Monday, June 11, 2012

Why You Should Enter Blog Contests

I used to think that blog contests were superfluous. A diverting way to break up the monotony of an agent hunt, but superfluous, nevertheless. Good queries sell themselves, I thought. Good stories don’t need gimmicks.

But somewhere along the way, I changed my mind. It might have had something to do with the fact that I started hosting a regular blog contest (“An Agent’s Inbox” is taking a few months off, by the way, since I need a little time to recuperate from “The Writer’s Voice,” but it’ll make a comeback in August, and I already have September’s and October’s rounds scheduled, too), or maybe it was because I started to notice all of the contest-generated success stories that kept cropping up. Anyway, I changed my mind, and here are a few reasons why:

1. Blog contests are a great way to connect with people. I’ve had several people tell me that they met a new critique partner through “An Agent’s Inbox,” and I’m pretty sure “The Writer’s Voice” and the ensuing Twitter pitch party are singlehandedly responsible for launching several new critique groups the size of small European countries. So play along and look for like-minded writers whose comments/tweets you find insightful.

2. Blog contests are also a great way to get clear, unbiased feedback. Every writer needs critique partners, other writers who love you and your writing and want to help you make it shine, but sometimes, your critique partners are too close to the story to give you clear, unbiased feedback on your query and first few pages. Critique-based contests like the ones hosted by Authoress of Miss Snark’s First Victim are great ways to figure out how to put those finishing touches on your writing.

3. Agents usually pay more attention to contest entries. I may be going out on a limb here, but I really do believe that agents give contest entries a closer read. They have a finite number of entries to get through, so the task seems less overwhelming than, say, tackling the query inbox, which never ends and usually doesn’t even take a day off.

Case in point: I know of at least one writer who received a form rejection from an agent one day, then a full request from the same agent six weeks later via a contest. The query had only minor changes, and the first page was exactly the same, so either the market changed dramatically in a matter of weeks or the agent paid more attention to those contest entries than she had to her queries. (That full request turned into an offer, too, which made me wonder how many manuscripts agents inadvertently pass up that, if they’d taken a slightly closer look, they would have fallen in love with.)

4. In multi-agent contests, a feeding frenzy often ensues. I have even less hard evidence for this one, but in my gut, I think it’s true. I’ve never actually participated in one of Authoress’s Baker’s Dozen Agent Auctions, but I’ve watched both of them from the sidelines, and they’re pretty fierce. In a nutshell, the agents review a bunch of loglines and first pages, then bid against each other to win partial and full requests. The agents have a lot less information to go on when they’re placing their bids (since agents usually ask to see a query and the first five to ten pages), and yet they seem to bid on far more manuscripts than you might expect them to out of a random batch of queries.

Now Authoress does screen the entries, so the projects that make it into the auction are (probably) going to be of a much higher quality than the average slush. Still, I don’t think that accounts for all of the variation. There’s just something exciting about bidding, fighting, winning, and it’s easy to get caught up in that.

So go and compete (and hopefully win)! With all the contests around the blogosphere, you shouldn’t have a problem finding one to dip your toe into. In fact, if you know of any blogs that host regular agent-judged contests, feel free to recommend them in the comments!


Dahlia said...

Could not agree more with all of this! The Writer's Voice was my first contest and it was such a wonderful experience. No matter what comes of it, or doesn't, just having met that many likeminded, supportive writers was totally invaluable.

Valerie Cole said...

Krista-- thank you so much for writing this post. I could not agree more with all of your points!

I agree with Dahlia- the writing contests are scary when you first start, and I know how apprehensive some writers feel about jumping in. But the writing community is SO supportive and wonderful. It's so worth it in the end.

Kimberly Gabriel said...

I always enter contests with the mentality that they are a great way to receive feedback and meet other people. That's still perhaps my favorite part of contests.

But I agree with Krista that some agents spend more time perhaps reading through entries because there are fewer of them to sift through. I've now had three requests - two of them came from contests and were by agents that don't accept unsolicited queries. One of those agents had nothing to do with the actual contest, but had read my entry and invited me to query her.

I look forward to seeing "An Agent's Inbox" again in August!

Michael G-G said...

So true. I participated in one of Krista's "An Agent's Inbox" as well as last December's Bakers' Dozen Auction, held on Miss Snark's First Victim blog. I agree, Krista, that the agents get into a kind of feeding frenzy in the auction.

Interestingly, although the agent I eventually signed with had nothing to do with either of these events, the mere fact that I got good, clear-sighted feedback and encouragement from these "contests" allowed me to persevere in my agent search.

And it IS a great way to meet other writers and support one another.

By the way, "My Critique Group is bigger than Monaco" might be a great new title for a reality TV show!

AllieS said...

I was so nervous about contests at first, but after being chosen for The Writers Voice I loved the atmosphere of it all! You do meet a ton of other writers, and their support helps ease the blow with any rejections.

Suzi said...

You were my very first contest, Krista. And I cringe at what I posted back then when I didn't really know what I was doing.

Live and learn!

You do a great job. Thanks for all your hard work.

Kathleen Basi said...

Okay, you've convinced me. Now I've just got to finish the MS so I'm ready to enter. :)

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

I think you're right on the money. The feedback is invaluable. Anything that brings you that little bit extra attention can make or break a query. And there's something to be said about the excitement when you see your query in a contest. Thank you so much for all your hard work :)

A. E. Welch said...

Definitely agree Krista. My only regret is not researching contests and entering them sooner.

Mina Lobo said...

<---Ignorant N00b here; how do y'all find out about these contests?
Some Dark Romantic

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Dahlia, thanks for participating! I loved how positive and supportive everyone was on Twitter and the blogs.

Valerie, you can learn a lot from following along with contests, but you can learn a heck of a lot more from jumping into them. And sometimes contest entries even turn into offers;)

Kimberly, that's another added benefit--lurking agents. You never know who's reading...

Michael, I'm sure that TV show would be a hit! You should write a pilot... :)

So true, Allie. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't belly-ache to my critique partners, all of whom I met through the online writing community, every time I got a rejection:)

Suzi, there's definitely a learning curve. Thanks for taking the plunge!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Kathleen, I look forward to seeing your manuscript around the blogosphere!

Shiela, I think you hit the nail on the head--sometimes that little bit of extra attention is all you need. And you're welcome:)

A.E., contests really are a great resource. So far, no one's recommended any others, so I'll have to see what I can do about that...

Mina, the contests I've noticed around the blogosphere have just been things I've seen other writers blogging or tweeting about. Here's a quick list to get you started.

First off, my fellow coaches from "The Writer's Voice":

As I mentioned in the post, Authoress hosts monthly critique-based contests with rotating Secret Agents:

The ladies at Operation Awesome also host regular contests with rotating agent judges:

Which ones have I missed?

Eliza Tilton said...

I always like reading the agents comments on why they picked the winners. Right now the YA lit Pitch slam 2 is full of agent advice.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks for letting us know, Eliza!

For everybody else, I looked the pitch slam up on Bing, and while it's too late to enter, you can still follow along and see what the agents are saying, as Eliza suggested. Here's that website: OR

Mina Lobo said...

Thanks for the info, Krista!
Some Dark Romantic

Deana said...

I absolutely love this post! I actually just posted my "I got an agent" post on my blog today and it was because of a blog contest. So I say YES!!! Enter them all:)

Cassie Mae said...

I've gotten more requests from contests than through querying, so I 100% agree!

Tracy Bermeo (A2Z Mommy) said...

What a great post! I think I'll be a new follower too! I've been doing the bloghop thing, which I LOVE, LOVE LOVE, but didn't know about the contests. I think that if I were an agent, I'd be more excited about a contest than everyday queries too!
A2Z Mommy and What’s In Between

Anonymous said...

You are sooooooo right:) I've met tons of writers on my blog since I first participated in a blogfest last summer ... before I connected with them I think my posts only received comments from 2 family members, lol. Also, I just got an offer for publishment from Sharon Bayliss's blog contest last week:) For sure worth every minute spent on it!

Anonymous said...

You are sooooooo right:) I've met tons of writers on my blog since I first participated in a blogfest last summer ... before I connected with them I think my posts only received comments from 2 family members, lol. Also, I just got an offer for publishment from Sharon Bayliss's blog contest last week:) For sure worth every minute spent on it!

Karen lee Hallam said...

Contests are win-win. The writer gets valuable feedback, and experience in the cringe - skin thickening treatment.
I've participated in a couple, and it's has only improved my work. I cannot wait until editing is complete to enter MORE Contests.
The online writing community is very generous. An amazing group. Thank you all.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

You're welcome, Mina!

Congratulations, Deana! Sarah's a great agent!

Good for you, Cassie Mae! You've definitely experienced the benefits of contests firsthand.

Welcome, Tracy! And yeah, I think contests get the blood pumping even for agents.

Wow, Jamie, congratulations! Sharon Bayliss is another writer who hosts pretty regular blog contests. Thanks for reminding me! Here's her blog address, for anyone who'd like to check it out:

So true, Karen. Good luck with that revising!

Ryan said...

You're right on Krista.
The same thing happened to me. My query got rejected, but then the same agent made a request in a contest.
I can't get enough of them!

Kristen Wixted said...

I think you're right about agents paying more attention in contests. I think the finite number of entries helps them see a light at the end of the tunnel that their inbox does not provide.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Well, Ryan, with any luck, you'll get an offer out of that contest request:)

Kristen, it makes sense to me. Contest entries end, but the query inbox never quits. That's got to be demoralizing.

Felix Stendahl said...

Participating in blog contests can also help you learn the different styles of other writers and how they express themselves through writing. Yes, it's an accomplishment to win the contest, but it's also as fulfilling just to be a part of the contest and know different people.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Great points, Felix. Thanks for stopping by!