judges are TARA members only who are trained and certified by TARA. All judging is confidential. The TARA Contest will not reveal the names of the judges to the entrants, nor entrants’ names to the judges. The author accepts and agrees that story ideas and titles cannot be copyrighted.

Click 2020 score sheet PDF for a copy of the contest score sheet.

Finalists: The top three (3) finalists in each category are determined by averaging each entrants’ scores. To be considered a finalist, an entry must have a minimum average score of at least 40 points. If there are no average scores of 40 or above in a particular category, the TARA Contest reserves the right to not select any finalists in that category. All finalists will be notified by email and will have approximately one (1) week to review the judges’ feedback and make changes to their manuscript before it’s sent to a final-round editor judge. Note: Per the request of our editor judges, all finalists must submit a synopsis with their entry. The synopsis cannot exceed five (5) pages. Any finalist who does not submit a synopsis in the final round will be disqualified. The finalists may submit a revised version of their contest entry and/or their summary synopsis. The final manuscript and synopsis must be sent in ONE (1) Word doc or docx file to taracontest@gmail.com.

Romance Category Acquiring Editors
Publishing House
Category (also known as Series Contemporary) Deb Werksman Sourcebooks
Single Title Contemporary Melanie Billings The Wild Rose Press
Paranormal (Futuristic, Fantasy, Time Travel, etc.) Kate Richards Decadent Publishing
Historical Brenda Chin Independent Editor
Inspirational Dina Davis Harlequin
Romantic Suspense Nine Bruhns Entangled Publishing
Women’s Fiction Kaycee John The Wild Rose Press

Click here to view the TARA Contest Romance Category Descriptions.

TARA reserves the right to eliminate a category if there are not sufficient entries in the category.

Prizes: Editor judges rank the top three (3) entries in their respective categories. First-place winners in each category receive a TARA pendant and a website / blog graphic for their achievement in the TARA Contest. Finalists receive a contest finalist graphic for their websites and/or blogs.

Agreement and Waiver: Entry in the TARA Contest constitutes an agreement by the author to abide by all contest rules and decisions of the contest officials. The entrant agrees to hold harmless the Tampa Area Romance Authors, Inc., its Board of Directors, officers, members, the TARA Contest, all contest judges, personnel and volunteers, heirs and assigns, et al., in any and all disputes arising from her/his entry(s) in the TARA Contest.

Please email any questions and/or concerns to taracontest@gmail.com.