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
3 thoughts on “WRITING CONTESTS: WHY I FOLLOW THEM”
One agent whose blog I follow said that most agents don’t know what type of book they’re looking for until it lands on their desk. I’ve given up second-guessing the market. Doing so, slowly drives one around the bend.
Something I’ve often thought about with these first chapter competitions that publisher and agents run, is that you’re paying them to look at your work. It could be considered a sneaky way of them obtaining reading fees from writers, rather them have to trawl through slushpiles for free. Just a thought. Maybe I’m being too cynical!
There is only one contest I follow that charges a fee (Bakers Dozen by Authoress on Miss Snark’s First Victim blog). The few I have entered don’t charge fees and have reputable agents participating. (Ex: John Cusick/Greenhouse Literary, Christa Heschke/McIntosh & Otis, Brianne Johnson/Writers House) And watching the agent rounds on any of these is always free to everyone. It’s just another way a writer can watch what’s hot at the moment.
And yes, I’ve heard many agents say they don’t always know what they want until it drops in their lap, after listing exactly what their looking for in their BIO’s…just to confuse us more! So, I watch the contests: “What are they interested in today?”
No matter how you look at it, a query is like the bullet in a gun when you’re playing Russian Roulette. You never know what agent will get struck wanting to know more.
Agents? A bonus. Winning something? Definite plus. Entering writing contests for the love of it? (I could say priceless, but then that sounds too much like that credit card commercial I’m purposely not naming). It’s worth doing for the fun of it!