My #PitchWars Experience / @Jamie_Beth_S
I’m trying to find representation and/or a publisher for my first novel.
You can read about my early steps on this journey here, but to bring you up to speed, by January of 2016 (six years into this manuscript and over a year into querying) I had decided to revise Novel Number One (again) in anticipation of #PitchWars, a major on-line pitch competition in the summer.
I had been hearing whispers (if Twitter can whisper) about #PitchWars for nearly a year. The contest is intense, and unlike some contests, the goal isn’t necessarily to find an agent (though that would be a bonus!), but rather to find a community made up of mentors and peers (and mentors who will become peers and vice versa).
#PitchWars is interesting because it’s sort of a microcosm of the publishing world itself. This is not a contest where you blindly send off your submissions and hope for the best or Tweet a pitch with a hashtag and wait for the universe to come calling. In #PitchWars you research potential mentors via several methods (mini-interviews, live video chats, wishlist posts, hashtags) the same way you would research potential agents and editors (though I’d say #PitchWars tries to make it a bit more entertaining!). If a mentor selects you, you work with them on your revisions for two months in preparation for an agent round.
The lead-up to the competition can feel a little chaotic, and as a first-time hopeful I often felt like everyone else already knew each other and/or I was missing out on some essential secret. I don’t like being “new” at anything and can never feel comfortable anywhere until I’ve figured out the lay of the land. Investigating new situations isn’t as exciting for me as it is for some. In fact, it’s totally anxiety provoking. But for the most part, the way a teenager might walk into a new school cafeteria with her head held high and fake it until she makes it, I did my research, got involved, came to enjoy it, and found my people.
I did not, however, get into #PitchWars.
I submitted to eight mentors (which includes two pairs of mentors), got requests from two mentors, and received feedback from all but one of the people I subbed to. As I’ve come to expect in the publishing world, the responses were subjective and not uniform. A few mentors said they didn’t connect with the pages or that the stakes weren’t high enough. Another said that she liked what she read, but as she could only pick one mentee she wanted to go with someone who had a stronger “hook” that would really stand out in the agent round. She said she thought I’d fair better on the query circuit than I would on the contest circuit.
I was doing my best to make peace with my disappointment and learn what I could from the feedback I received when I got a completely unexpected confidence booster. A pair of mentors emailed to say they didn’t select me as their mentee because they didn’t think I needed their help. They said it was time to query, and they didn’t feel right making me wait two months to get at it! In the lead-up to #PitchWars you hear about this kind of email, you hope to get this kind of email, but you never expect to get one!
for making #PitchWars a really useful (and mostly enjoyable!) experience. I recommend it to anyone looking to expand his or her writing community, and I hope to to participate again in 2017 with a whole new manuscript.
And now back to the query trenches…