Pitch Wars Advice Blog Hop

18 Sep

Hi, Pitch Wars mentee hopefuls! You are probably reading this after you have submitted your Pitch Wars applications, while you’re waiting to hear from potential mentors. Or perhaps you’re spotting this before the official blog hop, or this post has come up a year or two down the road at another stage of the process. Either way, I’m here to share my advice as a two-time Pitch Wars mentee. I also applied a third time because I loved it so much and didn’t get in that third time (okay, alright, it was greedy to apply again!).  

Here are a few thoughts that should be helpful for you at this stage of the game. 

  1. Pitch Wars is not the end-all be-all of getting a literary agent. Note that I said I applied to be a mentee a third time. That means I did not get an agent despite being a mentee and in the agent showcase twice. I am now represented by Carrie Pestritto of Laura Dail Literary Agency, and while she represents all of my work, she signed me because of my picture books, so Pitch Wars can’t take credit for that (though my PW critique partners and everything I learned about querying certainly played a role!). I’m not going to lie, going through the agent round the second time, getting tons of interest…and not getting an offer…was basically heartbreaking. It was a huge emotional rollercoaster (I’ve written about how I survived all the rejections over the years if you’re curious). So, don’t pin all your hopes of getting an agent on Pitch Wars. Yes, many people get agents directly from the contest. But many don’t. 
  2. Pitch Wars is worth entering agent-search aside. Despite the admittedly wrenching experience of going through two agent rounds without getting an agent, I entered a third time. This is because I gained a lot from my experience, even if I did not gain an agent. Let’s talk about BEFORE I got in. I got to know lots of my fellow entrants. I swapped critiques with a bunch of people I met on Twitter and I’m still in touch with some of those folks today. Some people who got in are now published authors, and so are some people who didn’t get in. It’s fun to think “I knew them when…” I got to know the mentors on Twitter, too, and made connections with mentors both in my genre and outside of it. So you have all that to gain even if you don’t get a single request for more materials from a mentor. Plus, the year I didn’t get in, I got some really nice feedback from some of the mentors I applied to work with. For the years I did get in, I connected with two wonderful mentors, Rachel Lynn Solomon, and Diana Gallagher. I still keep in touch with them today. I also loved connecting with all of my fellow mentees. I’ve met a lot of them in person at conferences and meetups, and honestly some of the friends I chat with most are from Pitch Wars, even though we live far away from each other! I trade work with these mentees regularly. This made the grueling emotional process of not getting an agent despite being in two agent rounds totally worth it.
  3. Pitch Wars is hard for people with thin skin. And, honestly, trying to traditionally publish your writing is hard for people with thin skin. Even if you self-pub, you’ll have to deal with honest, potentially hurtful reviews! Right now, you’re probably refreshing your email ten times a day, waiting to see if you’ll get any requests, hoping the mentors who did request will choose you, or endlessly stalking all of the mentors you submitted to on Twitter. If you don’t get in, you’ll have to deal with the crushing emotions of watching everyone who did get in celebrate. (Stay off social media for a while, is my advice!) If you get in, have I said enough that the agent round can be emotionally grueling? There’s the twinge of hope that you could be the person with thirty agents fighting over you, as well as the dread that you might get no requests, or that you might get a bunch of requests that all end in rejections (like me, gulp). As you’re going through all of this, you have to deal with being in the same cohort as a bunch of other people who may get much more attention from agents and publishers than you. And it’s not even easy to be the one getting twenty offers! There are challenges that come along with getting twenty agent offers in one month, like fitting phone calls in your schedule, choosing an agent from many good options, turning down agents you really like, feeling like an imposter, and getting 20 different opinions on possible revisions to your work (yep, many people revise with their agents AGAIN after Pitch Wars). You’ll then still have to go on submission to editors, and what if your book doesn’t sell after all that hubbub? Oh, and, before the agent round, you’ll get feedback from your mentor, who will often suggest making MAJOR changes to your work. There’s a three-month revision window in this year’s Pitch Wars. Most mentors won’t choose a manuscript that only needs a few tweaks, because they’re not going to hold a manuscript like that back for three months. Get ready to take a hard look at your darling book and be prepared to tear it up and rebuild it. Of course, this is similar to the process you’d have to follow if you went looking for an agent and/or editor on your own. So yeah, the writing life is emotionally tough. Pitch Wars intensifies these emotions. Make sure you set up ways to take care of yourself mentally and emotionally while in this roller coaster.
  4. The only way to get thicker skin is to put yourself out there.I just said publishing is hard for those with thin skin…but most writers I know have thin skin. We spend long periods of time over stretches of weeks, months, and years inhabiting imaginary people’s emotions. We are all about emotions and feel them very strongly. So um, if we want to get published, what, are we just screwed? Yes and no. The good news is that the more you get rejected, the more coping mechanisms you build. Sometimes it hurts less because you’ve gotten so many rejections before, what’s another? Sometimes the weight of all those rejections makes you want to scream and throw your laptop off a cliff. So I’m not going to say you get better at getting rejected. But you do learn what you need in order to swallow the rejection and move forward—is it a few hours to mope? Copious amounts of chocolate? A venting session with a friend? Or perhaps it’s all of the above at different points in time. If you want your writing to leave your laptop and fly into the world, you risk getting rejected. You can’t learn how to cope with rejection if you never put yourself out there. Pitch Wars may seem like it’s super high stakes. However, it’s actually a pretty low stakes rejection. You’re not sending your work to agents or editors. It’s not your “one chance” to shine. You can even submit the same manuscript again next year. And entering Pitch Wars gives you a chance to build a community that can help you out when you do start submitting to agents and/or publishers. You’ve just got to reach out to folks on Twitter and forge that community!

And that’s a good note to end on: community. That’s the best thing about Pitch Wars whether you enter or not! Take this waiting time to get to know others in your spot who are scrolling Twitter as anxiously as you are.

I hope this advice helps you as you fret over whether you’ll get into Pitch Wars or not (or, for future years, whether you should enter!). 


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