Is there such a think as too many contests?
If you are a querying writer, a literary agent, or an editor, the answer is probably yes.
There has been a lot of buzz among the online writing community about contest fatigue. Some agents think there are too many. Some writers think there are too many. And recently, bloggers hosting contests have complained that the events are pulling in less viewers than years past. Is this a sign of growing apathy towards contests? I don't know the answer to that.
But I do know contests play a vital role in the writing/publishing world.
As a growing writer seeking representation (like me) I think it’s important to try your luck at contests. It’s a brave way to get your name out there and it’s a spectacular way to get expert advice. But – remember, agents are reading these entries as they would your query letter. You do not want the agenting world to get bored with your pitch before you query them.
Here are four tips for avoiding Contest Fatigue:
1. Choose wisely – first and foremost, pick the contests that make the most sense for you. If you wrote an Adult Thriller then you probably shouldn’t submit it to a YA contest. Be sure the participating agents actually rep what you write. That way you avoid wasting your time, and the time of the lovely people hosting/participating in the contest.
2. Be ready – make sure your work is scrubbed. Don’t even think about submitting something hot off the NaNoWriMo presses. Edit that biotch. And then edit it again. In other words, don't use contests as a CP. I recently submitted an older version of my work to a contest that included some pretty lame errors. A lot of the critique I received on my work was around those embarrassing errors. What type of response would I have gotten had I submitted my scrubbed work?
3. Have a full query packet prepared – or ‘Be Ready’ part 2. Some contests will require you to have a query and the first chapter. Other will require a log line and 250 words. Some contests will require you to paint your body red and jump on one leg (but those aren’t the contests we’re talking about today). Regardless of what the rules call for you should have a complete query package at the ready. This means you should have a polished MS, query letter, and synopsis. Even if the contests doesn’t call for a synopsis you should have one ready to go. You never know if one of the participating agents will request one (this has happened to me and it caught me completely off guard. I vowed to never let it happen again).
4. Space out the contests you enter – or ‘Choose wisely’ part 2. There are a lot of YA contests going on in 4th quarter. A lot of the same agents participate in each contest. And participating in these contests is a big deal. They attract a lot of lurkers (don’t believe me? Check out the success stories section of MSFV. There are several about lurking agents). Sounds great, right? It can be. But it can also work against you if the agents lurking have read your entry over and over again. Spread out your entries so they are over multiple quarters or months. Don’t jump on every single contests offered in the month of March. If you do, chances are people will tire of your pitch. If you know you want to do PitchWars next year maybe avoid some of the other contests going on just before it.
Are you getting tired for contests? How do you avoid contest fatigue?