For the Pitch Wars “Winners”

So I realize I may get some grief for writing something specifically for those of you who get selected for Pitch Wars, but I mean nothing offensive by it. There are dozens upon dozens of blog posts for those who weren’t selected, talking about how to make the most out of this experience and where to go from here. If you don’t get in, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer or that you’ll never have an agent or be published. There are very few mentors, and a lot of applicants. That’s just the stats.

But with a week left until selections are made final, I want to congratulation those who get in to this contest. Prepare for the ride, because it’s highly possible your life might be about to change. Mine sure did, and it’s not because I got a million requests during the agent round and then got my agent right off the bat.

Hahah. Nope.

If you’re anything like I was, your main goal is to get an agent during the agent round, or through queries right afterward. You’ve read the dozens of blog posts that talk about how it may not happen for you right away, and you sort of snort to yourself, saying, “no way, it’s going to happen. I got into this contest, didn’t I? Surely I’m going to wind up with an agent.” That was my mindset. I was so, so hopeful. But then the agent round comes, and maybe you get no requests. Or maybe you get five, but can’t stop checking out the entries that have a new request every time you refresh their page. 10 requests. 20? The numbers just keep going up. And damn, was that your dream agent who requested a different manuscript, but skipped right over yours?

The day agent round closes, people already have offers. Two weeks later, many have their agents, and there’s even already an amazing book deal. Tensions are high, and it feels like everywhere you look someone else is living your dream. You’re happy for them, really. But for you, nothing has happened. And that’s hard.

Your emails are a barren wasteland and all that hope you had in the contest begins to dwindle. Others are signing with their dream agents, or maybe yours, and all you’re hearing is “sorry, but I’m not the right fit for this project.” That’s when you realize it might not happen for you. All that hope you had, and all those big dreams, crushed.

Look, I’m not here to be a pessimist. But this is what happened to me during the contest, and I’m here to be real, and to talk about what I wish I had realized going into this contest:

This is one of the best chances to build your community that you will possibly get. So don’t squander it by ignoring your fellow mentees and being so in your head about your manuscript during this time. It’s great to be focused because you obviously want as strong of a manuscript as you can get, of course, but talk to them. Reach out and get to know each other. Because TRUST ME, you are going to NEED these people. I know you’ve read the blogs about this already, and I know you might have snorted or rolled your eyes because, for you, you really think getting an agent is the best thing that can happen throughout this contest. And sure, that’s great, but I’m here to tell you how wrong you are.

I didn’t get my agent through PW. I got somewhere around 100 rejections on a book I spent years and years on. Did that suck? Hah, yup, it sure did. Did I feel like a failure? Sure, a bit. But was the contest still worth it?

Hell yeah.

Until you’re behind the scenes and talking to your fellow mentees, you really won’t understand just how beneficial this group will be to you. They will be your friends, your support system, your source of knowledge and information you never realized your needed, your new betas and critique partners. And did I say friends, already? You will learn SO much from them, and from your mentor(s). You will learn more about querying and agents than you ever knew before. These people are going to make you into a better writer, and better prepared to enter this business. Because it’s not all about writing, you know? This is a career, and the business side of it is just as important as the writing side.

And because of this new community you’ve had the AMAZING opportunity to enter into, then even if you don’t get your agent through the contest, you will have the tools to destroy your next book and crush the game. You will be a better writer. A better story teller. A more experienced querier with better sense about the publishing business. You’ll probably have formed some sort of relationship with agents, and they might recognize your name come your next book. You’ll get better feedback than you probably ever did before, from experienced, serious writers who have gone through the same stages and work that you did.

During Pitch Wars, I not only met amazing internet friends and an incredible support system, but I was also lucky enough to live in the same city as a few other mentees. From this contest I met two of my best friends, Tomi Adeyemi and Shea Standefer, and they will forever be my support system. They will be the people I can talk to about things no other friends get. These people you’ll meet will understand what you’re going through better than anyone else really can, and that kind of support and friendship is better than anything I really know how to describe. And hey, guess what, I get to keep them for years and years. Not just the few months of the contest.

Again, I didn’t get my agent through PW. But I turned those hundred or so rejections into my fuel. I turned my experience gained through this contest into new words, and used my new support system to find experienced critique partners to help me make my next book as good as possible. I used them to help me research and learn behind-the-scenes info on agents, to decide who might be a best fit. I crapped out my new in a month thanks to group sprints (sprantzzz!) and supportive friends, edited for another three weeks, and within 24 hours of querying I had multiple agent offers.

Is this scenario going to happen for everyone? No. But I can absolutely say that, had it not been for Pitch Wars, it wouldn’t have happened for me, either. I would probably not have a new book right now (let alone two). If I did have one, it wouldn’t be as strong as mine is now. I wouldn’t have had as good of a query, or knew which agents to query and which to maybe avoid. I would absolutely not be agented right now, I wouldn’t have my writing community, and I wouldn’t have my amazing friends and mentorships that I earned throughout this contest. Basically, I just wouldn’t have been as prepared to enter this career as I feel I am now.

Pitch Wars is a contest that only lasts a few months, but what you gain throughout it is what lasts a lifetime. So use this time wisely. Make your friends, build your community out of these other mentees who will be going through things the same time as you, and find who you mesh with. And then keep them close and keep them tight because, more than anything, that’s what you’re going to leave the contest with.

Will your agent come? Probably, eventually, so long as you keep pushing. But don’t let that be your only goal. Use this contest to learn about the business. Use it to become a stronger writer. And ultimately, use it to build up the friendships and community that will follow you throughout the entirety of your career.

As my good friend Elle Woods once said, You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself. Congratulations, class of 2017, YOU DID IT! 😉

Now go crush it.

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