The Advantage of Pitch Contests

If you’re researching the publishing world, you’ve probably noticed that there are a ton of pitch contests out there.  Blogs and twitter are the main sources of these contests.  A lot of people are afraid to enter them, but they shouldn’t be.  Pitch contests are an extra way to put your novel out there for potential requests without risking your chance to actually query.

When you query, you’re picking the best agent in a given agency for your book.  For some agencies, this is your only chance to query that book to any agent there, while others have policies that allow you to query several of them if the first one you choose doesn’t work out.  Either way, once you query that agent, it’s done.  With very rare exceptions, if you decide you need to rework your query, you still can’t requery a rejecting agent.

If you enter a pitch contest, you can do so with your query, as is, or with a different pitch altogether.  Some contests require a different pitch.  If you’re pitching on twitter, you’re restricted to less than 140 characters.  Some pitch contests on blogs give you a limit: for example, three sentences.  With these, you can mix up your pitches and try something new or just use a shorter version of your query.

Here’s a couple of examples of pitch contests, and how they work to your advantage.

1. Let’s say a writer friend is having a mystery agent visit, and she’s running a pitch contest on her blog for that agent.  You know what the mystery agent likes, and your novel fits the bill.  You put on your query or a three-sentence pitch or a one-sentence pitch–you know, whatever the contest calls for.  Then the agent is revealed and it’s an agent you love from a “no from one = no from all” agency!  The contest ends, and the agent doesn’t choose yours.

Now sometimes that doesn’t mean the agent wouldn’t have requested if it had been a query in their inbox.  I’ve had an agent in a contest not choose my query as his top three, but my query was already in his inbox, and he requested off of it once he saw my sample pages.  In that contest, he could only choose three, and mine wasn’t one, but some contests have the agent(s) choosing all the queries he or she wants to see pages from.

In the case of this “no from one = no from all” agency, you now have the option to reconsider whether this agent is the one you should query.  The best part is that even though this agent saw your query, you haven’t actually queried them.  You can query this agent with a different pitch or query someone else at the agency.  No harm done.

2.  All-day Twitter contests.  I love these, especially when they’re like the #pitmad contest that was recently held.  Here you can pitch your novels all day long.  You can use a tried-and-true pitch or vary it every time.  Agents and editors come on when they have time and let authors know if they want to see more.  They don’t request usually, but instead ask for queries.  But in this case, you know they’re interested.  You can still query the same agents whenever you want, so you haven’t lost your chance with them, but if you get that “favorite” on your pitch, you know you have their attention, and it’s likely to lead to a request unless something in your query shows them that this isn’t really the novel for them.

These aren’t the only pitch contests out there.  Agents might hold their own.  Several blogs might get together and do something really complicated.  You might have to get in a certain time limit to even post your pitch.  You might have a ton of agents battling over pitches.  The contests can be simple or highly creative.

I know some people use these contests as a way to test their queries before they start querying.  I say it depends on the query and the contest.  If a single agent can only pick one out of a hundred queries, it might not be the best way to see whether your query is working, not compared to sending out queries to 10 agents who can request from as many queries in their inbox they feel like and getting no requests that way.  But if it’s one of those where your query is seen by several agents and they “bid” on queries they’d like to see more of and you don’t get any bids, you might rethink your query.  It just depends.

But overall, I think these types of contests are great ways to get your novel out there just one extra time without any risk whatsoever.  So give them a shot, and don’t be afraid.

Okay, so now you’re all my competition in the next pitch contest, right? 😉

Lots of love,
Sage

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