And here is the interview!
1. Krista, when did you start blogging and what was your initial purpose/reason?
I started blogging in September of 2009. The main reason I started blogging was because I wanted to connect with other writers. Specifically, I wanted to find a few critique partners to help me hone my manuscripts. I found all that and more:)
2. Why did you decide to start having writing contests? Was this before or after you found your agent?
I hosted my first regular writing contest in June of last year, so almost a full year before I found my agent. (Well, I was already well aware of Kate; she just hadn’t quite decided that she wanted to represent me:) ) I’d been interviewing agents for a while, and I wanted to up the ante. You have to keep blog contest fresh if you want people to keep coming back.
3. Was your blog already popular, and how did you promote the contests?
I’d say my blog was already reasonably popular. Like I mentioned before, I’d already established it as a place to come for agent interviews, so making the jump to contests felt pretty natural.
I promoted the contests the same way I promoted my interviews—by leaving messages on popular writing forums and websites like Absolute Write and QueryTracker. If you host it, they will come.
4. How do you approach/connect with the agents you wish to include in the contests?
I ask nicely:)
I think a lot of writers have this idea that agents are crazy-busy people who have no time for the little folk, but I’ve found that most agents, though crazy-busy, still want to connect with and help writers. Of course, some agents have to say no because they don’t have the time or inclination to judge contests, but you’d be surprised at how many say yes. (Hint: the vast majority.)
5. Have you ever run into any problems or disgruntled contestants, and how do you handle this?
I’m racking my brains, trying to remember if I’ve ever had any problems with “An Agent’s Inbox,” the monthly contest I host with revolving agents, but to be honest, nothing comes to mind. I’m sure I’ve disgruntled people, but they’ve been gracious enough to keep their disgruntlement to themselves:)
We did have a few problems with various elements of “The Writer’s Voice,” but then, most things look messier from the inside than the out. And everything turned out fine, so all’s well that ends well.
6. Are there any liability issues when running contests?
6. Are there any liability issues when running contests?
Gosh, I hope not.
7. How fast do the 20 slots fill up? I imagine it would depend on the agent and the genres the agent represents. "The Writer's Voice" seemed to fill up immediately but the "An Agent's Inbox" contests have slots still open hours later?
The slots for “An Agent’s Inbox” fill up at varying speeds. Sometimes they fill up within an hour or two, but sometimes it takes a day. And like you guessed, it does depend on the genres/categories The Agent represents. The rounds involving agents who represent YA and MG always fill up fastest.
8. Is it easier to run a contest on your own, or with a group of other bloggers as in the current “The Writer’s Voice” contest?
Great question, and the answer is…it depends. Some aspects of hosting contests are easier on my own; some are easier with a group. I really appreciated bouncing ideas off of the other coaches in “The Writer’s Voice,” and I was glad I could rely on their expertise in certain areas where I wasn’t as knowledgeable or experienced. But making decisions as a foursome was a lot harder than making decisions by myself.
9. On the recent "The Writer's Voice" contest you made a point of asking for cheerleading comments only. In your "An Agent's Inbox" contests the entries are open for critiques. Why the difference?
“An Agent’s Inbox” is all about feedback. The Agent comments on every entry so that the entrants—and the rest of us—can get some insight into what an agent’s thinking as she goes through a batch of queries, so I actually require all the entrants to critique each other's entries.
“The Writer’s Voice,” on the other hand, was all about the votes. The critiquing happened behind the scenes, when we coaches worked with our team members to whip their entries into shape, so we didn’t want them to feel inundated with other feedback. (Plus, we didn’t want to look bad when everybody else’s advice was so much better than our own:) )
10. You have recently started revealing the name of the agent before the contest starts. What do you think are the pros/con of revealing vs. keeping the identity of the agent a secret?
Initially, I kept The Agent’s identity a secret because that’s what Authoress of Miss Snark’s First Victim does:) But then a reader pointed out that it could be really helpful to get The Agent’s feedback on the personalization in the queries, so I decided to try a round in which we knew The Agent’s identity upfront. (That round was back in October with Kate Schafer Testerman, who, of course, is now my agent.) Now I just let The Agent decide at what point she wants me to reveal her identity.
Revealing The Agent’s identity upfront allows writers to really tailor their entries, but some agents prefer the anonymity while they’re leaving their feedback, so there are pros and cons to both.
11. Contests seem like such a fun way to find an agent. How many success stories can you attribute to your blog?
12. I’m sure the success stories are rewarding for you, as well as the writer and agent who found each other, but what other part of hosting contests do you find most rewarding?
I love taking a peek at what other writers are working on, and I especially love finding projects that I’d take on if I were an agent. Some of my favorite entries from past rounds of “An Agent’s Inbox”—like Tara Dairman’s GLADYS GATSBY TAKES THE CAKEand Michael G-G’s SHAKESPEARE ON THE LAM—have gone on to land agents and, in Ms. Dairman’s case, book deals. I love getting the inside scoop.
13. What tips do you have for someone who would like to host contests on his/her blog?
Aim high. Don’t be afraid to ask your favorite agents and/or authors to participate. They might say no, but then again, they might say yes.
Also, once you have a great contest in the works, promote the heck out of it. Leave notes on popular sites like Absolute Write and QueryTracker, and if you can, ask more established blog contest hosts to help you get the word out.
14. Who have you asked to help get the word out?
As I mentioned before, my blog was already pretty popular when I started hosting contests, so I’ve just relied on my own ability to create buzz for “An Agent’s Inbox” (and on my fellow coaches’ promotional efforts for “The Writer’s Voice”).However, when I was first trying to promote my agent interviews, I did ask popular clients of the agent I was interviewing to blog or tweet about the interview once I posted it. (I know Kiersten White tweeted about my interview with Michelle Wolfson way back when, but that’s the only example that comes to mind.)
Thanks so much Krista! Hopefully there will be a lot of people who find this process, and your answers, as intriguing as I do! :-)
Other Blog Contests:
Here are a few other blogs I have found that run contests regularly and have a focus on the middle grade and YA market.
Opperation Awesome runs the Mystery Agent Contest, the first of each month. Which means there is a new one this Friday, June 1st.
Cupid's Literary Connection runs contests all with fun "love-themed" titles. Her next contest will be in the Septemberish timeframe.
Brenda Drake Writes was part of "The Writer's Voice" contest - not sure when her next contest will be... guess you will have to follow her to find out!
Miss Snark's First Victim has awesome contests that include the "Secret Agent" contest which runs monthly (except for June and December), and the "Baker's Dozen" contest once each year in December. Not all contests focus on MG or YA.