Saturday, March 9, 2013

Contests & Querying: Are We Spamming Agents?

Let's not be Lemmings:
Persistence vs. Spam
( image source: itsklicken )
You wouldn't query the same agent with the same project twice, right? Of course not! We wouldn't dream of it. It's like spam, right?!

The same applies to contests.

Yesterday, Dahlia did a great guest post on Cupid's Literary Connection about How to Know if a Contest is Right for You. One of the great points she made was this:

      •  Don't submit to contests filled mostly with
        who've already seen your work

I don't know about you, but I have a spreadsheet I use when querying agents. When I've queried an agent, I move them up to the top of my spreadsheet and flag the column "Queried" with the date. I argue the same should apply to contests.

      •  Use a Spreadsheet: Keep track of ALL agents
          who've seen your query, 
        contests included

Now I don't keep track of "Contest Agents" in the same way I do agents I've queried. Technically I haven't queried them, and (depending on contest rules) I can query them in the future. In fact, just today I saw an agent that explicitly said she welcomed this.

But in my spreadsheet, I do add a note that Contest Agents have seen my work before. That way when I sit down to query or to consider a contest to enter, I can judge accordingly:

      • Ask: Have all these agents recently seen this pitch?

If the answer is no, great: submit. If it's yes, I have a couple options: revise my pitch, enter as-is, or don't enter. Ultimately, they have seen my work in some form, and rejected it. In some cases the best option is to gracefully bow out. Like Dahlia said, there's no reason to spam agents. In the case of querying, it may be redundant. In the case of contests it just clutters up the contest for other authors.

       ** Caveat: Twitter Pitch contests, admittedly, are different,
            because so little of your work is being seen.

Now maybe I feel an agent who didn't pick my manuscript in a contest would truly be good fit for my novel. Maybe I want to contact them again. If I do, via contest or traditional query, I'll need to take another long look at the material they've seen.

I could argue: "Well maybe it wasn't the pitch. Maybe they missed it in the pile of one-hundred Pitch + First 250s. Maybe they were having a bad day ... maybe tomorrow they'll like it." After all, this is a subjective business, right? ... True, BUT there might be other reasons. And when it comes right down to it, essentially they passed on my book once.

      •  If they passed in a contest, you likely "can" query them again
         But without revising, should you?

So before submitting, let's take some time to review and reflect. Did we get feedback from our fellow writers? Maybe we take another look at their suggestions. Maybe we get our Betas/CPs to critique our work. Or we put it through Absolute Write's Query Letter Hell or Share Your Work. Polish it up and re-check the agent's wish list before sending it out again.

There are lots of good reasons not to spam agents with the same material. They have a ton on their plates already! Plus we're just cluttering things up for our fellow authors who want their work seen too.

And ultimately, our best chance at success is to put our best work forward, right? ... Not the same thing that got us rejected by that agent the first time around. Do we really want them to sit down with our query and go "...oh geez, Déjà Vu" ... ??

So I'd argue, go forth! Query and Contest! But do so thoughtfully.

What do you think?
    • Do you keep track of who has seen your submission in contests? 
    • How much do we need to revise before querying an agent
      who has 'passed' in a contest?
    • When shouldn't we submit? How many of the same agents in a contest is too many?


  1. These are all really good points about contests. I think that it's okay to send a real query to an agent you have pitched in a contest if you do a lot of revisions to both your pitch and the story itself.

  2. That seems only fair.
    I've never entered a contest or queried an agent. (I queried publishers directly.)

  3. DEFINITELY keep tabs on agents who might've seen your work in contests, if that's possible. I use QueryTracker.

    And yes! I'd query an agent who might've seen my pitch in a contest - if I altered my pitch and whatever part of the story they laid eyes on (like the first 250 or such).

    I'm currently in revision mode and changing dialogue and phrasing, tightening up some things, and hoping it improves my book. So far, I think it is.

    Can't wait to start querying again!



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