Sunday, March 24, 2013

Why--Win or Lose--Blog Contests Rock

It seems like my Twitter timeline has been inundated lately with blog contests for unpublished writers looking to get the attention of agents. I've entered  and  won a few of these myself in the last year as I've been seeking a home for Imperfectly Fine, and I have to say that--for me--they've been AMAZEBALLS. Here are just a few reasons why I think every writer looking to get published needs to stick their neck out there in a blog contest at least once.

1. You learn more by losing than winning
Really and truly. It's good to know what you're doing right when honing your query or pitch or first 250 words of your mss, but it's more important to learn what you're doing wrong. At some point during these contests, you'll get feedback, either from other unagented writers, the agented writers hosting the contests, or even agents themselves. This feedback is priceless because every critique gets you one step closer to getting it right. You don't get better by winning. You get better by falling down and picking yourself back up to try again. Even if that feedback is limited to "not winning", you can learn something.

2. Free networking opportunity
Every year I shell out nearly $300 on my state SCBWI conference. The most face time you can hope for is a 10 minute critique from an agent, which may or may not land you with an offer to send more pages for further review. The sessions are helpful, networking extremely useful moving forward, and the keynotes are often inspiring. But it's a lot of money. It's worth it, don't get me wrong, but that's a lot to invest when you're not selling books yet. I'm fortunate enough to live in the city where our state conference is hosted so I don't have to pay for a hotel or airfare, but the national conferences in New York and LA? Forget it. That's above my paygrade right now. So, if you're like me and you need to get some feedback, inspiration, and networking under your belt but don't have a lot of cash to throw around, blog contests are a good start.

3. Meet new CPs and beta readers
It seems like I thoroughly dried up my well of beta readers with this manuscript. I've been working on it since May, so it's gone through about four solid, thorough revisions in the ten months, and each of those times I've needed a fresh set of eyes to tell me what they think. That can be hard to come by after the first one or two rounds. Blog contests are a good way to meet new readers. Another unagented writer may read your pitch and comment on it in a meaningful way and you might connect on twitter or via blog or email and keep reading for each other post-contest. If you're lucky, agented and experienced writers hosting the contests may offer to beta read for you. And if you're really lucky, you'll land bad ass readers like these gals  who turn out to be pretty awesomesauce as people, too. (These two I'm keeping forever.) ;)

4. Your name becomes familiar in the writing community
Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising. People see you tweeting about a blog contest and follow you. They read your entry and check out your blog. This all can and does matter if an agent scopes you out via google. Got 1000+ followers on Twitter? That's a built-in audience for your book. So long as the name you're making for yourself is a respectable one, that is. Being NICE in the face of failure is another blog post altogether.

5. Blog contests are a good opportunity to see what else is sloshing around the slush pile
If there are 18 people pitching Time Travel to the Zombie Apocalypse manuscripts in a single contest, that's a good sign that maybe the novel you're pitching isn't as original as you thought. It's good to know who you're up against and where your manuscript falls within the spectrum of competition.

6. It's about the journey, right?
I feel like I can comfortably say that in the last 8-10 months I have learned more about myself, my writing, and my path toward publication from blog contests than I have any other single experience. You won't know what you'll gain from a contest unless you enter one yourself. Put yourself out there. Be brave. Expect to fail and to learn from it. Because the most valuable part of participating in a blog contest isn't winning. It's becoming a better writer.

Some blog contests you should think about entering: 

Brenda Drake--the Goddess and Guru behind Pitch Wars, Trick or Treat with Agents and Pitch Madness. Subscribe to her blog for a chance to get your words in front of a whole mess of authors and agents. Contests throughout the year.

Miss Snark's First Victim--Secret Agent: Do not pass go, do not collect $300 until you have entered one of MSFV's Secret Agent contests. You will learn loads. Promise. I've gotten my ass handed to me twice in the past couple years. No regrets. Authoress' next contest is TOMORROW.

Cupid's Literary Connection--I have not personally entered any of Cupid's contests, but I've heard such good things. See for yourself and let me know what you think!

Kimberly Chase--Okay, so I'm a little biased on this one because Kim rocks my writerly socks, but you should still be following her blog, FB, and Twitter. Subscribe to her blog and stay tuned for more info as we get closer to November!

What are some blog contests you've entered that we should be keeping an eye on What have you learned from the contests you've entered so far?


  1. I LOVE this post and not just because of all the nice things you said about me. ;) Though those were very sweet. *hugs*
    Your 6 reasons to participate in writing contests are spot on! I didn't get my agent through a contest, but I certainly learned from them and made a lot of friends with them. In fact, the idea for Trick or Treat w/ Agents stemmed from my own personal experience with contests. And without my friendship with Brenda Drake and Deanna Romito, that contest would never have seen the light of day! So while contests are a great way to interest an agent, they're also about so much more as you eloquently stated above.
    About YALLFest...this is an event held in Charleston, SC every year for YA writers and readers. Think writing panels and autographed books.

  2. I agree that you learn a lot from just getting feedback. I just did the WriteOnCon one and got a lot of feedback that's helping me make my query (and my story) better.

  3. @Kim ah ok--I thought it was something online! Maybe we can do an online contest in conjunction with it or something.

    @Natalie--thank you for mentioning WriteOnCon. I totally forgot to include WriteOnCon which is an amazing resource for both new and veteran writers!

  4. Great post! It's so true, blog contests are great for feedback, and more importantly for me, making new writing buddies! Sometimes I feel so alone in my I-don't-have-an-agent-yet-so-I'm-a-loser world that I forget that tons of other writers as struggling with the exact same feelings as me. I've LOVED connecting with other people in these contests! A million thanks for all the hard work the blog hosts do to put them on!