So no, I’m not going to tell you how any single entry is rated. Or how many have what ratings, or how many total specifically there were (Though roughly 800 something.) Someone will do a full breakout of genres and ages and such after the contest is over.

Instead, what I thought you might find interesting is elaborations on some of the things I tweeted while I was reading through the entries.

 

 

Fantasy as a whole is one of my favorite genres, and it’s been doing some interesting things in YA and Adult both (I don’t keep up as much with MG trends as I should). I suspect much of it is due to the continued success of Game of Thrones, as a lot of the ones succeeding have darker tones. But it’s not coming up high on the radar of what agents seem to be requesting versus contemporary. I’ll be curious how they do in this contest as far as requests and offers.

I notice typos. Usually about a minute after I hit send,  after someone RTs it. So I never judge an entry in contests on those typos. But sometimes, they really change the meaning of a sentence. Saying a mane wished up on a steer is very different than a man wished upon a star. I always suggest having at least two other people look the query/pitch and sample pages over before you send them off anywhere, be it for a contest or querying. If that’s not doable, try putting it into an ereader or print it out.

 

Some YA sounds like Adult, and some Adult sounds like YA, or even in some cases, MG! This is sometimes HARD to tell, and frankly, sometimes it ends up changing because of the market. Especially in fantasy and scifi, these age categories are more flexible. But if you read books that are in your target genre/age, you’ll see certain tones. MG isn’t simply a matter of using smaller words, not even close. This could be an entire blog series of it’s own, but this gives a pretty great overview.

 

This is the BIGGEST thing I want you to embed in your brain. Every bit of advice I give, be it on this blog or through Chimera Editing, every suggestion you get from conferences, crit groups, and books: It’s always a guide. Books written in second person don’t work, tell that to Bright Lights, Big City. Women don’t read romances with women in masculine roles, but tell that to the Black Jewels trilogy.

A lot of the advice of what works normally or doesn’t is based on the majority of cases. Some things are pretty hard to pull off. I don’t think you could ever get me terribly interested in a novel that is just a collection of random words thrown together without regard for grammatical sense or coherency. But turn that idea into an interactive book that you decode by some means, and that might be pretty cool. It’d be a gimmick, sure, but if it’s done with skill, it could be amazing.

At the end of the day, it’s your novel. You need to decide what works for your vision of it, and the kind of balance you are comfortable with. There’s a fine line between a great project and one that agents may have trouble placing, between a genre definer and one that will never get off the ground. I have seen editors reject projects for being too typical of their genre and not offering something fresh, and editors reject the same project for being too different and they’re unsure how to position or sell it.

No one controls the publishing market, so everyone’s going off their best educated guess. Some people have access to more information (I would love to get my hands on ongoing Nielsen data across the areas of the market I like!), but if you watch Publisher’s marketplace deals and new Amazon releases and the best sellers lists? You can get a good sense of it too.

If your book doesn’t make it into the final selections on #PitchMadness or any other contest, don’t let it get you down. There are SO many entries, and so few slots. Don’t take it as a measure of your worth or skill. There were over 70 entries I would have picked it I could! These teams have to narrow this enormously.

There are ways to get those openings to both ground the reader in the world and get them interested. Generally, you have half a page to get a reader hooked, be it an agent in the inbox or a shopper in the bookstore. Give them a sense of forward motion, a character or scene to connect to. Don’t weigh it down with backstory or passive observation, but engage it directly. So many had wonderful concepts and just started out on their back foot, when they should perch on the diving board.

BONUS: After  the contest, if you don’t get picked, and you’re interested in my opinion, I’l reserve 5 big picture or in depth critiques at our returning client discounts for entrants. Just mention when you send in the contact form that you’d entered and include your pitch (I’ll remember it!).

Questions? Any areas you want more elaboration on? Tweets you wanted included I missed? I’ll do a followup post as well later if there’s interest. 

 

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