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Mills and Boon used the RNA conference to announce a new competition, to be launched on September 1st.

They’re looking for new voices, and new writers, but this competition involves the public, too.

It will take the part of an X-factor style search for new talent. There’s a judging panel, which will consist of Samantha Delaney, Karin Stoeker, Mandy Ferguson and Penny Jordan.

It’s for brand new, never-before-published authors.

The first prize is publication, a Mills and Boon editor for a year, and an iPad. There will be three runners-up who will receive an editor for a year and an iPad.

Entrants will have to upload the first chapter of their HMB book on to the website (see  below) and the public will be invited to give their views on it. They will be monitoring carefully for wholly negative comments, which will be removed.

HMB will then choose a top ten. The top ten will be assigned a mentor team, who will work with them on their second chapter which will be uploaded for the public vote and to the judging panel.

The ones voted the top four will write a pivotal moment for their story, and the public will vote on that.

The winner will be announced on the first of November.

And here’s the website, which will be open soon: www.romanceisnotdead.com

What do I think? I think this will lead to a shedload of writers sending in their first chapters. I think the nasty comments will be out there, just not on the HMB blog, and they are savvy enough to know that. I think HMB will end up with a group of new writers. Hungry, cheap new writers.

It’s fun. If you’re seriously aspiring to write for HMB, it’s another opportunity, but don’t stop sending the regular submissions in. I get the feeling that they hope that the contest will divert a few of the people who write in to them, and will mean that other people will get to deliver the bad news, not the editors. So it’s good for them, should add to the good publicity they get.

New writers are, more often than not, cheap writers and HMB are all about the lines and the brand, not the writers. However so many big, prolific writers had their start with HMB that it’s worth considering. It will generate lots of chat on blogs, Twitter and the rest, that it should be very good for HMB. Now the American Title contest has ended, it’s something new. But it is for category romance only, HMB’s standard lines.