Since I do the Contest Roundup every month (we have a big one coming up soon!) and we talk about contests quite a bit in our Sub It Club support group, I have a lot of thoughts about these sorts of opportunities. For one, I think that all of you who participate in any sort of contest where you post your work online are very brave to be putting something out there for everyone to see, many times in contests where criticism by peers and/or those in publishing is solicited. You are amazing!
When you enter a contest or Twitter pitch party you can be opening your work up to a lot of great agents and editors. It’s good to keep in mind though, that you might also attract some people who are more questionable than others. When putting your work out there, a good thing to remember is that just because you get a request, it does not mean you have to submit your work to that person.
It’s your job to research those who have asked to see the manuscript you’ve worked so hard on. Yes, it seems that most of the people who participate in these writing contests and pitch opportunities are on the up and up. They want to help even! There can be great opportunities and there are many success stories that have come through contests. Of course, there can be both agents and publishers participating in contests who are very new to the business. It’s up to you to decide whether or not they have the support system and/or background to be a good partner for you and your work. Unfortunately there are also some people out there who are not all they make themselves out to be.
When you get a request, do your research. Look at the requester’s Twitter bio (a lot of these questionable requests happen via Twitter). People usually have a link to their webpage. Do an internet search and see what you come up with. What are their books like? What is their background? Read all you can about the person, agency, and/or publisher to give yourself a good idea of who the person is that you are sending your work to. Some agents and publishers are definitely harder to find information on than others. But, most agents have online presences these days. If you can’t find a publisher’s books, do you really want to work with them? Hmm.
Do remember, just because you get an offer doesn’t mean you have to say yes. It means you get to ask all the questions you need to make a good decision for you and your work. But we all know that it can be hard to think rationally when there is an offer on the table for something we’ve put our heart and soul into. Taking the time to do a little research before submitting, even on a requested manuscript, is never a bad thing.