Official Rules for the Harlequin Presents Writing Competition 2009

These are all the full rules for the . Naturally, the names of the winners will also be posted on the blog!


1. To enter, submit by e-mail a Microsoft Word file of a typed, double spaced, first chapter (no greater than 5,000 words) of a story you have written which is suitable for the Harlequin Presents or Modern Heat series, and a synopsis (no greater than two pages in length, double-spaced) of the complete novel, along with your name, address, e-mail address and phone number to:

2.  All submissions must be in English and be received no later than November 2nd, 2009. Story concept must be original and must not have won a previous prize/award nor have been previously submitted, reproduced or published. One entry per person.

3.  Entries will be judged by a panel of members of the Harlequin Mills & Boon editorial staff, based on the following criteria:

  • Voice
  • Content
  • Writing Skills

in equal measure.

In the event of a tie, duplicate prizes will be awarded. Decisions of the judges are final.

4. Submissions will not be returned and may be used for promotional purposes only. All rights of the submitted work will remain with the author.  Harlequin Mills & Boon Limited, at its discretion, may request to see one or more full manuscripts from contest entrants after the close of the competition. No responsibility is assumed for lost, late, illegible, incomplete, non-compliant, non-delivered or misdirected submissions.

5.   This contest is open to entrants who are 18 years of age or older and is void wherever prohibited by law; all applicable laws and regulations apply.  Employees and immediate family members of Harlequin Enterprises Ltd and Harlequin Mills & Boon Limited, including contracted authors, their parents, affiliates, subsidiaries and all other agencies, entities and persons connected with the use, marketing or conduct of this Contest are not eligible to enter.  By acceptance of a prize, the winner consents to use of his/her name, photograph or other likeness for purposes of advertising, trade and promotion on behalf of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and Harlequin Mills & Boon, without further compensation, unless prohibited by law.

6. All entrants may be contacted via email for the purpose of disclosing whether or not the entrant has been declared a winner in the competition.  By submitting an entry, all entrants agree to be contacted by Harlequin Mills & Boon Limited via email for this purpose.

7. Winners will be determined no later than November 30th, 2009, and will be notified by e-mail.  Winners will be required to sign and return a Publicity Release and Affidavit of Eligibility certifying his/her eligibility and that the submitted chapter and story outline are his/her own original work, and it has not won a previous prize/award nor has it previously been submitted/reproduced/published, within 10 days of notification.  Non-compliance within that time period may result in disqualification and an alternate winner will be selected. Harlequin Enterprises Ltd and Harlequin Mills & Boon Limited, their parents, affiliates and subsidiaries are not responsible for errors in the electronic or printed presentation of this Contest.  Winners agree that Harlequin Enterprises Limited and Harlequin Mills & Boon Limited, their parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, agents and promotion agencies shall not be liable for injuries or losses of any kind resulting from acceptance of or use of their prize.

8. Prizes:

1st – winner will be awarded the services of a Harlequin Mills & Boon editor for one year [1st December 2009 – 30th November 2010], who will offer advice and guidance on contest entry, plus subsequent, previously mutually agreed submissions of partial or full manuscripts aimed at Harlequin Presents or the Modern Heat series.
2nd  – consultations for two runners-up on their first chapter and synopsis aimed at Harlequin Presents or the Modern Heat series (5,000 words) with a Harlequin Mills & Boon editor.

Only one prize per person.  No cash alternatives.

9. For a list of winners (available after 7th December 2009), send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

Harlequin Mills & Boon Limited
Eton House
18-24 Paradise Road
Surrey TW9 1SR
United Kingdom

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Comments ( 98 )
  1. Orlene
    September 25, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Can the chapter be emailed via a WordPerfect file format or does it have to be Microsoft Word?

  2. Amy
    September 25, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Hi Orlene,

    The official rules say Microsoft Word — better use that format or otherwise the editors might not be able to open your entry.

  3. Orlene
    September 25, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Thanks for your assistance, Amy. I just have the WordPerfect software, but it does have the Microsoft Word conversion option. After I saved to the Word format, I emailed my chapter to myself and it does open correctly, so that is the route I will use.

  4. Elizabeth
    October 2, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    “2. All submissions must be in English and be received no later than November 2nd, 2009. Story concept must be original and must not have won a previous prize/award nor have been previously submitted, reproduced or published. One entry per person.”

    Does that mean submissions close at midnight on Nov 2? In what time zone?


  5. Amy
    October 6, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    @Regina – Yes, a Preface or Prologue can be submitted in place of Chapter One (but just to be clear not a Prologue AND first chapter, it’s one or the other.). Editor Joanne Grant also adds that “This competition is all about great openings, so if the author has decided to open it with a Prologue, it ought to be a good one ;)”

    Will check the exact closing time for you Elizabeth!

  6. Maggi
    October 10, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I have a question about the competition. When I submit my entry, should I include in the e-mail a brief note about myself and my writing background, as I would if I was submitting a partial manuscript to HMB?

  7. Amy
    October 13, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Hi Elizabeth — The contest will close end of day Nov. 2. So anything that hasn’t hit the inbox by 9am GMT will not be entered.

    Maggi — Your entry is the most important thing; whatever you put in the email message won’t make or break your entry, so up to you! 🙂

  8. Rachel
    October 13, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Hello! Do we need to specify on our contest entry or in our covering email whether we are aiming at Modern Heat or Presents?

  9. Amy
    October 14, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Hi Rachel,

    Presents publishes both Modern Heat and Modern Romance from the UK — you can say which one you’re aiming for, but I wouldn’t worry too much about the distinction, though, since editor Joanne Grant said her chat that if you’re not sure which line you fit in or if the editors think your style is more suitable for the other one, they’ll steer you in the right direction (if you’re a winner, that is 🙂 )

  10. Cat
    October 21, 2009 at 12:41 am

    Hi Amy,

    Scrolling thru the posts, I don’t think these Q’s have been asked before, but apologies if they’ve been asked and answered before:

    1) Are the first chapter and the synopsis to be in the same Microsoft Word document file, or submitted as two separate files, i.e. two attachments?
    2) Are the info (name,address, email address and phone #) to be written on the MS Word document (as header/footer) or only in the email body?
    3) Do the editors have a preference for either UK English or US English, or either one will do?

    Many thanks!!!

  11. Cat
    October 21, 2009 at 12:57 am

    PS Amy,
    Just saw your reply to Kerrin above, which replies to my Questions # 2 on contact info 🙂

    Would appreciate a reply to Questions 1 and 3 only, unless you have something to add to your reply to Kerrin…

    Thanks again!

  12. Amy
    October 21, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Hi Cat,

    1) It doesn’t matter; though if you do the synopsis and chapter in the same file, please put the synopsis first.

    3) Again, it doesn’t make much difference, just be consistent.

    good luck 🙂

  13. Susan
    October 23, 2009 at 4:33 am

    A two page, double spaced synopsis isn’t long. Are the judges looking more for a ‘set up’ of the story (personalities, reasons for conflict, why hero/heroine can’t be together etc.) or do they actually want a blow by blow account of the storyline from beginning to end? If the latter, it would probably have to read like bullet points due to lack of space. Thanks for help.

  14. Susan
    October 24, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Thanks for your reply re. synopsis Amy, it was very helpful to read other winning synopsi (is that the plural of synopsis? 🙂 I’m desperately trying to fit my synopsis onto two pages. I’ve read through the rules but can’t find any stipulations about:-

    1) Font style
    2) Font size
    3) Size of margins

    Please could you advise. For example, would it be acceptable to use font size 10 in Arial for the synopsis and font size 12 in Arial for the chapter? Thanks in advance.

  15. Mary
    October 28, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Hi – I’m new to this site and new to writing novels, though I’ve written and produced for television (docs and drama-docs). So I’m really excited to find this competition and am furiously trying to get my story worked out and written up in time.

    I started one story, which I got quite a long way into when I realized my characters are more at home in a “Tender Romance” than a “Modern Heat” or a “Harlequin Presents”. I definitely felt they needed the privacy of a closed bedroom door.

    So I started another story with a new set of characters (hopefully I’ll pick up the threads of my first attempt after the competition closes).

    My problem is that I’ve reached what feels like the natural end of my first chapter, but it’s only 1700 words long. Is that too short?

    My story continues in another country, which will require a bit of a set up. Should I put in a gap and carry on the next section of the story within Chapter One? Or should I start Chapter Two where it feels right and submit two chapters? Or should I just submit the first chapter as it stands?

    Oh and I’ve read the rules but I’m afraid I can’t find font, font size and margins. I’m using Arial 11pt, double spaced across the whole page at the moment.

    Thank you so much, M&B & Harlequin for this opportunity and I’d be grateful for any replies.


  16. Amy
    October 28, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Susan and Mary,

    Susan, I had to chuckle a bit at question since it reminded me so much of when I was in university and went over the word limit for my essays every time, so I am very familiar with the question of margins and fonts 😉 (good thing I’m not entering the contest!) Anyway, I think Arial 10/11/12/whatever is fine — as long as it’s big enough for the editors to read comfortably, they won’t rake you over the coals because of your font I’m sure 🙂 (and don’t forget that double-spacing *is* a must!)

    For size of margins, about 1 inch all around is standard.

    Mary, I’m a bit hesitant to advise on your chapter one question since that’s more of an editorial decision. So here’s my thought: the whole point of the first chapter is for the editors to get to know your voice. Do you think what you have so far is a sufficient example of that? If so, there you are. If not, you might use the scene break to take advantage of the length permitted.
    ~Amy, Harlequin Digital

  17. gemma
    October 28, 2009 at 8:25 pm


    When we’ve sent the synopsis and first chapter, will we receive a receipt of delivery? Sorry to sound daft, I just get nervous wondering if you’ve received it or not.

    thanks, sorry to ask a silly question.


  18. gemma
    October 28, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Just received an answer to my own question.

    Yes, you do get a receipt of delivery!



  19. Madeline
    October 29, 2009 at 4:39 am

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks for the old synopses, they are great to read through for assistance and ideas. I just jumped on this afternoon, wondering where to find them (as I sit and stare at the blank Word page that is supposed to display my synopsis), and voila, there they are!

    Cheers, and good luck to all entering the comp,

  20. Amy
    October 30, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Glad you found them useful Madeline! 🙂

  21. Catch
    November 1, 2009 at 3:36 am


    Your chat site is great! Wonderful to see so many questions honestly answered.

    I have one question. I notice that the entry’s you have posted are all formatted with an extra line space between the paragraphs. I know this is not done in finished manuscripts and I have been taught never to do it in a novel submission.

    Instead I have been taught to indent new paragraphs and only use a line space to indicate a change, usually time, place or point of view.

    Which do you want? I can do either and would like to submit in the format you prefer.



  22. Dawn
    November 1, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Amy,

    “Hi Elizabeth — The contest will close end of day Nov. 2. So anything that hasn’t hit the inbox by 9am GMT will not be entered.”

    Sorry, a bit confused. Can submissions be sent in right up till midnight on November 2nd. Or do they need to be in by 9am GMT?

    Thanks and all the best,

  23. Elizabeth
    November 1, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Hi Dawn,

    I’m not sure. I just sent mine in, at 11:58 PM GMT on Nov 1. I have moved on to writing my nanowrimo novel for the month of November in any case, so procrastinating further was unlikely to result in improvement, just in not sending the thing in at all. This was my writing project for October, and while I didn’t complete the rough draft entirely, as I had hoped, I did polish up the first chapter and have it outlined, so the synopsis was only painful for it’s required brevity.

    Good luck to everyone!


  24. Jane Holland
    November 1, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    I was still polishing at midnight – my competition entry, that is, not the furniture – so have emailed the first chapter and synopsis at 12.45am, in the hope that Amy’s previous comment about 9am GMT being the deadline for entries still holds.

    Fingers crossed! It was fun to write, anyway.

  25. Catch
    November 1, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Hi Amy

    I realised after i sent my post that you wouldn’t see it until after I had submitted. So I’m attaching two versions one with indented paragraphs and one with extra line breaks. That way the editors can just take which ever format they want. I hpe that will be OK, the chapters will be absolutely identical apart from that so it won’t matter which one they open.

    Thanks again for all the effort you’ve put in to answering the questions that have been posted. It’s been SO INFORMATIVE and lots of fun preparing an entry.

    Good luck to all


  26. Mary
    November 2, 2009 at 10:28 am


    Thanks to Amy and to you all for your help and advice.

    I have just sent off my entry, but I’m a bit worried by the last couple of posts.

    I thought we had up to midnight tonight US time and that I’d read somewhere that we in the UK had until 4.p.m. today to send them off.

    I found the competition really late and was still writing my synopsis and revising my draft of chapter one this morning, so I couldn’t get it off before.

    I’m now scared that all my hard work might have been in vain.

    I did get an e-mail back saying my entry had been received.

  27. Amy
    November 2, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Hi everyone,

    Don’t worry Jane, you are more than safe! The deadline for entries is midnight TONIGHT.

    Catch, the blog formatting is different than what was on the original word docs — it is WordPress than adds the extra line between paragraphs. I’m sure you’ll be okay either way, though.


  28. Amy
    November 2, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Hi Mary,
    You are right, today is the deadline so your entry is in on time 🙂

  29. Dawn
    November 2, 2009 at 10:39 am

    Hi Elizabeth and Jane

    I sent mine in at 8:50 this morning anyway – just in case. Wasn’t too sure and better to be safe than sorry.

    I’m doing NanoWriMo too this year… thought as I’d got the first chapter and a plot done, I might as well just keep on going. And I’m really loving the escapism of delving into my story and getting my hero to do whatever I want him to do (for a change!).

    Good luck and best wishes!


  30. Korohen
    November 2, 2009 at 2:43 pm


    I am in the United States (central/standard time). Is the deadline for entries 11/2 @ midnight UK (GMT) which is 4pm for me?

    Sorry, I am late finding the contest and have some last minute changes.

    Thank you


  31. carinae
    November 2, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    I just sent mine in today (2 November, 2009, 11:40am PST) and am hoping it’s been received. Someone mentioned that they got a delivery receipt/confirmation email when it arrived. Hopefully mine won’t go into a spam folder.

    If I don’t receive a receipt should I resend it? I don’t want to be one of those people that bombard a site thinking it didn’t go through. 🙁

    My instinct tells me no, it’s been received because it hasn’t bounced back, but my nervous self says, “Are you SURE it’s been received?!” LOL

  32. Amy
    November 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    @Korohen — aim for midnight tonight, your time. The editors have graciously said anything in their inbox by Tuesday morning GMT will be considered to cover everyone in later time zones.

    @carinae — well I’m not sure how soon after sending an email the autoreply goes out — does anyone know if it’s right away or if there’s a bit of a delay? Check your Spam folder in case it’s in there as well.

  33. Trenda
    November 2, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Amy, my auto-reply showed up about an hour after I submitted my entry.

  34. Gail Fuller
    November 2, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Hi Carinae and Amy,

    I sent my entry at 4:02 p.m. my time and received a reply at 4:06 p.m. Hope that helps.

    Good luck to everyone who entered the contest!

    All the best,
    Gail 🙂

  35. Meridien
    November 30, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Hi Amy. Since the rules say: “Winners will be determined no later than November 30th, 2009, and will be notified by e-mail. ” and “For a list of winners (available after 7th December 2009)”, I guess if we haven’t been notified by now, we can assume we didn’t win? And we’ll find out who won by 7th December?

  36. Amy
    November 30, 2009 at 6:18 pm


    Whoops, well in practice the rules are a bit outdated — the winners will be announced on the blog Dec. 11. I do not know at the moment if they have been chosen yet. Sorry for any confusion.

  37. Amy
    November 30, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    p.s. I’ll see if I can get any “latest scoop” on the current status from the eds!

  38. Meridien
    November 30, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Whew! That’s a relief to know, Amy. I was just about to go on a chocolate and ice cream feel-better-after-losing binge 🙂
    Would also appreciate whatever scoop you can share!

    By the way, how long is the winner given to submit the entire manuscript? Wishful thinking, I know, but it’s best to be prepared!

  39. Wait for it, wait for it…. « Waiting for "The Call"
    December 1, 2009 at 7:39 am

    […] a slight delay hearing who won the Harlequin Presents competition- Amy said this yesterday on the I Heart Presents blog- the winners will be announced on the blog Dec. 11. I do not know at the moment if they have been […]

  40. mulberry
    December 1, 2009 at 7:49 am

    I know the answer to this one, Meridien. I haven’t had a full request yet (fingers crossed for one from this comp!) but several of my writing buddies have, and Michelle Styles also answered this on the eHarlequin forum.

    There isn’t a set time usually given when the full should be in, though sometimes the editor will suggest a time frame. Within three months is generally considered good form. I think with all my friends the full request didn’t have a time suggested but the revision requests did.

    An excellent question as I know I need to get on with editing my story! Unfortunately I’m home with the flu and can blog and Twitter fine but the concentration to actually mess with my story isn’t there.

  41. Catch
    December 1, 2009 at 8:30 am


    10 more days to find out how we went!

    Thanks, Mulberry. It’s great to have more info about how the editing process works. I figured the editors probably wouldn’t want to see a first draft straight away as they would have suggestions for changes after reading the first chapter and synopsis.

    Is it true that even if you don’t win the editors still may contact youlater and ask to see some of your work?

    Sounds like lots of chances!

    Here’s hoping!


  42. mulberry
    December 1, 2009 at 9:13 am


    One of my writing friends had an email from Joanne requesting the full story after the last competition. And I think from last years comps there are now two published authors who didn’t win the competition but had full requests as a result.

    And the truly lovely thing about Harlequin is that they are so open to new writers. We have the chance to win an editor’s attention any time by submitting a partial. Which is really what we’ve done with the contest, it’s just a shorter partial, one chapter instead of the usual three.

    Even if we get “Thanks, but no thanks” emails from the competition, we don’t need to wait for the next contest. We can “enter” our next story whenever we want!

  43. Gail Fuller
    December 1, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Thanks so much for the update. I look forward to congratulating the winners on Dec 11th.

    Wishing everyone the best of luck.


  44. Amy
    December 1, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Hello all —

    Well I have word that the winners have been chosen but haven’t yet been contacted. But whoever the lucky people are, they will definitely be contacted before the 11th!

    @ Catch – “Is it true that even if you don’t win the editors still may contact youlater and ask to see some of your work?”

    It has happened. I just don’t want to get too many’s people’s expectations up too high that like 10 people will sell from this contest. Remember, it’s not guaranteed that even the winner will sell their manuscript at the end. Still, it is a fantastic opportunity to hone your writing skills.

  45. Meridien
    December 1, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Many thanks for all the helpful information, Mulberry and Amy!

    By the way, Amy, how many winners are there?

  46. Amy
    December 2, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    @Meridien I’m just using “winners” since there are runners up as well.

    And I forgot to add that all the other entrants will be contacted but because of the huge number of entries, the majority of other responses will most likely go out AFTER the 11th. Sorry for any confusion the dates on the announcement post has caused.

  47. Susan
    December 13, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Hi, So someone has won…right??? It’s all gone a bit quiet. No fanfare, balloons, or drumroll announcements. Where’s the romance in that? 🙂 Susan…waiting for the big climax 🙂