I was just wasting time on social media when I came across a post about the rules of a writing contest. And in the comments, this:
“Wait, there are rules?”
Further comments lead me to believe that this person is serious.
I’m trying to remember that I’ve been doing this for years now and a lot of people are just starting out. Let me tell you something important: there are always rules. Always!
There is no way to get your query or contest entry deleted faster than to blatantly disregard the submission guidelines. You may think, “It’s not a big deal, it’s just my font and spacing.” Or, “I don’t have time to look up how many pages every single agent wants!” But when an agent or contest judge is literally going through dozens to hundreds of subs, “DID THEY FOLLOW THESE SIMPLE RULES I SPECIFICALLY ASKED THEM TO FOLLOW?” is the easiest way to weed people out.
If you want to win contests and land an agent, do these three things:
1. Know that there are rules. Unfortunately, every contest you enter and agent you query is going to have their own set. You wanted to be a writer. This is part of it.
2. Find the rules. Sometimes you have to click around, but I have never seen a contest or agency website with zero submission guidelines (unless said agency is closed to queries, in which case the rules are, “Do not query this agent”).
3. Follow the rules.
Just do it. Yes, it IS a pain to format your query letter and pages 20 different ways to submit to 20 different agents. Too bad. Professionals take the time to appear professional. When you don’t, your query/entry looks like a nasty, brown banana in the middle of a nice, yellow bunch. More than likely, you will get thrown out.