If you're a writer in the query trenches, you've likely seen and even participated in writing blog contests. They're fun! They're exciting! And it's oh so easy to get swept up in it all. I know, because it was one of my favorite things to do!
But before you shoot off that entry, take a deep breath, relax, and make sure you're doing it right.
DO be sure your manuscript is complete and polished within an inch of its life. There's nothing worse than winning an agent request for your full manuscript and realizing you need to scramble to finish that first draft. And oh, crud, you gotta revise that puppy, too? All that pressure can be avoided by just finishing the dang thing first.
DON'T enter a contest if you've queried all the judging agents. I know how tempting it is. Maybe they'll see your book differently now that you changed that paragraph in your query, or rewrote the opening scene. Or maybe it still won't be for them and all you've done is take a spot from someone else. Don't be that guy or gal. Mystery agent contests are trickier because you don't find out who the agent is until the picks are made. Obviously not much you can do there but close your eyes, hit send, and hope for the best!
DO ask questions. Most blog contests have an announcement post before the entry window. If you're unclear on the rules, don't be afraid to ask in the comments. Others might have the same questions.
DON'T freak out if you don't get picked. Sometimes you'll miss the submission window. Sometimes your entry won't get past the preliminary judging. Sometimes every entry will get a request but yours. This is totally normal and even to be expected. Subjectivity is kind of a bitch. Sure it sucks, but don't let it get you down for too long. Keep trying—maybe next time will be your turn to win :)
DO make friends with other contest entrants! This is a fabulous opportunity to find new critique partners, or just general writerly camaraderie. Case in point, last year's Writers Voice contest.
DON'T stress too much. I know it's hard, but it's important! Your writing career does not depend on any single contest. Seriously. So have fun, keep your chin up, and try not to stress.
DO keep querying. Every contest is different and provides a new way of presenting your work. I've seen everything from one line pitches, Twitter pitches, one paragraph pitches, full queries, first lines, first pages, first paragraphs—you get the idea. Not everyone is good at all of these. Just because your 13-word pitch didn't blow an agent's socks off doesn't mean your actual query won't.
If you're looking for contests to enter, you're in luck! There's a bunch coming up and several blogs that run them regularly.
- FTWA's own Mindy McGinnis, R.C. Lewis, and myself will be running a Pitch A Partner contest in February.
- Cupid's Literary Connection blog is running the Agent Blind Speed Dating contest with several submission windows coming up.
- Miss Snark's First Victim Secret Agent contest - January submission window opens today!
MarcyKate Connolly writes middle grade and young adult fiction and becomes a superhero when sufficiently caffeinated. When earthbound, she blogs at her website and ferrets out contests on Twitter. Her debut upper MG fantasy novel, MONSTROUS, will be out from HarperCollins Children's Books in Summer 2014.