Hey, how are you all holding up?
Some people seem to be pretty frustrated this year, more so than I noticed in past years. So I figured I’d share my perspective on the contest, as I think it might help.
1. #Pitchwars will not make or break your writing career. Repeat this to yourself as many times as needed until it sinks in. Yes, it can be a major boost for some, but even when selected, it doesn’t mean your book will be published. Of my past mentees, one went on to self publish her MS, three have trunked the MS and moved on to other projects, and one has gotten an agent and her book released through a big 5 digital sub-imprint. Not because any of their writings were bad, but because some genres are just REALLY hard to break into. Romance, for example, is a hell of a lot easier than adult SF/F right now, because there’s a lot more romance publishers than SF/F.
2. This is an incredibly HARD industry. If you’re serious about pursuing this dream, you’re going to get rejected a lot. Everyone does. Yes, including authors you can’t imagine everyone not groveling at. Find a good coping mechanism now, be it eating a piece of chocolate, ranting at a friend on DMs, or writing a short story where you are a best selling author yourself and get those agents/publishers to beg for your next book. Whatever makes you feel better, just keep it private. Agents DO check your social media if they consider representing you, (One agent I interned for would check it before even requesting the MS!) so make your public face professional. Keep a side account if you really must put it out there, and keep that locked down to friends only or similar, and don’t add the professionals to it. Same with, for example, the pitchwars boards. Not saying you have to be all rainbows and smiles, but bashing the people you want to work with isn’t going to make them want to work with you, no matter how good your writing is.
3. With a contest like this, there are inherent limitations. I have a dayjob, editing work, at least some social events, household tasks, my own writing, and other things that take up the vast majority of my time. I’ll give you guys some stats after the contest, but suffice it to say, I don’t have nearly enough time to request and read everything I would want to. There are easily another 10 MSs I could have requested, and a few I’m still considering requesting anyway, just because they’re still sticking in my mind. Even the best MS in our pile right now has things to improve, and even the entry we liked the least does some things really well. Getting requests, yes, is a good thing. It means your writing caught our attention, and your concept was something we think might have a shot in the current market based on our understanding of it. We did research, in addition to my usual habit of keeping up with what’s going on in publishing. But we’re not the queens of publishing, and it is SUPER subjective. We can only pick one, so we have to prioritize. We only have so long to edit this, we have to think the author can pull off the changes in the 2 months. Last year, our mentee really struggled to do that, and we really did ask a lot from her. She did her best, and life got in the way. So this year, we’re probably going to be tougher on that, and pick something that needs a bit less changed, that we otherwise would have just sent them the feedback and encouraged them to refine based on that and then query.
4. Oh, did I mention KT and I often give feedback to the ones we requested if they don’t get picked by us or other mentors? Cause we do. We’re in no way REQUIRED to, but we make these notes as we read anyway, so we may as well give them what we came up with. Yes, this also means it takes a lot longer to read than if we were just reading for pleasure. This means we do try to limit the number of requests we make. I can read a book, with no notes, for pleasure, in about 3-4 hours for a 90k MS. With notes, for editing or critique, you’re looking at about 8-12 hours for that same MS, depending on the shape it’s in and what level of critique I’m doing. Plus I take a bit of time (an hour or two at least) to put together some overall thoughts after I’m done reading and sort my notes into categories. We requested a total of over 800k words so far, on top of all the queries and first chapters of the rest. It’s physically impossible to request and read even all the good ones we would want!
5. Some really didn’t seem like the kinds of projects we were looking for. We specifically wanted romance PLUS other elements, so straight up romance, or projects where we couldn’t find the romance element, we were less likely to request. Targeting the right agents will be the same kind of issue. Yes, it takes time to research them, just like it took time to go through the blog hop. You may be thinking, oh, but mentors can swap, so it doesn’t matter. Well, except if we look at it and go, nope, not for us, we’re not throwing them into a huge pile for everyone else to look through. The only swapping that happens is when a mentor LOVES more than one MS and another mentor isn’t falling in love with their submissions, and wants to see it. There’s only been one of those we even asked to see the query/first pages on, because the concept sounded like it’d be right up our alley when a couple of the mentors were talking about it.
6. Take a deep breath, and talk with other entrants. Make friends. At the risk of sounding like a Care Bear, that’s the biggest prize in this contest. Find your people, find CPs, get feedback and apply it. It’s one piece of a very long journey, and you’ll need them all along the way. I wouldn’t be where I am now without my friends. And I’ll be further along later, because of friends, and they’ll be further along too because we all work to help each other. You can do this!
(Crossposting to the forum as well)