Monday, November 9, 2015

Notes from the Agent Rounds of Pitchwars and NoQS

Now that Pitchwars and Nightmare on Query Street are over, I have a few thoughts about changing trends and maybe just a touch of advice.

Once again the adult entries got much less attention than the Young Adult and Middle Grade ones. Some speculate that it's because they are last on the list of entries. Perhaps agents limit themselves to a certain number of requests and have reached their max before hitting the adult entries. They don't bother scrolling to the end of the blog to read the adult entries. Others consider whether the agents doing contests are much more interested in the children market than in adult. Many of the agents who are active in contests are younger themselves. And perhaps the demand of the young adult market is just more open for debut writers.

I figure it's probably a combination of many of these factors. Whatever the reason, it's impossible not to notice that adult entries got fewer requests in Pitchwars. There was no one with twenty requests like in the YA section.  I did notice a strong uptick in the quality of the adult entries from last year in Nightmare on Query Street. I had a harder time locating great adult entries with unique plots last year and earlier this year. But that seems to have changed. 

I do know that I plan a little experiment for Sun versus Snow in February. This time, I want to list the adult entries first, then young adult and middle grade. Just to see if there are any changes in the amount of requests. 

And now the biggest and most startling change I've seen in contests in the last month. Agents are offering within days. I don't think it's a secret that at least five Pitchwars entries got offers by a day after the agent round. It's more of a secret that there have been three offers to Nightmare on Query Street entries in less than a week. This is a big change from past contests. Agents aren't waiting. They are obviously feeling some kind of pressure to strike first and are reading manuscripts and making decisions literally overnight. 

It's certainly wonderful that some writers aren't waiting three months to hear back from agents. To hear news so fast is a blessing! But I think this calls for a different strategy for the writers who are picked for contests. First off, they need to send their requests in to the agents quickly. Possibly within hours of the request and not be tardy and wait a few days to reread their work. If agents are signing people overnight, they need to make sure their manuscripts are among those arriving first. 

Second, if agents are offering so quickly, that can mean the writer's options are slimmer. Typically when you get an offer, the writer has to notify all other agents with requests and queries and give them an opportunity to read and pass or offer. That gives writers an opportunity to have multiply offers. Writers can go with the best agent offer. If they don't have a batch of queries out already and an agent offers, they can't send out more queries. That just isn't done. It would be rude.

In Pitchwars where the writers weren't allowed to query, many of them didn't have anything out with agents. Their only opportunity is the requests they got in the contest. So the advice would be to send a batch of cold queries at the same time they sent the agent requests, just to give themselves possible options. That's how I advised my mentees to proceed. 

And there's just a brief update and a change happening within contests. I'm interested to see if the trend continues. Sun versus Snow will be my next contest and submission is in late January. See you then!


  1. Great article, Michelle.

    I had wondered about the positioning of adult submissions at the end of the Pitch Wars posts, too. Given the sheer number of entries - all of them amazing - it has to lead to some reviewer fatigue by the end!

  2. We adult writers had wondered about that, actually. We thought our stuff was pretty good, but we struggled to pick up requests. I know being Monster #2 sounded great, until I saw that meant I was all the way at the bottom of the page. Nature of the beast; someone is going to be there, and it might as well be me.

    It also goes to the heart of the matter, though: timing, positioning, and luck are a huge part of this business. Quality matters, but it's not the only factor. The trick is--I'd love to see more advice on this, too--being able to tell when your MS is good enough to get pubbed, but isn't hitting the holes in the brief moment they exist, and when it just isn't good enough. Might be an impossible task, but I bet I'm not the only one trying to accomplish it.

    Thanks, again, for a wonderful contest. Your hard work on our behalf will never be forgotten.

  3. This is a great post Michelle. I've noticed the uptick on the importance and immediacy of contest manuscripts as well. I think it's an interesting turn because statistically we've seen most agent/writer relationships begin through slush not contests but some agents participating in contests seem to place contest entries ahead of those requested through slush. It's an interesting trend. I'm curious to see what happens with this.

  4. Wow! Offering within days. Some of the agents requested many, many manuscripts. They must read really fast. Any full request I've ever received the good ole fashioned way never got a response (good or bad) before several months had passed.

  5. That's so exciting about the offers! I kept checking back on the #NoQS in case there was news, but no one posted until this. If you're reading, congrats everyone!

  6. I wondered about the adult entrees too because I do write both YA and adult and in a recent contest I submitted an adult mss (not yours) and didn't get picked. I hesitate entering an adult mss because of the lack of response but maybe it's because more of the agents who participate in contests are only looking for MG/YA. I'm not sure either. But offering in days is AMAZING. I have fulls out with agents and they've had them for months. Maybe it's the closeness of the holiday season making the Pitchwars agents offer so quickly? So many variables! Be sure to tell us who got repped from Nightmare!

  7. I was one of the last adult entries listed in SvS, and one of the only two that didn't show up on the main page of the blog--you had to look for our entries. I definitely wondered if that was the reason the other entry and I had the fewest requests.
    BUT there are more benefits to contests than requests. Getting help to polish my query and first 250 was invaluable and gave me the confidence I needed to start traditional querying. Which then lead to many more requests than I got through the contest. So I think it's important to acknowledge the inherent weaknesses in online contests, but we shouldn't let them limit us.