Preparing for Pitch Wars

Hi YA Bookcasers!

It’s so nice to see you here. As many of you might know,  I’m a Pitch Wars mentor who’s taking a year’s sabbatical due to work and personal writing restraints. However, that’s not going to stop me from helping where and when I can. So let’s get to it. Today, I’m going to talk about how to prepare for Pitch Wars!

Audio post here: 

(warning: this is a longer post than usual – what can I say? I love Pitch Wars!

My experience as a mentor has been diverse, with some mentees going on to get book deals, some agented, and some still searching for their perfect fit (who I always continue to support, and who I have complete faith in). So, to that end I wanted to give my first piece of advice in preparing for Pitch Wars:

It’s not about “winning.” As strange as you might think it sounds, the end goal isn’t about winning a contest. It’s about a learning process, a way to tap into a resource that can be hard to find, and get industry nuggets of knowledge. It’s also about creating a strong writing community. Yes, we have the fantastic goal of matching writers to their perfect agents, and yes, we have many successes in this and in our Pitch Wars mentees becoming published (and lucky you, some of the mentors here are mentee alumni – so they know what you’re going through!). However, suffice to say, when preparing for Pitch Wars, keep in mind that this is about learning, progressing your craft, and learning your industry. This is a business, an art, a passion, and a joy. Let’s make sure we keep it this way, and don’t “compete” too hard. We’re rooting for everyone!

All right, so we’ve established the major point I wanted to cover, but there are other areas I want to focus on that will help you get either chosen by a mentor, or help connect you to other writers you can grow and learn with.

My second piece of advice is about pitching your book in your query letter. This is quite simply one of the main things we see people stressing about in the whole process of submitting. I know I’ve offered pitch critiques in the past, and the amount of panic I’ve seen is such a shame. There are a few things to keep in mind. Pitch Wars mentors are not agents. Yes, a cracking query helps, but we’re really looking for is potential. So, to that end, take out all the bells and whistles from your query if you’re stressing. Just give the basic plot, characters, conflict, and a unique detail. As long as we know that, we can see if it is the right concept for us. Anyway, it’s your pages that are going to count.

This leads me to the next thing I wanted to tell you. You know everyone says this business is subjective? Take it as someone who was an agency intern twice – it is. Not only that, but, again, remember, mentors are not agents. They’re not only looking for something that grabs their interest, but they’re looking for something that they think their particular skill set can help.

For theoretical example, when I mentored in previous years, I might have said I wanted Gothic horror, and there was a great one in my inbox. However, I didn’t choose it because my skill set was the same as theirs – maybe their description and prose was on point, their plotting tight, their concept engaging…those are among some of the strongest skill sets I bring to the table, too. But what if the main issue with that Gothic horror was the symbolism or internal monologue, and I felt I wasn’t the best to help them. Could I help them? Sure, all mentors have the necessary skills to help a mentee. But could I help them as much as I could help someone else? Perhaps not. So remember, it’s not always about the quality of your work. Sometimes, it’s to do with what the mentor brings to the table.

What can you do about that? Simple – reach out to mentors (don’t DM, email, or PM without explicit approval from said mentor), read their books (this isn’t promotion; it’s the best way to see what they’re good at. You might read their book and realize they are your perfect match. Or, you might not.) You may also want to check out their previous mentees – reach out on Twitter. Or go check out Brenda’s website where you have the success interviews. Or look at the critique workshops that went up. And definitely look through the various blogs.

I also want to look at another point: Look at the quality of the pages you’re submitting. No, pages don’t need to be perfect. But that doesn’t mean they can be sloppy. Again, this is a business as well as a passion, so you need to show that. Let your passion out on the page, but ensure that you have everything as good as you can have it. Read books, analyze their pages, read craft books (seriously, not enough people do this – and no, you’re not the exception who can get by with just pantsing along the entire publishing industry. Well, maybe you are, but it is highly unlikely. So it’s better to do your homework, just in case.) Use critique partners, be open to feedback, trust your gut, and look to other people who have achieved what you want to achieve.

Finally, I repeat, it’s not about “winning.” And it’s not about getting help and then being successful and not passing that torch on because you don’t want someone else to do better than you. It’s about us all growing together. The more books there are, the better our world will be. Please help our industry by supporting it, and not tearing it down. Our world needs more writers. Our world needs more artists. Our world needs more voices to be heard. Wherever your path leads – whether you get to be a mentee this year or not – realize our journeys are all different, and no one contest, agent, publisher, reader, or person decides your worth. That’s you. But make sure you keep your mind open to change, learning, adaptability, openness, and those around you.

I’d also like to point out something that makes me a little sad. Hundreds and hundreds of writers submit to Pitch Wars, get cozy with mentors, and then when they don’t get chosen, they’re no longer interested in continuing to know the mentor because they weren’t picked. This is something I’d love to see changing. Mentors make the effort to be there all year round. Not for promotion. Not for our gain. But because they care. I know they’d love it if you’d lift them up by being their friend, like they try to lift you up. So please support the mentors in the same way they want to support you. And, of course, I’m sure they’d love it if you read their posts or even bought their books (of course they would; besides, they’ll most likely buying your book when you publish it, too!). You don’t need to do that, of course, because the mentors are here either way. Just being a friendly face is all I’d like to see more of.

Finally, one of the most important things to remember when you are preparing for Pitch Wars: There is a no bullying policy. Pitch Wars is about support; we don’t tear down. I know you guys won’t disappoint us. And that’s why I love each and every one of you.

Remember, this is just my advice, as a previous (and future) mentor. Each person is different in what they want and what they’ll advise. But one thing I do know for sure: our heart in helping our community, in helping each other, is from the same place: building each other up.

See you next post! x

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