How to Prepare for a Pitch Contest

Photo credit: slightly everything on Flickr
So it’s the beginning of a new year, which means the beginning of a new season of pitch contests! This is a time I used to always look forward to in my unagented days, largely because I was slightly addicted to pitch contests. I can’t tell you how many I entered, because I’ve honestly lost count, but for me at least, it paid off.

Pitch contests, unsurprisingly, work most in your favor when you don’t jump into them blindly. So after you’ve decided you do want to enter that pitch contest, here are a few steps to take:

  1. Look carefully at the contest guidelines. This is really important because every contest is different. Some pitch contests are Twitter fests, which have rules about how many times you should post, and what’s required in your Twitter pitch, and whether or not you’re eligible (some are more narrow than others about what genres/categories are acceptable). Some pitch contests run on blogs and require pseudo-queries, or the first 250 words of your manuscript, or a few answered questions, or a sentence-long pitch, or a combination thereof. Every contest has their own rules about when to submit, how to submit, and how to participate before, during and after the event. Read the guidelines and make sure you follow the rules—the last thing you want is to be automatically disqualified because you didn’t take the time to read the guidelines. 

  2. Prepare your pitches and/or sample. Oftentimes (but not always) for a pitch contest, you’ll need a query-length pitch, the polished first 250 words of your MS, and a logline/Twitter pitch. Even if you don’t need all of those components, I highly recommend you get them together anyway, because you’ll inevitably need them.

    I’ve already written a few posts on how to write a great Twitter pitch (which can be used for any pitch, minus the character limit) as well as the importance of details in queries and pitches, and some common Twitter pitch mistakesso I recommend you check those out for help with the actual pitch-writing part.

  3. Get your pitches critiqued (a lot). To me, the most important part of writing your pitches and sample is getting them critiqued.

    There are usually loads of places to get pitches critiqued before a pitch contest, sometimes hosted on the contest blog, sometimes set up by fellow writers and announced on the hashtag on Twitter (so make sure you check it!). But the important thing is that you show your pitch to people who haven’t read your book and see what they think. Do they understand what your book is about? Are they intrigued? If the answer isn’t a clear yes to both, you know you’ve got some work to do. 

And that’s really all there is to it. Once you’ve polished your pitches to perfection, the only thing left to do is wait for those submission dates to arrive, cross your fingers and hope for the best. Good luck!

Upcoming pitch contest submission dates:

Have you ever entered a pitch contest? Do you have any tips for preparing?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Want to enter an upcoming pitch contest? Here are a few steps to take in preparation. (Click to tweet)


Briana Morgan said...

I LOVE pitch contests! It's a great way to get noticed and support other writers. Thanks for letting us know about upcoming contest dates. :)

Briana | The Novelista

Jen Donohue said...

Great advice! I'm not sure I'll ever enter one of those contests (my query letter is hard enough, a pitch? pfft), but I always watch with interest when people are partaking. It's an exciting atmosphere!

Ana @ Butterflies of the Imagi said...

I've never entered a pitch contest or queried an agent because I've only written one and a half novels, and neither novel is polished enough, but when I do start querying, I'll be sure to enter a pitch contest. I already new about the Miss Snark Contest, but thanks for the other contest suggestions.

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Jen! I actually encourage you to try to write some pitches, even if you don't enter any pitch contests. They can be a great way to a) get to the core of your story and b) become important when you need to tell people what your book is about quickly. :)

I agree, though! They're always very exciting, energetic spaces.

Ava Jae said...

You're very welcome! But totally take your time to get your manuscripts as good as they can be before worrying about contests. There's no rush. :)

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