Pitch Contests: An Agent’s Perspective

By Jennie Goloboy

I get asked to visit online pitch contests all the time, and in general, I’m happy to do it.  From my perspective, it’s a great way to find authors who may not have heard of me– or may not know that their book is something I’d consider representing.  However, there are some things that I wish the people running these pitch contests knew.

  1. I really don’t want to play any games-– I just want to ask for writing samples from the pitches that appeal to me. Sometimes pitch contests give the agents prizes for requesting a lot of pitches, but it doesn’t benefit your authors to have me request material I’d never consider representing.  I also don’t want to be able to “steal” a pitch from other agents– how can I know whether I really want a manuscript until I read it?  This is my job, and I take it seriously.
  1. It doesn’t benefit me much to see material a week faster than the other agents in the contest. (I mention this because it’s often a prize for agents.)  In general, I try to look at requested material in the order it was received, and that includes manuscripts that came in through the slush pile, manuscripts sent to me by friends, and manuscripts I requested at conferences– which means I’m usually at least a month out on sample chapters.  By the time I get to the contestant’s sample, the contest will probably be over, and I can request it immediately.
  1. I might be more interested in the runner-up’s manuscript than the winner’s manuscript. I might judge the runner-up to be more marketable, or to be something I need more for my roster of clients.
  1. I really miss seeing the author’s bio when I read anonymous contest entries. Not because I expect every author who queries me to have a huge track record (because they’d probably already have an agent) but because I’d like to know about the background that inspired the author to write the book.  Was the space fireman book written by a real fireman?  Send it on!


By the way, if you’ve written a book about space firemen, I’d love to see it.