Apr 24, 2015

Query Kombat: What You Need to Know

Bloggers SC, Michael, and Michelle are back again to bring you the third annual Query Kombat tournament.

The Basics

Query Kombat will host 64 kombatants in a single-elimination, tournament style query-off. Entries will go head to head (one on one) with one another until only ONE entry remains. There will be a total of six rounds in Query Kombat. 64 entries in round one, 32 in round two, 16 in round three, 8 in round four, 4 in round five, and 2 in round six.

As we said, some things have changed. We’re doing away with tournament brackets this year. Instead, entries will be matched up based on target audience and genre. We'll continue grouping that way until it's no longer possible.

If you secure a spot in the tournament, your query and the first 250 words of your manuscript (to the end of a complete sentence) will be pitted against another query and first 250 words. Judges will read each match-up and vote 'Victory' on the best entry. Remember, this is subjective. Considering last year, votes may come down to personal tastes.

The entry with the most ‘victories’ at the end of the round will advance to the next round until only one champion remains. 

This year the agent round will be held after the first round. That mean 32 entries will make it into the agent round. 32!

Of course, there's a twist!

The agent round will be conducted in secret. And by secret, we mean TOP SECRET. Entrants won't know who requested what—or how much—until that entrant has been eliminated from the contest.
On the plus side, winners of the first round will be able to resubmit their entry prior to the agent round. So, any feedback the judges give can be implemented before the agents see your work.

Who’s Invited to Submit:

The Query Kombat tournament is open only to unagented writers seeking representation. Your manuscript must be complete, polished, and ready to submit. If your manuscript has already been in the agent round of another contest, you are not eligible to participate in Query Kombat. Please don’t try to sneak in. The QK team includes about fifty people and a few hundreds of spectators. Someone will notice and inform us. Submissions for Picture Books, MG, YA, NA, and Adult works will be accepted. Only one entry per person. Do not attempt to submit more than one entry by using different email accounts. Again, the QK family is huge. Someone will notice.


The submission window will open on May 22nd at 5:30 PM Eastern time and close in ONE hour. Repeat: YOU HAVE ONE HOUR TO ENTER ONLY. The window closes at 6:30PM.

We will have email confirmation. If you don't receive it within an hour of submitting your entry, contact us via twitter and let us know. You may submit entries for (a maximum of) two manuscripts (in the same email) but we will only consider the second entry on the last day of the submission window. Kontestants will be revealed on May 30th, and the tournament will kick off on June 1st.

IMPORTANT: The Query Kombat team reserves the right to disqualify any entrant at any time for any reason. If an entrant is disqualified before the agent round, an alternate will take its place. If an entrant is disqualified after the agent round, the opposing entry will automatically advance to the next round. The only time we will ever disqualify an applicant is if you say or do something to blemish the spirit of query contests. Query Kombat is supposed to be fun… 

So none of this!

In order to enter the contest you MUST follow formatting guidelines, and submit during the contest window. All entries that follow said guidelines will be considered. 

In the event that we receive more than the available 64 spots (this is highly expected), Michelle, SC, and I will savagely attack the slush pile in attempts to build the best team. We will pick (and announce) three alternates in case a submission is disqualified.

Entries should be sent to:  QueryKombat (at) gmail (dot) com. The email address has changed from last year. Be mindful of that.

Formatting Guidelines:

Font: Times New Roman (or an equivalent), 12pt font, single-spaced with spaces between each paragraph. No (I repeat: NO!) indentations.
Subject line of the Email: A short, unique nickname for your entry [colon] your genre (audience included). Do not skip this step or your entry will be deleted. (ex. I Fell in Love with a Ken Doll: Adult Erotica)

For the nickname, make it as unique as possible so that there are no duplicates. These will be the names used in the tournament (or an abbreviated version if it's too long) so keep it PG-13 and try to have it relate to your story in some way.

In the body of the email (with examples):

Title: Eunuchs and Politics
Name: Michael Anthony
Email address: myboyfriendwasbittenbyashark (at) gmail (dot) com.

Entry Nickname: I Fell in Love with a Ken Doll
Word count: 68K
Genre: Adult Erotica


I FELL IN LOVE WITH A KEN DOLL tells the harrowing story of Barbra B. Doll, a US senator who goes against country, family, and the Illumaniti to be with an amateur surfer with no genitalia. 

First 250 words:

Words, words, and more words.

Don't include the chapter title and please, don't stop in the middle of a. Do not include a bio or comp title.

All queries submitted are FINAL. We will not edit them in any way, shape, or form. Please read, reread, and rereread your submission before you hit send. You have several weeks to polish your work. Take advantage of it. Competition will be fierce.

Host Blogs

Because the immense amount of work ahead of us, the tournament will be hosted on three separate blogs. In order to enter the contest, you MUST following all Michael and Michelle's blogs and sign up for SC's monthly newsletter concerning his 'Write Inclusively' campaign. All three blogs will host the first round and agent round. The second round will be hosted by Michael and SC. The third round will be hosted by Michelle. The fourth round will be hosted by SC. The fifth round will be hosted by Michael. The final round will be hosted by Michelle. Have no fear, each blog will have links to all rounds so you will not get lost.

Agents and judges will be revealed soon. (As of now we have 15ish agents and 30 judges!)
Questions can be left in the comments and I'll answer them as quickly as possible. Best of luck in the tournament!

Apr 5, 2015

A Query Kombat Success: Mary Ann

Contests aren't just about landing an agent. They're about learning as well. If you participate in a contest but don't learn anything, you're doing something wrong. Mary Ann is a prime example of doing things right. She participated in Query Kombat and, with what she learned, went on to accomplish a dream. Here's a piece of her story...
In 2013, my karate instructor asked me: "What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?" The answer came easy: write a novel. He said, “Do it.”
So the next month, I entered Nanowrimo and churned out a total piece of crap. Writing that first novel taught me things about craft, about my own voice and style, and mainly about my own capacity for barfing out a ton of words at a single go. I badly wanted that book to be good enough, so I revised and revised and revised until it wasn’t completely terrible.
Not knowing any better, I entered novel #1 in contests. I entered it into Pitch Madness and didn’t get in. I revised and entered it in Nest Pitch and didn’t get in. I revised and entered it in Pitch Slam and didn’t get in. Undaunted, I revised and revised, learning more and more about what works and what doesn’t.
When I entered Query Kombat in the Spring of 2014, I was seriously on the verge of giving up on this pipe dream. I mean, obviously I couldn’t compete with all those “real” writers. I fully expected another rejection. But the wonderful SC picked me to be on his team (Writerbees!), boosting my morale by letting me know I was getting closer. It didn’t even matter that I got knocked out in the first round. Query Kombat was a career-changing experience for me. (Thanks SC!)
As a bonus, the query I wrote for this contest resulted in my first full request (and it came on the day the Query Kombat entries went live). So as I watched my QK entry get KOed, I was doing a happy jig.
As a super-double atomic-powered bonus, I found friends and CPs for life by connecting with a QK teammate and, true story, with the same girl who knocked me out in the first round.
By the time I realized novel #1 was doomed, I’d managed to learn how to write a decent query, get requests, and get accepted into contests. But deep in my heart, I knew novel #1 was my practice novel. My trunk novel. My "one day I'll know how to fix you novel." I needed to move on.
So I buckled down and pounded out novel #2. Thanks to my new incredible CPs, I finished it just in time to enter it into Pitch Wars. I was surprised and delighted to be picked by my amazing mentor, Jaime Loren, who helped me revamp that sucker into a novel I’m truly proud of. And while my entry did great during the agent round, Pitch Wars didn’t lead to an offer. And in fact, cold querying that novel landed me one single solitary request.
In December, I put novel #2 into a metaphorical Viking boat, cast it off to sea, and shot it with a flaming arrow. I love that book, but it wasn't the one.
Fortunately, I’d already started novel #3 before Pitch Wars selections were announced in September. I finished drafting in November (yeah Nano!), revised three times in December, and began querying at the end of January.
This time things went faster. I'd barely dipped my toes into the query waters when I got a number of requests. I entered Agent Query and threw out some twitter pitches which resulted in a few more requests. Coming full circle, I entered Pitch Madness.
However, I ended up dropping out before picks were made because…
After a month of obsessively refreshing my email and trying to read the Query Tracker tea leaves, I heard the panic-inducing “You have mail” ringtone associated with my author email account.
Now, I have a tendency to band-aid rip whenever I get a reply from an agent. I immediately scan for keywords like “unfortunately” and “subjective” on the one hand or “happy” and “please attach” on the other, so I can brace myself for a rejection or psych myself up for a request (or maybe, at long last, an offer). So when this email began with "Please forgive me," I blew a raspberry. And then read: “...for taking a while to get back to you.” I made myself read the words in the letter in sequential order and discovered that it looked suspiciously like an offer. The agent I had cold queried explained that one of the other agents at the agency loved my novel and wanted to work with me.
I spent the next four hours trying to piece together a coherent sentence to let them know I was thrilled. I wondered if it was possible to screw that up so badly the whole thing would go poof.
The contract came at the same time as the invitation to talk, so I went into The Call with an offer in hand, which meant the ball was in my court to make sure she was right for me. That put me at ease and stressed me out all at the same time.
I'd love to share all the details of the actual call, but it's shrouded in the fog of war. I had my list of questions to ask, and ask I did. And she had all the right answers. I hung up the phone ready to sign the contract and send it back, but I had outstanding materials with other agents.
I took the requisite week to get my ducks in a row, got more requests, some rejections, an offer to revise and resubmit, and another offer of representation from a second very lovely agent. If she'd been the only one offering, I would have taken her offer with no hesitation.
But I had a decision to make. I knew I couldn't really go wrong either way. Both agencies were highly reputable. The clients of both agents had nothing but glowing praise to offer. Both agents said lovely things about my novel. And both had ideas for revisions.
In the end, I went with my gut. I felt that the first offering agent's vision for my book and my career more closely lined up with my own. (Also, I have a major crush on this agency.) And so, I happily, accepted representation from Rachel Stout at Dystel and Goderich.
I’m a computer programmer, nerd, and writer of contemporary romance, based in central Virginia. When I’m not writing, I do karate with my kids and read my friends’ unpublished novels in Word doc form. Theoretically, I love to travel but until I find a patron to fund my trip around the world, I placate my wanderlust by letting my characters hop on a plane and hang out in Paris. I’m a contest veteran of Query Kombat and Pitch Wars in 2014. My website is www.maryannmarlowe.com.