Sep 22, 2013

My Take On...Starting A Writing Contest

When I had the idea for Query Kombat, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue but I had absolutely no idea how.

Of course, there was a lot of fear involved before even taking the first leap, and at every milestone littered throughout: Will agents respond? Will enough writers respond? Can I really do this? What if my partners and I can't agree on a key part of the contest? How can we divide the exposure and workload fairly and around each others work schedule? What happens if the contest falls through after we've spread the word?

Those fears paralyzed me for about a month. I mean, I was a new blogger with no followers, few writerly friends, and to top it all off, I'm an introvert.

About a week or two later, I entered SC's contest. One thing led to another, throw in five seconds of extroverted courage, and SC was on board with the contest. Not only that, he was EXCITED about it.

SC invited Michelle to lend her wisdom and help us out and, as you all know, she said yes as well.

At this point, I realized that taking the official first step to kicking off Query Kombat was very similar to standing at the base of Mt. Everest. I was too afraid to start something of that magnitude on my own, but with Michelle and SC standing at my side (though the fear was still there), I felt like it was possible. Not easy, just possible.

Maybe I'm out of line to say this, but I'm almost positive that a team is behind every big and medium sized writing contest out there, even if only one person hosts it. I wish you could see the HUNDREDS of emails SC, Michelle, and I sent back and forth. They would truly amaze.

Admittedly, I got lucky when it came to finding a great team. We were able to share, alter, disagree, question, expand on, and implement each others ideas without argument. And a lot of our ideas were left up to the popular vote.

Finding agents was the easy part. Explaining the entirety of the contest and their roles in it was a bit more difficult. It was almost like writing a query letter. We had to explain everything clearly but succinctly. I have to tell you, we each probably read and tweaked the email we would sent to agents a dozen times each. Same goes for each blog post concerning the contest.

Timing was also a challenge for us in more ways than one. Not only was sending and receiving time-sensitive emails impossible at times, but announcing and spreading the contest news (to the public) in a way that would keep us relevant was strategic. Too far apart and you feel like the contest isn't making enough ripples. Too close together and you feel like you're being bothersome...and if you announce all the info too soon you won't have any ripples to make later on.

Scheduling was very difficult because we were sandwiched between two holidays and had the run time of other contests to consider. Not only that, but we didn't want the contest to run longer than a month. Throw in the fact that we had to work around twenty-five other people's schedule AND we didn't really know what to expect from the judges in each round and you can see why the schedule was made to give us time to deal with any miscommunication (which there was a good amount of), mistakes, and problems.

Dividing the workload and exposure went particularly smoothly. We each had a reason for taking the round we did, and the two not hosting the round helped out the best they could. We (sort of) alternated between who wrote blog posts, emails to mentors, agents, judges, reminder emails, nudge emails, etc.

Disappointment is hard to deal with, and I think everyone can expect to have some disappointments with their first big contest (especially if their first big contest is their FIRST contest). The agent round (in our opinion) wasn't as spectacular as we hoped it would be. By no stretch of the imagination was it the agents' fault. Rather, it was our lack of experience with contests that led to a less than uber awesome round...


We learned. From all of our downfalls, mishaps, and failure, we learned. And when we come back next year, Query Kombat will be better. And it will only get better every year we bring it back.

All in all, Query Kombat was a difficult experience. I won't lie to you and say it was more fun than difficult, because it wasn't. It WAS rewarding though. Seeing queries get better, watching writers connect, and watching the AMAZING interactions with opponents was heartwarming. The writing community is truly like no other.

So, if you're interested in starting a writing contest, you should be nervous and afraid. Both of those feeling will help you, challenge you, and let you know whether or not you're up to the task. Sit on the idea for a few weeks. If after those weeks you haven't convinced yourself not to go through with it, talk it out with someone. See if your idea is feasible and unique in some way. Then look for agents, judges, mentors, etc if that's what your contest requires. Do that before you even announce your contest, because you shouldn't even think about conquering Mt. Everest without the right support. After that, be prepared to work. SC, Michelle, and I did share a few laughs along the way. But in between those laughs was hard work, frustration, and (at the end) relief.


  1. YAY!

    Mickey: Michelle
    Goofy: SC
    Donald: You


    1. It's great to get an inside look into how all of this works! Thanks for that, and for the honesty about the process. I totally believe it took HUNDREDS of emails. Congrats, though!

  2. About to send him another for our newest contest. We've gotta hash out the details for Nightmare on Query Street.