The SARA Emma Merritt Contest

San Antonio Romance Authors (SARA)

2016 Emma Merritt Contest


The 2016 SARA Emma Merritt Contest is closed to new entries. Final placements from the editor and agent judges will be posted here mid-April.


2016 Finalists

The finalists have changed since the email announcement to contestants. Due to the very good news of Through the Lens by Makenna Lee being under contract with Soul Mate Publishing, Makenna has released her Contemporary Romance finalist position. Congratulations, Makenna Lee! We look forward to seeing your work in print!

Finalist entries by category below are given in alphabetical order by title.

Contemporary Romance
Animal Instincts by Lauren James
Tripp and Fall by Jewel Hart
Unmistaken Identity by Marie Johnston

Historical Romance
Compromised by Harriet Hale
The Grand Marquess by Linda L. Locke
The Rescue of Lord Grange by Elizabeth Everett

Inspirational Romance
Magnolia Storms by Janet W. Ferguson
Remember Texas by Laura Conner Kestner
The Minister’s Lady by Cara Lynn James

LGBTQ Romance
Blyd and Pearce by Kim Fielding
Classmates by Troy Bernhardt
Husker by Troy Bernhardt

Paranormal Romance
Cherub’s Play by Steven Moores
The Seductress by Jessica Grace Kelley
The Summoning by Linda B. Nightingale

Romantic Suspense
Collateral Damage by Mia Kay
In With the Tide by Zara West
Prime Maple by Chess Kendle

Women’s Fiction
Scooped: Confessions of a Former Tattle-tale by CA Speakman
The Nine Lives of Eric Merry by Aubrey Wynne
Unforgettable by Karen Duvall

Young Adult with Romantic Elements
Intaglio by Katie Grant
The Night I spent With Aubrey Fisher by Christopher M. Tantillo
The Seventh Sun by Lani Forbes

Congratulations to all our finalists!




October 1, 2016 – Open for submissions.

November 30, 2016, midnight, Central time zone – Deadline for submissions. Contest Closes.

February 13 (week of), 2017 – Finalists notified by e-mail during this week. Finalists will be posted on the SARA Website.

April 10, 2017 – Winners notified by e-mail.



The 2016 Emma Merritt Competition is opened to published and unpublished authors. Each entry must be an unpublished work – it cannot be published or under contract in any form or format, not in digital or print prior to the entry deadline. If the entry is disqualified, an email will be sent to the contestant and the entry fee will be forfeited.

Entry is to be the beginning of a novel-length work. (The projected word-count for a completed manuscript would be above 55,000 words.)



CONTEMPORARY: Romance novels set from 1950 to present day that focus primarily on the romantic relationship.

PARANORMAL/SCI-FI/FANTASY: Romance novels in which the future, fantasy or paranormal elements are an integral part of the story. May include vampires, ghosts, time travel, werewolves, magic, mythological characters, alien beings, etc.

SUSPENSE/MYSTERY: Romance novels in which suspense, mystery or thriller elements are an integral part of the story. The suspense/mystery is as important as the romance.

HISTORICAL: Romance novels set in a time period prior to 1950.

LGBTQ: Romance novels in which the romantic interests are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer.

WOMEN’S FICTION: Novels that are driven by the main character’s emotional journey. It may or may not contain romantic elements; the romance is not the focus of the story.

INSPIRATIONAL:  Romance novels in which religion or spiritual beliefs (in the context of any religion or spiritual belief system) are a major part of the romantic relationship.

YOUNG ADULT:  Novels with a teenage protagonist in which young adult life, issues or themes are an integral part of the plot. For this contest, YA entries should be romance or at least contain romantic elements.



The entry will receive three reads from first round judges. The lowest of the three scores from first round judges will be dropped. This means that although an entrant will receive three critiques, only the top two scores will be averaged and that averaged score used to determine which three finalists go to the editor and agent judges.

The three entries with the highest average scores per category will advance to the final round. In the event of a tie, the third dropped score will be consulted to determine the finalist.

Editors and agents will judge and score the final round entries. Merritt Contest Coordinators will average the scores of the agent and editor to arrive at the final placement: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.

The editors and agents will provide a score but may or may not provide comments—it is their choice. Comments, if present, may not constitute a full critique. If the agent or editor is interested in seeing more of your writing, the Merritt Contest Coordinators will give the agent and/or editor your contact information.


Industry Judges

We will have two industry judges per category, either two editors or one editor and an agent. Check our website periodically for updates.

Contemporary:  Piya Campana, Senior Editor, Harlequin Super Romance; Jill Marsal of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Paranormal/Sci-Fi/Fantasy: Tara Cuskaden, Editorial Director, Entangled Select-Otherworlds; Andrea Somberg, Harvey Klinger Agency

Suspense/Mystery: Patience Bloom, Senior Editor, Harlequin Suspense; Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Literary Agency

Historical: Tara Gavin, Executive Editor, Kensington Publishing Corp.; Robin Haseltine, Senior Editor, Entangled

LGBTQ: Angela James, Editor in Chief, Carina Press; Sara Megibow, KT Literary, LLC

Women’s Fiction: Susan Litman, Senior Editor, Harlequin Special Editions; Danielle Marshall, Editorial Director, Lake Union Publishing, an imprint of Amazon Publishing

Inspirational: Raela Schoenherr, Acquiring Editor, Bethany House/Baker; Cori Deyoe of 3 Seas Literary Agency

Young Adult (YA): Susan Chang, Senior Editor, Tor/Tor Teen; Louise Fury of the Jenny Bent Literary Agency


Finalist Prizes

Finalists will receive an electronic award badge/seal for their website, a printed award certificate, plus, 1st and 2nd place will receive a financial award:

3rd Place – badge and printed award certificate only

2nd Place – $25 and badge and award certificate

1st Place – $50 and badge and award certificate



Deadline for entries: November 30, 2016. Any entries received after midnight Central time will be deleted unopened. All entries will be acknowledged via email within a week of being received.

  • Submit payment via PayPal. Entry fee is $35.00 (US).
  • Register by clicking on the Register button and fill in the registration form. Please include your PayPal receipt/transaction number where indicated on the form.
  • Send your entry via email to the Coordinator of the contest:
    1. The entry must be an attachment, provided in Word (.doc, .docx) or rich text format (.rtf). Preference is for .doc or .docx.
    2. The entry must be the first 5,000 to 8,000 words of a novel of one of the categories listed above. (There is no benefit to sending in a longer entry. Cut the entry at the end of a scene, not the middle of one.)
    3. Entries should not include the author’s name anywhere in the document, including the headers, footers or in the background (see FAQs). There should be no cover sheet.
    4. The header of the document should include the Title on the upper left corner and the page number on the upper right corner of every page.
    5. Entries must conform to standard manuscript formatting, meaning, Times New Roman 12 point, 1-inch margins, chapters must start on a new page, chapters must start one-third of the way down the page.
    6. Entries must be named by category and title only, with no other identifying information. (Example: Suspense_CatherinesWheel.doc or  WomenFic_Traces of Me.doc)
    7. Email subject line should contain the Category and the manuscript title and no other information. (Example: Paranormal/Sci-Fi/Fantasy_A Grimm Wedding) (Example2: Women’s Fiction_A Place at the Table)
    8. Email body should include the manuscript title, the author’s name, the author’s pen name (if one is used), the name or email address associated with PayPal payment if it is different from the legal or pen name, and the PayPal transaction number. The entry must be attached, with no entry text copied into the body.
    9. An entry will be disqualified and the entry fee forfeited if an entrant fails to meet any of the eligibility or formatting requirements.

Additional Rules

Entrants may submit more than one entry but may not submit the same entry into more than one category. In other words, only one unique entry may be submitted per category with no duplications across categories.

If one of the categories does not make, the entrant will be allowed to choose another category. Refunds will only be given if the entry does not fit into another category. The contest coordinators at SARA have the final say on refunds and category guidelines/boundaries.

If the agent or editor final judge for a category requests a synopsis, the entrants will be informed of their need to write and send in the synopsis when they are notified of being finalists. This may vary from category to category.

Entry in the SARA sponsored Emma Merritt Contest constitutes agreement by the author to conform to all contest rules, abide by the decision of the judges, and hold blameless the San Antonio Romance Authors, contest coordinators and all judges. In entering, the author agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Chapter, its officers, members and all judges of the Contest from liability for its/their actions arising from or relating to judging and handling of the entry and conducting, sponsoring and advertising the event.



With a minimum of 5K words and a maximum of 8K words, how do I know where to end my excerpt? Also, do prologues count toward the word count?

Yes, a prologue should be considered part of that word count. When deciding how many words to send, break off your excerpt at the end of a scene, not in the middle of one. End at a place where the reader is going to be left wanting more. There is no benefit to sending in the absolute max of 8,000. If you have a powerful ending at 5,200 words, then end the entry there where it is most powerful and engaging.

I have an excerpt of the manuscript on my website. Does that still count as “unpublished”?

For the purposes of the Merritt Contest, ‘unpublished’ means that the manuscript has never been published in any way and that it will not come under contract for publication by the contest entry deadline. If an excerpt of the novel appears on the author’s website, it may still be considered ‘unpublished’ subject to the conditions that (1) the excerpt is the only text that exists for public viewing, (2) the excerpt is not available for purchase, and (3) the number of words posted does not exceed 15% of the novel’s total word count.

I’ve self-published my book. Can I still enter it into the contest?

Sorry, but no. Self-published authors are considered published. Self-published books are considered published.

I haven’t included a cover sheet and my name isn’t in the header so I’m okay, right?

You’ll need to check the Properties of your document. In Word, go to the File menu and click on Properties. Delete any personal information. You can have the manuscript title, but not your name or pen name or other identifying information.

I want to enter my contemporary YA paranormal mystery into the contest but the rules say I can only enter it in one category. Which category should I choose?

You would enter the category that best reflects your target audience. In this example, you would focus on YA because that is your narrowest target audience. If you had written a contemporary mystery, you would likely choose to enter it into the Suspense/Mystery category because that is a narrower focus for the target audience. Rest assured, if a particular category does not have enough entries to be viable for the contest, we will allow you to choose another category. (You will be contacted via email and/or phone.)


For additional information, please contact Laura or Suanne at and put the word “Question” in the subject line.


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