Did you raise your eyebrows with that? Did you that combination snort-scoff thing? Or roll your eyes? (You didn’t think I saw, but I totally did.)
I’m not budging. I stand by my statement. If you’re slapping your logline into contests entry slots for agent attention alone, you’re doing it wrong.
Are there author-agent match-ups that rise, phoenix-like, from the fires of contests? Absolutely! I know of several, including one of my (long-suffering) CPs K.T. Hanna. It happens all the time, and if it happens for you, slap a gold star sticker on your forehead because you just received the Ultimate Contest Participant Bonus Prize.
But for every contest success story, there are a dozen others that end in duds. Maybe you get a few requests, but they don’t end in yeses. Maybe the agent that you were really aiming for doesn’t even give your entry a passing nod. Maybe you get no requests at all. Nobody wants to think about it or talk about it or even look at it directly, but it totally happens. Agents are elusive, unicorn-esque creatures that may or may not appear where you want them, and no matter how polished your entry, it might not ring any of their bells.
“So…what?” you say. “Should I just not enter contests? I seem to recall you being involved with quite a few, Little Miss Hypocrite?”
No, you should totally enter contests. I’m a huge, HUGE proponent.
Why? Because of the other writers.
That’s where the goldmine is, people. Thrown together by a shared, high-stress situation; huddled on whatever the contest hashtag is; joined by the biting of nails, the ripping of hair, the rending of garments…this is how great writer bonds can begin. Take the movie Speed, for instance. The only way you get a world in which Sandra Bullock swaps spit with Keanu Reeves is if you throw them in a blender with a bus and a bomb. Contests are our bus and bomb. The agony, anxiety and elation is a fucking insta-crucible. Shit melts together. Writers melt together. Maybe you’re not besties for life, but I bet you’ve got a lot more people to share wins and woes with.
This won’t happen all on its own, though. That gold ain’t gonna mine itself. You have to be active in the contest – not just with the hosts or the agents, but with your fellow participants. Get on the hashtag and talk with people. If possible, take time and read the other pitches. If you see one that rocks, tell that person they rock. Stay positive on the hashtag even if the contest isn’t going great for you. It’s not going to be easy, especially if pitches you hate are getting lots of agent-love, but put on your big kid panties and keep your cheer on anyway. After all, someday you’re going to want people to cheer for you.
An agent may be your end goal, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by strapping blinders to your head and tramping toward them without making connections along the way. Connections are awesome. Connections help keep you going when you can’t find your way out on your own.
Don’t do contests just for the agents. Do it to be part of the community, or you might find yourself missing out.
Tracey: When you can’t run, you crawl, and when you can’t crawl – when you can’t do that…
Zoë: You find someone to carry you.