Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Contest Crazy?

I love contests; I love that they open up extra exposure for authors, not only to agents but also to other writers who can offer advice and critiques. However, I’ve started to notice that these pitch and logline and first 500 word and secret agent contests are happening so frequently that not only do I find myself judging the same entries over and over again…I’m exhausted.

I know there are some major plus sides to all of this for authors – aside from the free extra exposure, there’s also a chance to query without having to meet query requirements (like a darn synopsis), a quick (possibly frenzied) response, agents coming to YOU and not the other way around, networking, and even just plain ol’ fun and excitement.

For me, though, I’m starting to feel a lot of down sides. Originally, these contests were a fabulous way to get my face out there and find new talent. Still are of course, but really, as an agent my job isn’t to search the slush pile. It’s to be an advocate for my clients. The contests force me to spend more time in the slush, basically, rather than on my clients. If I do decline a contest to avoid this, I feel like I’m missing out, because of course, not all writers who enter contests WOULD query me – but then, does that mean that they didn’t put me on their submit list on purpose, which means to read a contest entry is a waste of time anyway, or because they didn’t think of/ know of me?

Bottom line: I don’t want to miss a fresh find just because I’m growing as an agent (i.e., have more clients and sales), and so I scramble to make it all work, but…how much longer can I go?! I’m going contest C-RAZY!

It’s all exciting, of course. And I don’t want it to STOP. But NaNoWriMo is coming up (oh, how I love that too…) and, despite the pluses, I have heard my exhaustion echoed by a few authors scrambling to keep up with it all – which takes away from writing time!

So I’m going to keep this short and simple. I would like to put a call out for some fresh, either craft-oriented, giveaway or inspiring contests for a while, to let you fabulous writers create some fresh material and hone your skills to knock my socks off. And…maybe a call for some more spaced out agent contests!!

To that end, I have one up my sleeves I shall announce shortly…


  1. I saw your tweet about this earlier and I think it's a GREAT. POINT. Aside from seeing many of the same projects, I feel like we're also seeing the same core agents requested to take part. This seems like a disservice to both parties involved. They are WONDERFUL opportunities and take a lot of work for the bloggers putting them on, so definitely props to them for this - but perhaps reaching out to agents who haven't been involved in 90% of them or making sure not to recycle entries from other, recent contests would make it a bit more worthwhile after so much saturation?

  2. Good point, Natalie. I confess I entered the recent Genrebending First Lines contest to get my name in front of you, before I submitted my query to you. :-) But I can see how time-consuming it must be for you to do these. I'd understand if you cut back on the contests or only do ones that are different in some way.

  3. Natalie, I can tell you from someone who has entered too many contests the past few months, it is exhausting for us too! As a writer, I feel if I'm not entering every contest I might miss that magic opportunity to connect with a dream agent who may otherwise pass me up in the slush. I've done well in a few contests which has boosted my confidence, but at this point the contests are distractions. So I, for one, am going to take a rest for a while.

  4. First, thank you so much for taking part in these contests. It means a lot to us that you do! I'll be perfectly honest, though-- I've been holding back from entering a lot of contests because I'm afraid of becoming a repeating entry. There are some great contests out there and I've enjoyed taking part in a few, but I'm always afraid that I'm hurting my chances with wonderful agents if my query or first x# of lines start looking stale and familiar.

    I'm curious to see what you've cooked up for us, though. :)

  5. Great points. I feel a little contest exhaustion as a writer, too, and I haven't even been entering! But I think I feel like *I* could be missing out by not participating, too.

    I had a passing idea for a playlist-based contest I thought might be fun...

  6. To be honest, it feels like people are jumping the bandwagon and want more social media exposure for their own work/blogs. Also, it seems like the same works are being submitted & picked to go through--which is disheartening when the contest hosts & some of the repeat entrants are friendly with each other over Twitter and Facebook and know well in advance of one another's works.

  7. There comes a point when burnout happens--I was going through that last week, when I had two client edits to finish, a novel to rewrite, just got home from traveling for a wedding, wrestling with plot bunnies, behind on blogging...there's only so much I can do and still have time to write (and, oh, I'm longing to start something new). It seems to me that most things in the writing/publishing world are all about balance and realizing what you can and need to do. And that can change and fluctuate as life goes on and different things develop.

  8. I saw you and Jen L. lamenting this on twitter and I was wondering the same thing. I'm a querying author and I feel like querying is a part time job by itself, and yes, the contests do force you to interact with other writers more, but it is also soooo stressful! By the end of the Writers Voice last year I was a wreck, and I didn't even get chosen for a team.
    And I had thought about that--I am one of those writers who has a ms that isn't something I would have queried YOU with, yet you have to see it around all the time if you're one of the contest agents.
    I guess the same is true, though, with slush piles. You might miss something there if you don't spend enough time on it, and people who don't do their research might query you even though they don't write what you're looking for.
    It's a game of chance in a lot of ways.

  9. Yeah, being a host of contests, I'm feeling it, too. It seems like everyone noticed the success of contests past and decided to join the fray. After October, I'll be taking a break from contests for awhile in the hopes that next year will bring fresh pitches.

  10. I feel for you Natalie! I don't often hear a lot of work life balance from many agents - work can be their life to the detriment of everything else. Even though I am new to the contest world (and am excited of the prospects of entering one myself) I wouldn't want to do it knowing that the agent/judge behind it is losing her/his taste for it. And some day, when I’m agented I would want my agent to spend their time working for me – who wouldn’t! But I think it’s important to remember that agents are human too. Everyone needs a break to recharge their batteries and I would hope that people would be understanding if that’s what you decided you needed :)

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