Posts Tagged ‘Contests’

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If you’re committed to being a published writer, then you eagerly seek feedback on your writing. And if you aren’t swimming in money, then you seek to get it wherever and from whoever you can (because paying a professional editor is typically expensive). And if you spend any amount of time looking for people to read and critique your stuff, you will eventually discover pitch contests.

These are a great way to meet fellow writers in your age category and genre, and can supply an endless pool of potential beta readers and critique partners. Plus, you get to interact with and learn from agents, published authors, and professional editors, and in some cases “win” free advice or critiques on some of your work.

But here’s the thing about that. Most of these contests focus on the small stuff — your 35-word pitch, your query, the first page of your manuscript. There is no doubt it is vitally important to get those right, but competition if fierce and only a very few can “win” those contests.  Which means that more likely than not, if you enter one of these contests, you will not win. For many of us, this means you just try again. And again. This is the process, this is what you’re supposed to do. But by doing this, you tend to become a bit myopic about the small stuff.

The fact is, not every book has a perfect first 250 words. Not even the best books. Not every successful author got published with a flawless query letter.  I’m not suggesting you don’t focus on these things. You should. They will help you succeed. That’s why the contests are about those things in the first place. But whatever you do, don’t lose sight of the big picture. Remember, nobody gets your book better than you do. Not getting chosen out of 200 entries for a contest does not mean there is anything wrong with your query or first 250. Same thing is true if you don’t get chosen for 20 contests.

Prepping for and following contests is intense and often rewarding. But don’t lose sight of the other 99% of your book. Or the next book. Keep perspective  on the whole picture. And don’t sweat the small stuff.

#RevPit is Coming!

Posted: March 23, 2017 in Writing
Tags: , , ,

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You may have heard that Pitch to Publication (#P2P17) has been postponed indefinitely. Pitch to Publication is a contest to which writers submit their complete samples of their complete manuscript to a choice few of a wide range of professional freelance editors. Each of the participating editors will select 1 (or possibly 2) manuscripts, which they will then spend the next five weeks editing.  Essentially, if you get chosen, you get your manuscript edited for free.  Those chosen will then have their polished manuscripts put on display for agents to request.

We have not been given a reason for the delay of this year’s Pitch to Publication, nor a new date. However, the stable of editors nevertheless refuse to disappoint the eager and aspiring writers who have been anticipating this contest.   They formed a new site, called Revise and Resub, and they have announced a brand new contest which is essentially the same as #P2P, called #RevPit.

This is fantastic news! Pitch to Publication has had great successes in the past, and now those same editors are on-board to perform the same service in a nearly identical contest on the same exact date, April 7th.

So check out the details and choose your 3 editors (and 1 alternate); you can check out all of their bios, specialties, and wishlists on the Revise and Resub page.  Then get your query and first 5 pages polished to a shine.  And follow #RevPit on Twitter to keep up-to-date on the contest.

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If you are a querying writer with aspirations of becoming an agented author, pitch contest season is like June for college graduates — polishing their resumé and practicing their interview face. For us writers, it is time to get our bits ready.

The “bits” to which I am referring are your 140-character Twitter pitch and your 35-word longline and your 250 to 300-word synopsis and the first 250 words of your finished manuscript.  Plus, you’ll need to have your genre worked out (pick ONE; fantasy steampunk horror romance is not a thing). Know your age group (pick ONE). Choose a couple of good, contemporary comps (NOT Harry Potter, NOT 50 Shades of Gray, and something you’ve actually read and an agent has actually heard of).

Also, you know, just know your story and your characters, because many of these contests will ask you to come up with a clever “code name” for your book, or answer a “character question” as part of your submission. Sometimes these contests will pop up out of nowhere, and you will discover you have only a day or two to get everything compiled and ready to submit during a small window.

Let’s take Sun vs. Snow, for example. This year the entry window opens on January 23. So, as I write this, there are still almost two weeks to prepare.  On the above-linked website there are very specific instructions for how to format the e-mail you will submit, including spacing, what font to use, where to bold, etc. There is a character question, so even if you have all your bits neatly organized in a folder, you still need to write a pithy (100 words or less) answer to this.  Then when the window opens at 4pm Eastern time, you have less than 5 minutes to hit send, because they only take the first 200 entries. In past years the contest filled up in four minutes.

READ THE CONTEST GUIDELINES CAREFULLY. Because this really is a case where judges will be overwhelmed with entries and must whittle down to just a few who can go through. What do you win? That varies from contest to contest, but generally “winners” of dinferential stages earn close, personalized feedback from professional editors, who will help you polish your ms and query and get them ready to present to agents. These contests almost always earn someone a contract with an agent. But don’t enter if you’re not prepared to do a lot of revisions very quickly.

Getting in is hard, because these contests are fiercely competitive, but they are worth it because someone always makes it through, and the odds go up the more you participate. Not to mention you will have an opportunity to receive free, professional feedback — not only on your ms, but you can learn from the feedback others receive. There is almost always a Twitter feed you can follow to read live comments from the judges as they evaluate the (usually) anonymous entries. It’s fun (and terrifying) to imagine they they might be talking about your entry.

You have nothing to lose, so why not give it a try?

My Annual Pitch Contest Calendar now has a permanent home!
See the menu at the top of the page.

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Okay, kids – get your Twitter pitches, 35-word pitches, queries, and first 250 words shined up and ready.  Here’s a breakdown of the pitch contests coming up in 2017.

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 I 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

It is important that you read and follow the rules for these, and practice good contest etiquette: Usually only pitch twice per hour, never favorite another writer’s pitch (that is how agents request queries!), etc.

So, without further ado, here is the 2017 calendar of pitch contests.  Some of these have not been officially announced as of this posting, but I will update this post as more information (and more contests) are announced.  Good luck!

It is important that you read and follow the rules for these, and practice good contest etiquette: Usually only pitch twice per hour, never favorite another writer’s pitch (that is how agents request queries!), etc.

So, without further ado, here is the 2017 calendar of pitch contests.  Some of these have not been officially announced as of this posting, but I will update this post as more information (and more contests) are announced.  Good luck!

January 23: Sun vs. Snow
Character question + query + first 250 words of your manuscript. Open to the first 200 entries received (in 2016 this took 4 minutes!). 16 entries chosen for each team (Sun and Snow). Teams work with authors to polish their entries before posting for the Agent Round. Open to MG, YA, NA and A (including erotica).
Details: https://chasingthecrazies.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/2017-sun-vs-snow-details/

February 13: Son of a Pitch
Query + first 250 words of your manuscript. First week open to all for feedback. Then the top 50 entries go on to week 2, to be whittled down to the final 20. Agents and editors will make requests from the finalists.Open to YA, NA and A of all genres.
Details: http://kjhstories.blogspot.com/2017/01/say-what-son-of-pitch-is-back.html

February 23: #PBPitch
Twitter Pitch Party – Picture Books only
Details: www.pbpitch.com

February 24: Pitch Madness
Pitch Madness is a contest held every March, where writers enter for a chance to win requests from the participating agents. Writers submit a 35-word (max) pitch and the first 250 words of their completed manuscript on submission day. Then a team of readers choose the top sixty (60) entries to go onto the agent round. Though Pitch Madness has a game theme, the next contest will transition to more of a critique based contest with agents simply requesting in the comments of the entries’ posts instead of having the agents play for requests. Also, hosts will coach our team members, helping them polish their entries and first pages.
Details: www.brenda-drake.com/pitch-madness/

March 6: #SonofaPitch
Twitter pitch party. Include #SonofsPitch, genre and age category; 1 tweet per hour.
Details: http://kjhstories.blogspot.com/2017/01/say-what-son-of-pitch-is-back.html

March 23: #PitMad
Twitter Pitch Party. 8am to 8pm EST; only 3 tweets allowed per project.
Details (not yet updated for 2017): www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/   also: http://www.brenda-drake.com/contest-schedule/

April 5: #AdPit
Twitter Pitch Party – Adult books only
Details: https://heidinorrod.wordpress.com/adpit-and-kidpit/

April 5: #KidPit
Twitter Pitch Party – Children’s books only (Picture Books, Early Readers, Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult)
Details: https://heidinorrod.wordpress.com/kidpit/

April 7 (TBD): Pitch to Publication (#P2P17)
“Pitch to Publication is for writers with FULLY COMPLETED manuscripts, who are ready to achieve the next level of literary wholeness. Authors will submit a query and 5 pages of their draft manuscript to one of our highly sought-after freelance editors. Each editor will select one (and sometimes two!) authors to work with for 5 weeks of intensive manuscript development. Your editor will help prepare you and your work for our agent round on May 22nd!” Editors will be announced March 13-20. This contest has been postponed; new dates not yet announced. Possibly cancelled permanently; the site has been taken down

April 7: Revise & Resub (#RevPit)
“In this contest, authors will be eligible to receive feedback and full edits on their manuscript from professional editors, ensuring their works are polished and ready for those agent inboxes. Writers will submit their query and first five pages to their top three editors and one alternate, who will then go through submissions and select one (or two!) winners. These matches will go through an intense, month-long editing process before reposting their submissions from finalized projects.” Details: http://www.reviseresubmit.com

May 17: #QueryKombat
64 kombatants in a single-elimination tournament style query-off. Entries will go head-to-head in six rounds until only one entry remains. Agents look at winners of each elimination.
Details: http://www.michelle4laughs.com/p/writer-contests.html

June 7: #70Pit17 
1 page contest based on McLuhan Test, which says the sixty-ninth page is far enough into a novel that things should really be happening, and it can be a better snapshot of the entire book’s style than the first page. 70pit takes this idea but removes the connotations with the number 69.  Entrants submit 257 words from either their 69th or 70th page. Agent round July 7. Details: https://larawillard.com/70pit/

June 8: #PitMad
Twitter Pitch Party. 8am to 8pm EST; only 3 tweets allowed per project.
Details: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/

June 22: #SFFPit
Twitter Pitch Party for Si-Fi and Fantasy books ONLY, for all age groups.
Details: http://dankoboldt.com/sffpit/

July 21: #AdPit
Twitter Pitch Party – Adult books only
Details: https://heidinorrod.wordpress.com/adpit-and-kidpit/

July 21: #KidPit
Twitter Pitch Party – Children’s books only (Picture Books, Early Readers, Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult)
Details: https://heidinorrod.wordpress.com/kidpit/

August 2-6: Pitch Wars
Published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents over a 2-month period.
Details: www.brenda-drake.com/pitch-wars

September 7: #PitMad
Twitter Pitch Party. 8am to 8pm EST; only 3 tweets allowed per project.
Details: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/

November (TBD): Nightmare on Query Street (#NoQS)
Halloween-themes contest. Around 40 entries are chosen and paired with expert mentors. The shined and poished query letter and first 250 words go before agents for requests. Contestants must answer a Halloween-themes question in their submission. For MG, YA, NA, & A.
Details: http://www.michelle4laughs.com/p/writer-contests.html

December 7: #PitMad
Twitter Pitch Party. 8am to 8pm EST; only 3 tweets allowed per project.
Details: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/

THIS IS BY NO MEANS A COMPLETE LIST. MANY CONTEST HOSTS HAVE NOT YET COMMITTED TO OR ANNOUNCED THEIR 2017 SCHEDULES. CHECK BACK OFTEN!

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Last year, my daughter and I were just beginning to query our fresh, new manuscript (the toner was still warm), and one of the very first contests we ever entered was #QueryKombat.

We didn’t make it in.  Out of a few hundred hopefuls, only 64 get chosen to participate, and then half are eliminated right away. The contest pairs up queries and the first 250 words of similar manuscripts (same genre/age group, complimentary subject-matter). Then a panel of judges read each pairing and vote for their favorite.  The 32 who make it get an opportunity to revise based on the comments, and then these are paired up again for the next bracket.  And so on until there is a final winner, six rounds later.  Along the way, agents are invited to look at the entries and make requests.

I was philosophical about not getting in. The whole query thing still mystified me, and as much as I wished it to be so, our opening was not perfect.  We would revise it at least a half-dozen times before we got to where we are today.  And dozens of query variations.  And oh, so many contests.

Which brings us to today.

We entered #QueryKombat 2016 with a new query. In fact we’re trying it out in this way before we foist it on the unsuspecting Agent Community. Last week the roster was announced, and our entry had been chosen.  So we were in!  Our fist contest in which we actually made it past the entry stage.  So no matter what happens next, we will get some very valuable feedback from the judges and other participants on our query and first page.

Of course, we want to make it to the next round. And the next. And so on. We are certainly interested in the great exposure to agents, and the multiple opportunities to revise or query along the way. But for now, we’re just excited to have made it this far. It is a valuable and timely boost to our morale, and we won’t let it go to waste.

Please check out the contest; it is hosted over three separate blogs:

Michelle Hauck

Michael Anthony

Laura Heffernan

The code name for our entry is BATTLE ROYALE (it is on Michelle’s blog, and you have to click on “older posts” at the bottom of the first page to get to it).  PLEASE do not vote — that is reserved for the official judges. But comments are welcome. Constructive criticism is preferred over cheerleading, but comments are comments and the more the merrier.

If you are a writer in the querying trenches, these vetted queries and first pages are an invaluable glimpse into what works. Avail yourself of the opportunity to while it lasts.

And thanks in advance for your support.