Lately I've been having some contest anxiety -- it's really hard to put your work out to be judged in public. And yes, that's a strange realization for me, as a blogger of Operation Awesome, which is best known for the Mystery Agent contests.
Confession and credit due -- the Mystery Agent contest was Katrina's idea, and it was driven by all the other wonderful women of Operation Awesome, especially Amparo, Lindsay, and Kristal. When the contest launched in September 2010, I wasn't even sure whether it was a good idea.
But it was a brilliant idea! We've had a lot of great agents help out, and we've had success stories -- winners who've gone on to get offers and contracts.
But I'm here to praise the entrants who didn't win. Because those writers deserve praise for putting themselves out there and taking the risk.
Because when the contest launched, I had an agent. I don't have one anymore. I can't enter our Mystery Agent contests, but I've entered others. And mostly I have lost. Sometimes it's worth a shrug -- nothing ventured, nothing gained -- but sometimes it feels like every agent in the world has simultaneously seen your query and rejected, while everyone else you know is watching.
Of course it's not really like that. Of course contests are fallable and limited. One of my good friends suffered from a high-profile contest entry that gained her zero agent requests -- not even any comments. It threw her into a spiral of writerly despair -- probably the lowest point I've seen for her. The only thing that pulled her out was an agent offer -- then an agent cage fight, with multiple agents competing to represent that very same book, just weeks later.
Oddly, the fallability of contests is why I think they're worthwhile -- because querying is fallable too. On any given day that an agent reads your query, she might be in an awful mood. She might have suffered a crushing defeat with a client in your genre. She might have blisters from breaking in new shoes or her office neighbor might be eating a really stinky lunch at his desk. And you get a rejection.
So a contest is another chance, and you never know. Maybe your pitch attracts an agent's attention when a query didn't -- or vice versa.
And there's this: I think when agents look at their queries, sometimes they're looking for reasons to say no -- wouldn't life be easier with no new fulls to read?
But in a contest, SOMEBODY is going to win. Why not you?
So keep entering, OK? If you can be brave, I can be too.
What are your thoughts on contests? How hard is it to put your work in public? Why do you do it?