I have one of those "how to include relevant info in a query without sounding like a loon" question. Basically, the MS I am working on was picked as a finalist in a contest run by a major publishers. The contest prize is an e-book deal with this publisher's new imprint. I'm to submit the complete MS to them by September 1 (right now they have only seen the first 50 pages and a pitch) and I want to query the project around that same time. The contest results are supposed to go out later that month.
My question is, how do I convey the situation to agents? It's not at all the same as telling the agent I have an offer on the table (I don't--more like a 1 in 10 shot at an offer) or that my work was simply recognized in a contest. In fact, I'm a little worried that the contest stipulations would be a turn-off to agents (the deal is e-book only with a very, very conservative advance, and I'm not sure if there's any room for negotiation in the event that I do win). To complicate things further, the timing of all this is such that I probably won't hear back from some of the agents on my list until after the contest results are out. Should I just wait until that happens before even attempting to query?
What's the best way to go about this?
There's one piece of information you left out, and I really hope you know the answer: if you win the contest are you required to publish the book there? In other words: can you decline the prize?
If you can decline the prize; query as you would normally, and wait to see what happens. If you win, and you're in the middle of querying you email the agents you've queried with the news.
If you CAN NOT decline the prize: you wait to query till the contest is done.
Here's why: If you query me and I fall in love with your manuscript only to find out that you've won the contest and there's no place else I can submit the work, you've locked me in to a small advance and most likely a not-very-favorable contract. I'm less likely to say yes to that than I am if you've got the option of saying no and I can shop the manuscript more widely and perhaps get you a better deal.
If you're good enough to win a competitive contest, you're probably good enough to get some attention the old fashioned way too.