So. Are you an author who is trying to get an agent? Sick of the plug-and-chug of querying and waiting? Want a change of pace?
Try an agent contest.
Before I was an agented author, I tried a couple. I entered The Writer's Voice with my NA fantastical romance, Finding Mulligan (read about my experience in that contest here on my main site), and I attended the follow-up Twitter pitch party (discussed here). I actually did get a request during the pitch party, though it later turned into a rejection from the partial. It was still a good experience . . . especially since I later got my agent through traditional querying and ended up on the mentoring/judging side in subsequent contests, so I knew what it was like on both sides!
Here are some contests you should try if you're feeling plucky and you've got a finished, polished, ready-to-query manuscript. Heads up because the first one is TODAY!
ADULT PITCH (#AdPit): October 16.
Awesome! In a sea of YA domination, there is finally a contest for JUST adult manuscripts. This contest accepts adult fiction and adult nonfiction of all genres!
The details: Heidi Norrod's Blog.
The rub: From 8 AM to 8 PM EST, you can pitch your book on Twitter using the hashtag #AdPit. Agents will look at the 140-character pitches and favorite or reply to the ones they want. You could get a request just from a once-an-hour tweet! Go for it.
NIGHTMARE ON QUERY STREET: October 19.
A query contest accepting all genres (except picture books and erotica), focused on FEAR.
The details: Michelle4Laughs has the announcement here, the list of agents here, and the explanation for how the agents bid here.
The rub: You e-mail your query and first 250 words to the contest's e-mail address, and you also have to write 100 words about what your protagonist fears most of all. The organizers choose their favorites and post them on the contest's blog, and then the agents will use the comments to identify the books they want to see (10 pages, 50 pages, or a full manuscript).TRICK-OR-TREAT WITH AGENTS: October 22.
A Halloween-themed contest for MG, YA, NA, and Adult books. Costumed agents will pick their favorites!
The rub: You e-mail your query and first 250 words to the contest's e-mail address, and you also have to answer two questions about your protagonist's favorite costume and your manuscript's unique marketability. Then the contest organizers--three of them--will pick 13 lucky entries each to post on their blogs and wait for trick-or-treaters: the AGENTS! Agents choose a costume and leave "candy" (well, coded comments) on the entries they like, and you may get a request from a Mystery Agent. Then all will be revealed at the end when you find out who's in what costume.THE BAKER'S DOZEN: October 29 & 31 / November 5 & 7
All genres participate in an auction-style event, with specially chosen entries by the contest organizers.
The details: Miss Snark's blog.
The rub: This contest has an entry fee, but it's Miss Snark, man. Adult fiction pitches on the earlier dates; YA/MG pitches on the later dates. You submit a logline and 250 words of your manuscript, and the contest organizers choose 60 favorites. Public critique begins and agents later post the number of pages they want to see as "bidding" to see who gets it.
PITCH WARS: December 2
Authors submit to mentors hoping to get chosen for a full-book critique and grooming for the agent round.
The details: Brenda Drake's blog shows a basic overview and a list of the participating mentors. I am a mentor this year! Check me out! I'm #42!
The rub: Once mentors' preferences and bios are posted (not yet as of this writing), authors can browse through the mentors who are accepting their genre and choose up to 4 to apply to. Each mentor gets to pick one mentee (plus a couple alternates), and we'll shine up your pitch and massage your book for the agent round. Then the entries will be posted and the agents will bid.