For those going the traditional publishing route, you may find yourself sending out query letter after query letter to dozens of agents for representation, only to be rejected time and time again. Rejection is certainly a huge part of the publishing process—as well as something you’d be hard-pressed to get used to—because it’s going to happen a lot. However, it never really gets easier.


Enter the world of social media. Due to the ease of communication provided through channels such as Twitter and Google+, writers, editors, and agents have been able to meet one another and socialize in ways that would’ve never been possible 10 years ago. One of those ways is through query contests, an awesome new trend that has cropped up recently to allow aspiring authors a better chance at getting their work in front of an agent, and not sitting in the slush pile.


While every contest is different, be sure to follow the instructions exactly. It would be a shame to be eliminated for something as simple as, say, not following the agent’s blog (which is a requirement for some; they want to market themselves and their websites as well).

Here is a list of some of the contests I’ve come across since writing full-time, but there are many more to explore as well, for different genres, non-fiction, and poetry.

1. Sun vs. Snow Contest

I heard about this via Twitter, and everyone was very excited about it. Held by two authors, Michelle Hauck and Amy Trueblood, the contest took place in January 2014, and most likely will again in 2015. The submission guidelines request that their blogs be followed, with specific word count, genre, etc. detailed on the link I provided. Winners had their manuscripts looked over by agents with the possibility for representation.

2. In With The New

Michelle Hauck hosts numerous query contests throughout the year, including her latest this July called In With The New. Follow her blog and Twitter for continued updates on new query contests, with full lists of each agent who is participating, and what sort of work they represent. Contests are a great way to receive critiques from those you submit to, with the possibility of an agent showing interest.

3. Pitch Wars

This contest is held by another author who is well-known through social media, Brenda Drake. Held twice a year, in November and August, an entire month is devoted to authors who are selected to work with “mentors,” other successful authors and editors in the industry, to hone their manuscripts before sending to agents involved in the contest. The mentors last year included the NY Times and USA best-selling author Cora Cormack and the Pitch Wars host herself. The next submission round is August 18th of this year!

4 & 5. #Pitmad and Pitch Madness

Brenda Drake also hosts two other well-known contests: #Pitmad, where authors tweet their book’s premise in hopes of selection, and Pitch Madness, held every March and September, where agents have to play games against one another to “win” authors.

6. Poets & Writers Website

Another good resource for contests is the Poets & Writers website, which includes an extensive list of national contests, fellowships, and awards for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

7. Writer’s Digest

WD also holds numerous contests for short stories, self-published works, and flash fiction.

8. The Rising Star Contest: Women’s Fiction Writers Association

Open to every genre, this contest is held annually for unpublished writers. It offers the top five finalists a chance for their entries to be critiqued by three published authors, time for a revision, and the final critiqued manuscript sent in once more to be judged by five agents. The contest opens May 1st and only accepts the first 75 entries. Submission details include sending in the first 35 pages of a completed manuscript and a short synopsis. No query letter needed, $35 entry fee.

9. The Freelance Writing website

This site also lists a variety of other contests for short stories, flash fiction (1,000-2,000 words with a theme) and regional contests.

10. Query Tracker

Another great website with information about literary agents, what they’re looking for, and tips about querying is Query Tracker. They also have a discussion board where individuals can post upcoming contests that agents have mentioned over social media, their websites, etc.


This contest is mostly for fun, but does get the winning entries in front of published authors and agents. Submission deadlines are May 31st, with anonymous entries going “up against” one another for a winner that gets put into the next round. After eight weeks of rounds, the final winner is chosen. No money is awarded—but talk about some serious bragging rights!

There are many other contests that continue to be created monthly, so the best way to stay up to date is by connecting with other writers, agents, and bloggers via social media to hear about them. Twitter is a quick and easy way to do this, but also following the websites of those who host the contests (Brenda Drake, Amy Trueblood, etc.) is proactive.

Because a lot of this post has discussed social media as a way to find opportunities as a writer, my next post will focus on incorporating facets of social media to increase your reach and author platform.

Until then, keep writing and keep dreaming!

Ashley R. Carlson is an editorial intern for Midnight Publishing and AZ Foothills Magazine. Ashley’s first novel, a steampunk fantasy, is slated for release in Fall 2014. Check out her personal blog for discussions on love and art, more writing tips, and to hear about her own journey to self-publication. Ashley is obsessed with Yelping to find local restaurants, fostering animals from local shelters, and the Real Housewives of…anywhere. You can find her dilly-dallying at her: 

Twitter: @AshleyRCarlson1

Midnight Publishing offers skilled and affordable media architects for manuscript editing, self-publishing consultation and guidance, and author marketing. The ultimate role of the editor is to help the author connect with the reader. A good editor enhances that connection, providing another eye and view for the author. Our editors are artists of language, grammar, and the mechanics that help a manuscript take the journey from ordinary to great. Midnight Publishing also offers self-publishing consultation, query letter editing, graphic and web site design, business copy writing and editing, and more.

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