Thinking about entering Pitch Wars this? Based on my experience as both a mentee and mentor, here’s five things you need to know before next month’s Mentor Blog Hop.
Once upon a time, I had just finished my first mystery novel and didn’t know the first thing about how to get an agent. Then someone on a Sisters in Crime board posted about Pitch Wars. I’d never heard of it but it sounded really cool. It was an annual contest started by the amazing Brenda Drake that pairs most established writers—mentors—with mentees, aka those still looking for an agent. If selected, the mentors and mentees would spend three months polishing the mentee’s manuscript for the Agent Round—where, after reading a pitch and first 250 words, agents could comment requesting more pages.
I was lucky enough to be selected as a mentee. Then I was lucky enough to get an agent out of the contest. Then I was lucky enough to get a book deal for my novel. And perhaps most importantly, I was lucky enough to meet a crap load of amazingly talented writers who I’m honored to call friends.
I’m now heading into my second year as a mentor. I may be a tad biased, but Pitch Wars is THE contest to do if you are serious about polishing your manuscript, finding an agent and (again, this the most important one even if you don’t think so yet) meeting critique partners. And there is a good reason why.
My mentee last year—Kristen Lepionka—worked her butt off. And as a result, she got her agent within a week of Agent Round and sold her Pitch Wars novel to St. Martin’s Press in a two-book deal. It’s an amazing story. And it’s just one of many. Brenda’s baby has birthed some amazing books and created an even more amazing writing community.
This year’s contest opens on August 3! If you are able to, please donate to the contest by clicking here. I’ll be co-mentoring with MY Pitch Wars mentor—the-ultra-talented-I-can-edit-a-manuscript-like-nobody’s-business Sarah Henning. Though I’m not allowed to tell you exactly what we’ll be looking for. I can give you some tips if you are planning on entering the contest.
Stalk the mentors!
There are over 100 of us. (You can find the entire list here.) I know from my own experience that it can be overwhelming having to navigate the Wish Lists but don’t just put down the first five mentors who want your genre. You’re going to be spending two months putting your book baby into their hands. You want to make sure that you two (or three) can work well together.
Keep in mind that everything is a test!
We see everything. We hear everything. We know everything. (Well, not really but still.) If a mentor is interested in mentoring you, best believe they’re quietly stalking your twitter feed and other social media. If they email you a question, realize that they may be emailing you just to see how you react to things. (I know I did last year.) Answer accordingly. At the same time…
This isn’t a job interview. Don’t just say what you think they want to hear just so that you’ll be picked. Because it’s just like when you say you are an expert at Photoshop on your resume. There’s a good chance your boss might expect you to use Photoshop. Just like there’s a good chance your mentor is actually going to hold you to what you tell them before they pick you.
Remember, it’s not just about you.
Mentors are volunteers. They have families and jobs. Not to mention their own writing. So as important as it is that this be a great experience for you, it’s equally important that it’s a great experience for them as well. So please treat them accordingly.
It really might not be about you.
This is a contest. It’s meant to be fun. Enjoy it. If nothing else, celebrate you had the balls to submit. (Honestly, putting your writing out there for strangers to critique takes so much courage. I’ll repeat that. Putting your writing out there for strangers to critique takes so much courage!!!) Remember, it’s really subjective. If you don’t get picked, it doesn’t mean you are the worst writer in the entire world. Or that you need to print out your entire manuscript so that you can literally throw each and every single page in the trash. It just means that the mentor just connected with something else more. It could be a super random reason too. Definitely be sad because rejection, well, sucks. Each and every single time. But then get up, dust yourself (and your query letter/pages) off and start querying that manuscript! You worked too hard on it not to.
I can’t wait for this year’s Pitch Wars!
The idea that somewhere out there our mentee is probably working furiously on his or her manuscript is so freaking exciting to me. I seriously can’t wait to meet you and (whispers) put you through Writer’s Hell!
See you in August!