Thursday, July 24, 2014

6 Things I Learned From Hosting Contests

I'm a guest over at the awesome Operation Awesome! Head over to their blog to read my complete post.

First up, my credentials, so you know I'm not just pulling this out of thin air. I've co-hosted "Query Kombat" twice and "Nightmare on Query Street," hosted "The Writer's Tank" and twice hosted "Become an Agent," and I was a slush reader in "In With the New." So, yes, I've went through...dang, nearing a thousand queries and first 250 words.

When going through the slush to pick entries for the contest, we usually have a hashtag that we slush-readers use on Twitter. On this hashtag (different for each contest) we tweet our thoughts as we go through the slush, but I've never done a blog post on the subject.

1. It is SO, SO, SO subjective.

Maybe you need to be a slush-reader to truly understand this, but picking entries (and, to an extent, requesting material) is so subjective. We're not trying to make you feel better by saying this, we're not babying you: IT IS THE TRUTH. Very rarely do I ever feel 'satisfied' when I make my final picks. Most of the time I'm torn apart because there were so many others I wanted to pick but because of the limit on entries, I couldn't.

The same is true for agents. They can, technically, request a ton of material, but that means they'll fall behind on their own clients' work. No human can read five manuscripts a day. Agents must be picky for their clients' sake and their own sake.

2. In picking entries, it came down to "I MUST MUST MUST have this entry on my team."

This is related to point #1. Ultimately, especially with "In With the New" where I could pick only 4 entries from a slush of 191, I picked the entries that I just had to have on my team. Subjectivity played a huge deal.

This must be true for agents as well, and I've seen many echo the same sentiment: they must be dying to request. You've got to force them to request. Otherwise, if they find any reason to pass, they will. Of course, different agents act differently, but I've heard this sentiment many times and as a contest host, I do the same thing.

3. Follow submission guidelines. Please.

I automatically passed on an entry that forgot its header of Title, Word Count, Genre. I didn't even read the entry. I passed on one that had 200 sample words instead of the required 250.

Do yourself a favor and follow agent guidelines. They're there for a reason, and it's annoying and frustrating when submissions don't follow guidelines. It doesn't help you, either; it's an automatic pass.

Want to see the last three? Head over to Operation Awesome's blog to read the full article!


  1. Sad when people kill their own chances by not following guidelines.

  2. Amazing post! You're like a contest organizing veteran. I love the tips you enumerated there. I particularly like number 3. I've made that mistake once, and I vowed never to repeat it because the feeling of losing without even having fought properly is definitely the most frustrating thing. Anyway, thank you for sharing your experiences! All the best to you!

    Michelle Scott @ Skild