There are more ways to publish a book than ever before– big publishing companies, vanity publishers, online self-publishing, the list goes on and on– but most of the authors on the “New Releases” shelf at Barnes and Noble got there by sending their book to an agent first. Agents are the gatekeepers in traditional publishing. They choose who they want to represent, they help those writers get their manuscripts polished to perfection, then they take the manuscript to publishers and try to sell it. You can’t just walk into RandomHouse and hand them your book. Well, I guess you could, but it wouldn’t have time to cool from your hot little hands before it hit the bottom of the nearest trash can.
So, if one wants to go the traditional route (as I do) step one is to get an agent. Which is hard. Really hard. Really, really hard. Some agents get hundreds of query letters a day. Hundreds. Some other agents don’t even accept queries unless they have requested them. “Closed to submissions” is a frequent tag on agent websites. So… how do you get your book in front of an agent who isn’t even accepting submissions? How do you get an agent to read past the first line of your query letter when they are swamped? If you can’t get an agent to read your book, how on earth can you get them to represent you?
Good question. One way is to cold query. Just send query letters to agents who are open to submissions. Hope eventually your query letter snags someone’s attention and they ask for more.
The other way?
Yes, that’s right. Twitter. Specifically, twitter contests. Something I didn’t know existed six months ago.
Various writers/editors/agents whathaveyou have created contests throughout the year where volunteer readers wade through a pool of applicants, select their favorites, then work with those writers to get their submissions in tip-top shape. At the end of many of these contests is an Agent Round, where agents agree to read through the queries and first few pages of the “winners.” This is a great way to get an agent’s attention, even some of those “closed to submission” agents.
I’m currently working on my query letter/synopsis/pitch in preparation for a few upcoming contests, so wish me luck. More than anything, the chance to get feedback and help from experienced writers is too good an opportunity to pass up.
If you’re a writer seeking representation, check out some of the contests listed below. Maybe one of them is your ticket!
February 24 Pitch Madness more info
Mar 23 #pitmad Twitter Pitch Contest More info
March 31 Ink and Insights (this one charges a reading fee but you are promised feedback from four readers) More Info
April 7 #P2P17 Pitch to Publication More info
April 13-23 Author Mentor Match More Info
April 25 #DVPit Twitter Party: Children’s & Teen – A contest specifically for marginalized writers (so, not me, but I wanted to share for anyone who qualifies) More info
Spring TBA — #PitchSlam — More info
May TBA — Query Kombat More info
Spring TBA — #FicFest More info
June 8 #pitmad Twitter Pitch Contest – More info
June TBA #SFFPit SciFi and Fantasy More Info
June 23 Red Light Green Light “An agent judge will choose the top 25 entries from the contestants’ first sentences.” More info
Sept 7 June 8 #pitmad Twitter Pitch Contest – More info
Dec 7 June 8 #pitmad Twitter Pitch Contest – More info
Let the games begin!