When you start querying you learn there are many ways to get your manuscript in front of agents: conferences, special giveaways/auctions, and, of course, contests. There are some writing pros out there who have this contest thing down to a science: Authoress, Cupid’s Literary Connection, Brenda Drake are just a few. After reading each of their blogs, I can tell you one thing – putting a contest together requires A LOT of work!
Just recently a new contest was introduced to the writing community. It was called Query Kombat, and it was a contest like no other. It pitted 64 queries against one another in a “final four” bracket-type competition. I was one of the competitors in this contest, and although I didn’t make it past the first round, it was incredibly fun. And the amazing thing? You would have never have known it was a contest. Each and every participant was cheering each other on from the sidelines, eager to have one another win!
Query Kombat concluded last week and was a great success. So, of course, I wanted to get one of its creators, Michelle Hauck, to give us a first hand account of how the contest came together and the challenges she and her partners, SC (@SC_Author) and Mike (@RavenousRushing), faced in creating this competition.
Amy: What made you decide you wanted to create a writing contest?
Michelle: I’d been talking with my one of my CPs about doing some kind of contest. I wanted to take that jump into being behind the scenes instead of a contestant. We were afraid to try anything too big. Afraid no one would enter and we couldn’t get any agents. Out of the blue, SC, who I knew from Agent Query Connect, invited me to help with a contest he and Mike wanted to start. They were looking for someone with a popular blog and more twitter contacts to help get the word out. (I was surprised to hear my blog was popular.)
It sounded like fun and I’m always open to fun, hence my nickname Michelle4Laughs. I said yes and the rest is history. You could say I was their third wheel.
Amy: How long did it take to work out the specific details for QueryKombat?
Michelle: We actually had a chat session just so we could discuss more of the little details. I think we spent a good month going back and forth with ideas. Mike had already come up with the inspiration of a combat contest and he had much of the larger plan all figured out. He even created the banners and brackets we posted on the blogs. SC and I helped with the small touches.
Emails flew like snowflakes for many weeks. I’ll be honest, we were extremely nervous that we wouldn’t get enough entries to fill out the 64 spots. Now it seems silly how worried we were. We got over 200 entries!
Amy: What was your process like for contacting agents and mentors? Did you want to have a specific number participate?
Michelle: Mike wanted eight mentors for the final sixteen so each mentor would have two kombatants to help. As for judges, we wanted as many as possible because of the subjective nature of these contests. SC and I contacted people we knew from AQC. (It’s a great place to meet and get advice from writers with agents and publishers.)
I ended up doing some work on twitter to get us a few more judges. That worked out wonderfully. I met some great new friends, and they did an awesome job with the contest. We really counted on our judges, and they came though every time!
Mike did all the agent contacts. He sent them an email that he wrote himself, and they responded with a lot of generosity. Many of them were very excited to be asked. Mike really managed this part all by himself and he succeeded so well.
I also want to give credit to Brenda Drake for helping us with advice and support as we were such newbies to the contest scene.
Amy: How has it been working with two other partners? Was there a definition of each of your roles going in?
Michelle: We really didn’t have a ‘you do this and I’ll do that’ kind of formal plan. We sort of fell into nice divisions. First one person would write up the blog posts and the next week someone else would volunteer to take a turn. SC set up the contest email. I did promoting on twitter. Mike organized everything. Whoever had the most free time took over the responsibilities for that day. I don’t think we argued over anything even though it has been a tweak as we go contest because of the newness of it all.
Amy: What has been the hardest part of doing QueryKombat?
Michelle: The amount of time it took was the second hardest part. I had the first round and it kept me hopping. There were 64 entries to copy from emails and format into blog posts. Together we read 200 plus queries and first pages and had to pick only 64 entries. I had to keep an eye out for spam comments and help the Kontestants when they needed corrections made.
Because this contest lasts so many weeks, we were constantly contacting the judges to remind them it was time for another round of voting. There were five rounds of votes. That’s a lot of dates to remember.
Trying to remember to hit reply all on our emails was the hardest part.
Actually the hardest part was voting against entries we really loved. Judging was amazingly difficult. There were so many great entries and always half of them were cut. I know it was physically painful at times.
Amy: And what has been the most rewarding?
Michelle: I enjoyed the activity on twitter the most. It was so much fun interacting with the writers in the contest. Watching them make new friendships with their opponents and cheering for each other was very rewarding.
Fingers crossed that we will help many writers land agents and publishing deals. I hope to hear success stories, which I will share!
Amy: If you decide to do QueryKombat again next year, will you make any changes?
Michelle: The three hosts have already talked about this issue. First, we have discussed a timeline for the next contest. It has to be spaced out to give us new manuscripts.
And second, we have discussed changes. One of the biggest would be to bring the agent round in sooner to give the agents more choice. I do think the feedback portion of the contest was a success. Everyone came away from the contest with a stronger query and first page.
Amy: What advice do you have for other bloggers who may be interested in creating a contest?
Michelle: Be prepared for how much time it takes. I’m talking hours and hours. It took me two days to format all the entries for the first round matchups. Two solid days. I used vacation days or I wouldn’t have managed it all.
But I would also say not to be afraid to try a contest. We were amazed and surprised by the response both from writers and from agents. It was a great experience and I look forward to the next.
Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.
Her epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is to be published by Divertir Publishing in 2013. Her short story, Frost and Fog, was picked up by The Elephant’s Bookshelf Press for their summer 2013 anthology. For more on Michelle, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter.