This past week, I came across two interesting contests.
On Nathan Bransford's blog, he hosted an Agent for a Day contest. Throughout the day, he posted 50 queries. Readers of the blog were invited to pretend they were agents and either reject or request the manuscript using the comment section. In the mix, Nathan included two queries of books that were to be published soon, and one query from a published book of an NYT bestselling author to see how many of the faux agents could pick them out.
I didn't participate, but I did read through many of the queries and comments, and I picked out the NYT bestseller, but only because I read the book. The comments were interesting. Some people took the time to come up with actual rejection letters, and others gave queriers pointers on how to improve their queries. Although it was only a small sample of what agents do for a living, I think it opened a lot of eyes. One thing I learned is that when agents say "it's not for me" that's exactly what they mean. Even though there were many good queries, and many books that sounded interesting, I would have rejected most of them. They just didn't "do it" for me.
If anyone is interested in trying it out, I believe the Agent for a Day contest is open until Saturday. Even if you don't participate, read some of the queries and comments. You'll probably find as I did, that the pitch is what's most important in a query. After I read a few, I skipped over any introductions, bios, etc., to get to the meat of the letter. Something to keep in mind for anyone crafting a query. Put the pitch first and it damn well better be a good one!
On the Query Tracker blog, agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe offered to read one-sentence pitches. The winner gets his or her full manuscript read by Joanna. I have a feeling she might be regretting that offer right now as they had over 300 submissions in a four hour time period. And I'll admit--one of the pitches was mine. I couldn't resist boiling down a whole book into one sentence.
These are both good sites for anyone who is going to the Pennwriters Conference (or any conference, for that matter) next month. Even if you don't have a pitch session scheduled, you never know when you might need that one sentence pitch, or even a 30 second pitch you can use while you're chatting with the agent in the bar and waiting for the margaritas to arrive.
How many of you have short pitches ready for those occasions? How short can you get your pitch? Anyone want to give it a shot?