In the author's own words:
Ahhhhhh- I've devoured these stories on your blog like they were candy
and dreamed of the day I could send me own. The day is here! Only mine
is a little different....
I am writing to share an indirect success story that has a traditional
happy ending, in that I did sign with an unbelievable rock star agent,
but instead this note addresses the other success story that came from
my entering Miss Snark (alongside other online contests, I must
confess.) So this is not really a “How I Got My Agent” story, but a
“How I Got My Writing Community” story and to me, both hold equal
I was like so many writers who hit send on a contest submission like
Secret Agent with an equal amount of excitement and trepidation. I
hoped, hoped, hoped I’d get in, but, oh God, what if no one
commented/liked it/requested it and all that failure would be on display
for all to see?
Well, all of those dreaded things happened to me, and I learned so much
from them. Learning what wasn't working was as, if not more, important
that the confidence boost that came from the supportive comments.
Part of entering most contests is making a commitment to comment on a
certain number of other entries (and if it isn’t, writers should do it
anyway out of respect). Analyzing what wasn’t working in others’ queries
and/or opening pages often opened my eyes to similar mistakes in mine
and the comments made on my entry caused me to look long and hard at
what I was presenting to agents.
But even more impactful for me was finding those queries for stories I
knew I would LOVE to read. Of course I told the authors just that in the
comment box, but if I could determine who those authors were, I also
followed them on Twitter and struck up conversations. It wasn't long
before a few of those conversations led to MS swaps. Swapping with
someone outside of my usual CP group brought a helpful outside
perspective from writers I admired and also delivered friendships with
people writing the kind of stories I really connected with—who hopefully
felt the same about mine. We are now actively cheering each other
along our paths to publication and, not only has my writing grown as a
result of these connections, but so has my enjoyment of the whole
process and the connection I feel to the larger kidlit community.
When it was finally my turn for “The Call”, one of the recently-agented
writers I had connected with through a contest was invaluable in helping
me navigate the offers of representation I received. I can’t imagine
having gone through that dizzy, crazy week without her. Other contest
buddies reacted to my good news with an excitement almost equal to my
own and made the whole breathless experience a million times more
amazing. Likewise, sharing in their good news feels very much like
celebrating a success of my own and I can’t wait for the day in the
not-distant future when I can pick my way along the bookstore shelves
and see the names of genuine friends on the (outward-facing!) covers.
Getting honest feedback from agents is a huge bonus to entering
contests, and in fact, after a Ninja Agent on WriteOnCon made one
comment that caused me to add seven tiny words to my query, my request
rate went from 5% to 40%. Had I not put my work on the line, I might
still be languishing in the slush pile. I don't mean to minimize that
aspect of the contests and I get that the goal of everyone entering is
to attract the attention of an interested agent (of course, it was mine
too). But I do also want to highlight the other opportunities that
contests like Secret Agent and Bakers Dozen can present. It may be that
you attract an agent you wouldn’t have otherwise known about or
queried, or get an invaluable peek into an agent’s decision to request
or pass on your query, but I would also consider it a success to see
what isn’t working in your query (where fixing it could earn you a
better request rate) or perhaps even discovering a new friend or two to
share the whole journey.
I really want to thank you for all of the effort that you put into
organizing and hosting these contests and hope everyone entering Baker’s
Dozen finds much success, no matter what that success looks like!