Now that Pitchslam is over, I decided to put together a few thoughts on how contests have changed and where they might be headed.
Twitter parties are growing and getting bigger. There is much more chatter and spontaneous games on the twitter feed than ever before. Writers are joining twitter simply to hang out under contest hashtags and interact with other writers. They're making friends, finding CPs, and interacting more than ever before. It's a fun and wonderful result of contests.
On the other side, while agents are still eager to take part in contests and be part of the show, there is a change here. Agents are much less free with their requests than ever before. While last year and the year before, one blog of entries (10-12) might receive thirty requests; now the same group of entries would be more likely to garner half that in requests. This year, agents who used to do seven or eight requests each on a blog, now settle for two to three, or even zero requests.
The agents are being much more selective. Perhaps they overdid it in the past and lived with the result of tons of manuscripts to read filling their inbox. Perhaps they are not seeing what is marketable in recent contests or their wishlists are much narrower. But even the requests that do come through are for fewer pages than in the past.
I had only one full request in Pitchslam and the majority of requests were on the lower end of the scale, asking for twenty-five pages instead of fifty or one hundred. In the past, there were usually a couple of full requests and many more larger samples sought.
I can't begin to predict whether that will carry forward into future contests. Perhaps there are simply too many contests, packed too close together. It makes for interesting speculation.
Also there is a decided trend away from adult entries and toward YA and middle grade. That was always the case, but even more than usual now. Adult entries are virtually ignored. Perhaps the adult writers are relying too much on tried and true plots and not experimenting enough. Who can say? But I have noticed another trend toward high concept and multicultural plots.
Agents tend to agree (even when the comments are hidden) on requesting entries with multicultural plots. Plots which have elements of other cultures are almost sure to get requests--in YA and middle grade. As are plots that are very unique and haven't been seen before--what I call high concept. Unusually and fresh plots are easy to spot when you've read hundreds of query letters. They do stand out from the crowd just by virtue of being different from everyone else.
Look at entries in Pitchslam with multiple requests and it's probably either high concept or multicultural (including LGBT) or both.
I hope this gives writers ideas for their next story concept and what agents may be looking for. Have you spotted any trends in contests? What have you noticed?