About the 2020 TARA Contest

The 2020 TARA Contest will open for entries on March 15, 2020

Start working on your entry now!

The TARA Contest had eighty-four entries in 2019. In the first judging round, each entry was judged and scored by two trained TARA chapter members. Acquiring editors judged the second round to determine first, second, and third place in each category.

Tentative 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.

All information is subject to change.


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, April 26, 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Eligibility requirements: The TARA Contest is open to unpublished and published writers of romance fiction.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a member of Romance Writers of America® (RWA) or the TARA chapter to enter the TARA Contest; however, the entry must be unpublished and the author’s original work.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 April 26, 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: The TARA Contest accepts the first 4500 words of a qualifying manuscript and an up to three page, double-spaced summary for each entry. The maximum count of 4,500 words per manuscript will be verified.

Entries in all categories must be 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.

Summaries of each manuscript must follow the submission format stated below.

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 FORM – the completed and signed contest entry form.
  2. ENTRY DOCUMENT FILE – the maximum 4500 words contest entry document; word count will be verified.
  3. REQUIRED MANUSCRIPT SUMMARY – an up to three page, double-spaced, summary of the full manuscript. The summary is required, but will not be judged or given a score; it’s only to help the first-round judges assess the entry for a more accurate score.
  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. Check must arrive to the TARA mailing address on or before April 26, 2020.

Submission format:

  • At least 1″ margins on 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 header on the entry and summary.
  • Page number in upper right-hand corner of header on the entry and summary.
  • First line of each chapter in the manuscript must start approximately three (3) inches from top of page. Summaries may start one inch from the top.
  • Text must be double-spaced, aligned left, and unjustified right in the entry and summary.
  • Paragraphs should be inset one-half inch (.5) on the entry and summary
  • 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 following 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.tararwa.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 who are published authors, RWA PRO, and/or 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 here for a sample of the contest score sheet. (We are rewording the score sheet and will post it again before the contest begins.)

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 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 Editor’s Name (TBA)
Publishing House
Category (also known as Series Contemporary)
Contemporary Single Title
Paranormal (Futuristic, Fantasy, Time Travel)
Romantic Suspense
Women’s Fiction

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. Winners are announced in the Romance Writers Report. 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 conform to all contest rules and abide by the decision 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.

Start polishing your 2020 TARA Contest entry. Good luck!