Okay, kids – get your Twitter pitches, 35-word pitches, queries, and first 250 words shined up and ready.
If you’re new to the concept, these are contests for authors with complete, polished manuscripts who are seeking representation by an agent and/or an editor. These contests are fierce and popular, and the competition is strong and numerous. But there are several advantages to entering:
1) Putting yourself out there. If you’re new to querying and not sure how to begin, or nervous about exposing your work to strangers, this is a good way to dip your toe in the raging whitewaters of the publishing world.
2) Getting feedback on your presentation. Theses contests are all about those fiddly bits you use as bait to lure an agent or editor. It is assumed your book is already finished, edited, beta’d, revised, and polished. You know – what you thought was the hard part. What you may not have as thoroughly vetted and sparkly are your query (including your all-important 35-word pitch) and the first 250 words (roughly the first page) of your manuscript. These will make or break your first impression. Even the perfect agent who was born to fall in love with your manuscript will never read it if you don’t hook her with your query and the first page of your manuscript. Most of these contests have built-in feedback rounds or swarms of freelance editors offering free advice to contestants.
3) Networking with other writers, agents and editors in your genre. Even if you don’t “win” (I’ve been doing this for a year, and I never have – and neither have most published authors), you will meet other contestants and judges, as well as participating editors and agents. Most of these contests exist in the Twittersphere (or at least have a corresponding hashtag where those who have enetered can commiserate while they wait for the results). Follow these hastags and be part of the running conversations. You will meet other writers with books similar to yours, querying in the same genres. You will meet agents looking for books like yours in your genre. You will meet the judges, who are often fellow writers and past contest winners. You are bound to make new friends and valuable contacts.
One last thing before you get to the list: In case you don’t know what a Twitter Pitch Party is, it is an event – usually lasting 12 hours – where you are invited to pitch your manuscript right on Twitter using a specific hashtag plus one for your book’s genre. Agents are well aware of these contests, and follow them eagerly. If they like a pitch they will favorite it, and that is your invitation to send them a query. #PitMad is the most well-known and popular of these (and it happens four times a year). So, to be clear, you must pitch your book using only a total of 140 characters INCLUDING “#PitMad” (or whatever) and one or more category/genre tags:
- #PB = Picture Book
- #CB = Chapter Book
- #ER = Early Reader
- #MG = Middle Grade
- #YA = Young Adult
- #NA = New Adult
- #A = Adult
- #SFF = Science Fiction / Fantasy
- #UF = Urban Fantasy
- #CF = Contemporary Fantasy
- #HistFic/#HistFan = Historical Fiction / Historical Fantasy
- #R = Romance
- #Myst = Mystery
- #WF = Women’s Fiction
- #NF = Non-fiction
- #Mem = Memoir
- #LF = Literary Fiction
Click in the pull-down, top-right, for this year’s pitch contest calendar. Good luck!