NOTE: CONTESTS SHOULD NOT BE YOUR ONLY PLAN TO REACH AGENTS. NOTHING REPLACES THE DIRECT QUERY!
Phew! Got that out of the way. So, why do I follow them? Because I see:
1) What’s circulating.
2) Pitches/Opening lines that work.
3) What agents are requesting.
Let’s start with number one. Why should I care? Well, if I thought about writing a dystopian, for example, I’d notice the market is currently over saturated, making my chances to get noticed slimmer. The novel had better be extremely unique if I choose to move forward. I like bettering my chances, so I’ll look at the next idea on my list!
As for pitches and opening lines, they need to be amazing to hook an agent/publisher. I can’t peek into their “Inbox” to see what they’re accepting, so contests are the next best thing. I can read those amazing entries and see what lines are working to attract their attention.
And nothing excites me more than seeing what types of stories agents/publishers request. Some even give reasons for the desired material with comments they leave. This helps me see what is currently being favored and sometimes I find clues to polishing a work in progress.
What am I currently watching? Brenda Drake’s Pitchwars
What contest did I win? PitchMAS #71
So, why did I open with “NOTHING REPLACES THE DIRECT QUERY” if I won a contest? Because only a handful of agents participate in contests. If I only submit to these adrenaline pumping outlets, I close the gap on a huge market I could submit to. For example, I direct queried a few agents before entering PitchMAS resulting in a request for a FULL. I believe in the direct query, but contests can be excellent educators. (For help finding an agent go HERE and for query advise go HERE.)
There is one more tidbit about contests I’d like to leave you with: Some participating agents are closed to direct queries. In this case, the contest IS the only way to reach them when I don’t know a friend, who has a cousin, that has an uncle rep’d by said agent.
As always, good luck and happy writing!
P. D. Pabst
Blogger and writer of MG/YA Fiction