Tag Archives: contests

Getting the most out of contests and conferences

Professional networking.

Image by flickr user Ghozt Tramp

By the time you read this, I’ll have submitted my pitch and first chapter for Pitch Wars, a contest hosted by the fabulous Brenda Drake in which selected applicants are paired with mentors to polish their manuscripts and pitches, and then agents read the pitches and request anything that catches their eye. It’s a wonderful opportunity for mentees to learn from people who have been in their shoes, for mentors and mentees to connect with other writers, and for agents to find great books. But I’m going to echo some things I keep hearing from the mentors and past participants: first, being a Pitch Wars mentee will not guarantee that you’ll get an agent right away, nor will not being chosen for the contest mean you’ll never get an agent with that manuscript; and second, the agent round is the least important part of the contest. Pitch Wars is all about making connections and learning from each other. And you don’t have to be a mentee to benefit from the contest. Follow along on Twitter (#PitchWars), cheer the contestants on, and soak up all the advice the participants offer in their tweets and on their blogs. Join in the conversation, and you may just meet your next CP, or your next best friend (or both!).

I view conferences in a similar light. There are usually opportunities to pitch to agents, but I think the greatest value lies in making connections and learning from your fellow conference-goers — both faculty and attendees. If you go to a conference with the single goal of getting an agent, you’ll be disappointed if the agent(s) you pitch to don’t request your work, and you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities to grow as a writer. I’ve mentioned this before, but I met all of my CPs (and some of my best friends) at Midwest Writers Workshop. That conference is where I first began looking at writing as a career, and where I was introduced to the business side of writing. I’ve pitched to agents there the past three years, but I actually got more out of spending time with them informally at meals and in the hotel lobby. Why? Because we got to know each other. We got to talk about the industry and books without the awkwardness of my pitch hovering between us. And I learned which agents I might enjoy working with, because I got a sense of their personalities and communication styles. Anyone I can discuss zombie apocalypses, the NFL, and the yin and yang of gay YA with is someone I’d be comfortable talking about my work and my career with. (And remember, you don’t want to just get an agent; you want to get the right agent for you. Your agent will be your business partner, so you want to make sure you’ll get along well.)

So, even if you don’t get picked for a contest, or the agent you thought would be perfect for you doesn’t request your full manuscript on the spot, you can still get a lot out of contests and conferences. Make as many meaningful connections as you can, and be open to learning from everyone you meet, no matter where they are in their careers.

What advice do you have for contest entrants and conference attendees?


Support fellow writers, win 100 books, and more at #YAlaunch

How We Fall. I always loveThe Hit List. opportunities to champion and support other writers, so today I’m going to spotlight Kate Brauning and Nikki Urang’s #YAlaunch on Monday, November 10. These two amazing authors are celebrating the debuts of Kate’s How We Fall and Nikki’s The Hit List on November 11 with a virtual launch party that will include games, visits from several YA authors, and giveaways of 100 books.

Check out the details in this post on Pub Hub, and hopefully I’ll see you there!

Contest Alert: Pitch Plus Five

Trophy. For writers who have a polished manuscript, Adventures in YA Publishing is holding a Pitch Plus Five contest this Sunday where you have a chance to get your first five pages critiqued by other writers, bloggers, authors, and agents. There are some pretty awesome prizes for the finalists, including chapter and query letter critiques from agents and published authors. The judge list alone has me really excited — some of my favorite bloggers and authors will be judging the first two rounds, and the list of agents lined up to judge round three is spectacular.

I’ll let you check out the details yourself on their contest website. Good luck to all who enter — hopefully I’ll see all our pages posted next week!

Why I entered Pitch Wars

Pitch Wars. For those not familiar with Pitch Wars, it’s a contest hosted by Brenda Drake in which published or agented writers volunteer to mentor an unagented writer, helping her polish her manuscript and pitch in preparation for the agent round when literary agents will view the pitches and request material that interests them. Chosen mentees must be prepared to edit their entire manuscript, and be willing to accept ruthless — but helpful! — critique.

While I would love to be chosen as one of the mentees or alternates, the chance to get my work in front of agents is only part of the reason I entered Pitch Wars. Contests like this are great ways to connect with other writers, even if your work isn’t chosen. Simply preparing to enter has already expanded my virtual network of writers — I’ve commented on multiple blogs, tweeted at a few mentors and fellow entrants, and added many forthcoming books to my to-read list that I might not have come across had I not been researching the various mentors to decide whom to apply to. I’m a chronic lurker on blogs and Twitter hashtags, and Pitch Wars has given me something to talk about and contribute to conversations.

You may have heard this before, but I think the biggest, most lasting benefits to contests like Pitch Wars are the connections you make with other writers. I’ve already made a few, and I’m still waiting to hear if I’ve been chosen as a mentee or alternate. Even if your manuscript isn’t ready for Pitch Wars, I encourage you to check out the mentors’ blogs and follow them on Twitter — you’ll probably find some people who write your genre or have the same favorite books (and maybe one of their books will become your new favorite!).

For those who don’t make it into Pitch Wars, Miss Snark will be holding a Baker’s Dozen contest soon. Check out her blog for more details!

Have any of you entered Pitch Wars? Are there other contests you’re planning to enter? Please share in the comments!

MWW Takeaways

Our extended writing family at MWW.

Our extended writing family at MWW

I just got back from Midwest Writers Workshop, where I learned a lot and spent time with some truly amazing people. The biggest takeaway for me this year was networking — lots of writers I know mostly on Twitter or only see a few times a year were there, plus I got to meet some new writers who weren’t previously on my radar. Gushing about the great times we had talking writing and life in general won’t help you any, so I’ll only say this about networking: I’m proud to be a contributing part of this creative, supportive community.

If you’re still writing in a bubble, I strongly encourage you to reach out to other writers. Whether you meet them at a conference or through contests or Twitter, having a supportive network is one of the best things you can do for your writing career. For contests, a great place to start is Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars if you have a completed manuscript. Even if you’re not ready to enter contests, just looking at others’ entries can help you meet people who write what you write. I know several people who met critique partners through comments on a blog contest — they had similar tastes and writing styles and decided to trade pages.

Besides networking, another thing that was mentioned a lot at the conference was the importance of knowing what publishing route you want to take before you start submitting. I already know I want to sign with an agent and publish traditionally, but that’s just one of many paths to publication. Writers can also submit their work directly to small presses, or they can choose to self-publish. I think different routes work better for different writers; ultimately, you have to decide what’s best for you and your book. However, both agents and authors at MWW agreed that you should know what that is before you start querying.

Why? Agents like to control where they send their clients’ manuscripts. If a small press offers to publish your manuscript at the same time an agent is reading it, you may be forced to make some tough decisions. Telling the agent about the offer might make her more inclined to read your work quickly, or it might make her more inclined to pass on the project. You don’t want to hurt your chances at getting an agent (if you decide that’s what you want) because you’ve submitted to small presses, too.

So, know which path you want to take from the start.

Those are my two big business-end takeaways from MWW. I’ve already got next year’s conference marked on my calendar!

Query tips and cool things in writing

This week’s post is going to be a collection of fun things that I’ve come across or been working with in the last couple weeks. Since I’m deep in the trenches of querying, I’ll start with one of my new favorite blogs.

Query Shark

Query Shark. Query Shark has been around for years, and I’ve had plenty of people tell me to browse the “sharkives,” but until recently I’d only skimmed a couple posts. I wish I could go back now and tell myself to take a closer look when I first started writing queries, because this is hands-down the best resource I’ve seen for writing a polished query. Query Shark (a.k.a. Janet Reid of Fine Print Literary Management) posts ruthless critiques of queries that guests have submitted, offering feedback on how to hook readers, trim lengthy prose, and more. My query is 1,000,000 times better at least, and I have ideas to improve it even more before I send it out to agents. I am not only am I more confident in my query, but I’m also applying these skills to my current WIP. Seriously, if you’re a writer and you haven’t read the sharkives yet, do it. Now.

Fourth Annual NaNoWriMo Pitchapaloooza

The Book Doctors. Send your 250-word pitch to The Book Doctors by March 7, 2014 for a chance to win a free pitch critique and an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for your manuscript. Twenty-five pitches will be randomly selected for online critique, and a winner from the group will be introduced to an agent or publisher. A fan favorite will also receive a free one-hour consultation with The Book Doctors.

They’re also offering free 20-minute consultations to anyone who buys a copy of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published. For more details, visit the Pitchapaloooza announcement.

Smith Publicity Book Publicity Consultation Contest

Smith Publicity. Enter for a chance to win a one-hour consultation with Smith Publicity and get your book uploaded to NetGalley, “a community of 100,000+ librarians, book reviewers, bloggers, educators, booksellers, and media” (including yours truly). To enter, write an essay of 500 words or fewer explaining why your book deserves publicity exposure. For more details, check out the contest description.


Every so often, an agent will decide to tweet about ten queries s/he has received with the #tenqueries hashtag. This won’t help you write your query, but I find it encouraging whenever I feel like I’m drowning in the slush pile. So many of these discuss basic mistakes such as not following submission guidelines that I feel better about my own queries.


I’ve discussed this before, but there was another #MSWL (manuscript wish list) day on February 26. I had fun reading about what agents want to see and favoriting a few tweets that matched my work. Someone even had the idea of collecting all of the #MSWL tweets on a single blog for easier browsing. Just remember that #MSWL is for agents. Don’t try to pitch your book on Twitter; instead, follow the agent’s submission guidelines. (Otherwise you may end up as one of the #tenqueries that give me a healthy dose of schadenfreude.) And finally, keep in mind that this is a very specific list; if your book doesn’t fit with an agent’s wish list, but it is a genre that s/he represents, query away!

Writers on a train!

Amtrak train.

Photo by flickr user dok1

This isn’t query-related, but it’s so cool that I had to include it. In an interview interview with Pen America, Alexander Chee said, “I still like a train best for [writing]. I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.” Jessica Gross tweeted about it, and was surprised when Amtrak responded offering her a test run. #AmtrakResidency was trending on Twitter for a few days, and Amtrak is looking into whether and how to make this a recurring program. Check out this article in The Wire to learn more.

And now I’m off to polish my query. Have you come across any cool happenings or resources lately?

Spotlight and Giveaway: Red Rising

Red Rising. I don’t often post reviews on my blog (I have a Goodreads account for that), but last month I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, and it kind of blew my mind. I’m also always in favor of helping a fellow writer out, so I thought I’d take this chance to promote a debut author and his awesome book. The publisher, Del Ray, is raffling off two signed copies of the book; I’ve pasted the link for you to enter below.

Here’s the summary from Amazon:

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power.  He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies . . . even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

As I said, this book blew my mind. Pierce Brown’s rich prose and invented slang have created a setting so real that I could feel myself sweating in Darrow’s frysuit. Part Ender’s Game, part Hunger Games, and yet entirely unique, Red Rising is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I can’t wait to see what Brown has in store for Darrow in the rest of the triology.

About Pierce Brown

Pierce Brown. Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating from college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a magical bone in his body. So while trying to make it as a writer, he worked as a manager of social media at a startup tech company, toiled as a peon on the Disney lot at ABC Studios, did his time as an NBC page, and gave sleep deprivation a new meaning during his stint as an aide on a U.S. Senate campaign. Now he lives Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre.

Find Pierce on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.

Use the links below to purchase a copy.

Amazon  |  B&N  |  iBookstoreGoogle PlayAll other retailers

Use the Raffle Copter to enter for a chance to win a signed copy!