When you're a contest host you get lots of questions. Let's face it--writers worry. Maybe it's our extra helping of imagination. Maybe it's because the stakes are so high. But that leads to a lot of questions. And that's okay. As a host, it is part of my job. No question is too crazy or asked too often. So fire away in the comments. You can ask about Sun versus Snow or about contests in general.
I'll also do a few of the most often asked questions right here in the post--a sort of FAQ for Sun versus Snow, but do add your own or ask for more information if something is unclear. But first here's an overview of how Sun versus Snow works.
I am the snow side of Sun versus Snow and my wonderful co-host Amy Trueblood is the sun. She hails from Arizona and I'm here in snowy Indiana. What could be more interesting then the extremes of our different climates and using that for a contest?
Sun versus Snow is a writer contest that features a query letter and the first 250 words of manuscripts. It is open to any middle grade, young adult, new adult, and adult manuscripts. We are not accepting picture books or chapter books. Entries should be complete and polished.
Amy and I pick the best entries from the email slush and post them to our blogs for our seventeen agents (and any ninjas) to make requests for pages. The submission date is February 1st. You can read all the rules here. The agent round is February 22nd. (List of agents here.) And the chosen entries do get to work with a mentor to polish their query and 250 words.
This is different from a twitter pitch contest in that the agents only see the picked finalists. And it happens on blogs and through emails. Our hashtag #sunvssnow is for making writer friends and having fun. We don't post any pitching there.
Now some frequent questions:
Should my entry be single spaced or should I double space the first 250 words?
Answer: The whole entry should be single spaced with spaces between paragraphs. Spaces between paragraphs is very important. When you are reading 200 entries, that white space really helps your eye and keeps you sane. Otherwise the words start to blur together.
Often the spaces can get lost when you copy and paste to an email. To be really safe, backspace out the spaces and add them in again manually inside the email.
Oh, and no attachments. Everything goes in the body of the email.
My email doesn't have Times New Roman. What do I do? Will you disqualify my entry?
Answer: No. We don't disqualify for formatting. We only disqualify if a part of your entry is missing--such as you left off the first 250 words and only sent a query letter--or there is some cheating involved. If your email doesn't have Times New Roman use whatever is closest to that font. Just don't use some font that is wild and hard to read.
I personally don't like Courier font. Like above, it sort of helps reading if all the entries have the same font. That's why we ask for a specific one.
Can I include my bio in the query?
Answer: We don't want to see your bio or word count/genre sentence. The word count and genre is up above so no need to repeat them. The bio could bias us. Bios can be added if picked for the agent round. You can include your comps in your submission.
My manuscript features two alternating POV. Can I put that in the query?
Answer: This is an important feature of many NA and romance. So yes. That can be included.
My last sentence of the first 250 words goes over 250 words. Should I stop at 250? Or completing the sentence puts me at 260 words, is that okay?
Answer: Do not stop in the middle of a sentence. You may go over by three or four words. It is not okay to go over by ten words. Then you need to cut. We want to be fair and hold everyone to the same standard. Find some words to cut somewhere to be at the right length or very close.
Too long entries will be disqualified.
Note: There is no word count length restriction for the query letter.
Does word count matter in your picks?
Answer: Yes. If your entry is close to the accepted standard for your genre and age category, you are more likely to be picked. Agents go by these word count standards. I've noticed when I pick a 50K YA that it is less likely to get requests. Same with an adult ms far over 100K. A too large or too small word count can hurt your chances.
I asked my editor at Harper Voyager about the word count of my sequel. What he said was interesting. They have a fine schedule for the books they publish as far as timing. If the word count goes higher, it can mess with that schedule and throw everyone off, the editing and formatting will need more time.
We might pick an outstanding entry that doesn't follow the standards, but that will be rare.
Good places to check standards are http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2011/05/wordcount-dracula.html and http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/word-count-for-novels-and-childrens-books-the-definitive-post
I also write under a pen name. Can I send different entries under two names?
Answer: No. This will get you disqualified. Send only one entry, no matter how many pen names or different email address you have. We like to share the love and give more people the opportunity to make the agent round.
How do I follow your blog?
Answer: We ask that you follow our blogs because we are doing this work for nothing. It helps show us we are appreciated--and everyone wants to be appreciated. :-)
There is a widget in the right sidebar of my blog that says "join this site." Click on that. You must have a Google account for the widget to work. If you don't have a Google account, you may subscribe to my newsletter instead. It's in the same sidebar at the top. My newsletter gives early notice of upcoming contests and opportunities.
The method for following Amy's blog is different. She has a small "follow" button at the bottom of her blog.
I was in #SFFpit or some other twitter pitch event. Does that mean I can't enter? Or does that mean I can't enter the new twitter pitch event in February?
Answer: No. We don't count twitter pitch events as agent contests. They don't have a set list of agents and they don't have query letters. They aren't the same as Sun versus Snow so you can do both.
My story was in PitchWars or Nightmare on Query Street, does this mean I can't enter?
Answer: Yes. We ask that if your manuscript was in an agent round in a contest within the last five months, that you don't enter Sun versus Snow. We want to showcase unseen manuscripts for our agents and give them something new. We also want to give opportunities to more writers by giving new people a chance.
I was in an agent round, but I've really changed my manuscript and have done a big revision. Can I enter?
Answer: Technically yes. But I would advise checking our list of agents. If most of those have seen your manuscript, please give someone else a chance.
This also applies if you haven't been in an agent round, but most of our listed agents have seen your query. You might want to look for a different contest to enter.
I have a different manuscript finished then what I got in an agent round. Can I send that?
Answer: Yes. If you have something fresh to show the agents, then it's fine to enter it.
I just finished my manuscript. It's not really polished, but it's done. Can I enter?
If your manuscript won't be ready to send on February 22nd, then please don't enter. We want our agents to get their requests within a few days, not a few weeks. It has to be ready to go.
I already have partials and full requests out from querying. Can I enter?
Answer: Yes. But we ask that if you get an offer, please let us know right away. We want to celebrate with you! And we don't want to pick an entry for the agent round that already has an agent offer.
I never have any luck in contests. Why should I enter? I won't get picked.
Answer: Don't sell yourself short.
Also, only a small percentage of people will make it into contests. I never managed to get into any large contests. I got my agents through regular querying. But contests are for more than just requests. Contests are a great way to connect with other writers and learn about writing. There's lots of wisdom floating around the hashtag #sunvssnow on twitter. Contests are helpful no matter how it turns out for you.
Those are some of the most often asked questions. But they are no means all. Please leave more questions in the comments or ask me on twitter (@michelle4laughs). We also have a #SVSChat scheduled with our mentors at 3:00 pm and 9:00 pm EST on January 29th, where you can ask about publishing or querying or contests.
Contests are so much fun. We want you there joining us!