Monday, August 15, 2016

Pitch Wars and all that Publishing Pressure

The first time I entered Pitch Wars, I failed monumentally.

My knowledge of query letters, pitches, formatting, and word counts lay right around absolute zero. Seriously, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew nothing. I was the Jon Snow of publishing. And it showed.

But you know what? I walked away with more than just a few mentor rejections. I walked away with a better understanding of everything I had originally messed up. I kept in contact with the people I'd met on the Twitter hashtag and we began swapping manuscripts. And when I wrote my second book, I vowed to enter the contest again and not wind up looking like a total noob this time.

My second Pitch Wars was with my current book, My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights. I finished my first draft just in time to get a couple of beta readers to give me notes. I was lucky enough to find a mentor (the amazing Marieke Nijkamp) who wanted my story. She helped me so much with developing particular elements of the story, and when it came time for the three-day agent round to go live, I was feeling good. Positive. Certain that Tights was going to get some serious attention.

The first day was crickets. The second, they brought their friends. By day three, the post featuring my first 250 words was so absent of agent love I was ready to shove my manuscript into a hole in my yard and let the earthworms turn it to compost. Mine wasn't the only one that didn't get any requests, but there weren't many that failed to. My mentor urged me to query. She told me to not give up because Pitch Wars was simply one avenue. Every query letter I could send out was another. And there were plenty of agents out there I could contact. Stopping then would've been like throwing the car in park and going home because there happened to be one single road closed between your house and Dunkin' Donuts.

So I dusted off my query-writing skills and wrote the best letter I could. I revisited my first page and changed a few things around. I queried a handful of agents and within a few weeks I had three offers of representation. I signed with Uwe Stender of the Triada US Literary Agency and he ended up selling my book to Random House two weeks later.

But imagine if I had thrown in the towel?

Actually, don't. Don't imagine that. Because throwing in the towel, especially that early on, is just silly. I didn't get my book published because of me. I got it published because of all the people surrounding my story who were willing to help me. Whether you self publish or traditionally publish, it really does take a village to get there.

My point is this:

If you want to have a book on a shelf, exhaust every avenue possible. There is no one road to get there. Relying on a single path is, simply put, bad planning. If you get into Pitch Wars this year, give yourself a huge pat on the back and get right back to work. If you don't get into Pitch Wars this year, take some time to feel bad and get right back to work. If you're not entering Pitch Wars this year, support those who are trying to and get right back to work.

Learn as you go. Make friends as you try. Have fun writing and remember that every author started out unagented, unpublished, and with a head full of words and a gut full of hope.


WendyMcLeodMacKnight said...

Great post Brooks, and so important! I'd never even heard of pitch wars before I got my agent or book deal, but I can see how wonderful and scary it could be! Tenacity is everything!

Unknown said...

It is definitely both. More wonderful than scary, but still plenty of scary. You're right, though. It's all about that tenacity!

Morgan Hazelwood said...

Congrats! So glad that you picked yourself up and pushed on. :-)

I hope to be where you are, hopefully sooner rather than later. So, I'm still checking my inbox, and tweaking my query, and finding new CPs.

cleemckenzie said...

You are so right. There are many roads that lead to Rome. You just have to find the one that takes YOU there.

Unknown said...

You're doing it right! I'm convinced that for writers who are working as hard as you're working, it's a question of when, not if.

Unknown said...

So true! Thanks for checking out the post!