I’ve been stalling, I’ll admit it.
For months, I’ve been mentally drafting my “PitchWars Eve” post. “Soon,” I’d tell myself. “After I hear back from Agent X. Then I’ll write it.” But there was always another agent. Another query. Another excuse. Another reason to postpone it. Because I knew what kind of post I wanted to write, and it wasn’t this kind.
Last year, I read everything I could find about PitchWars. Exciting posts from writers who were chosen and scored agents in the agent round. Encouraging posts from writers who were chosen and didn’t have successful agent rounds, but now they had a book deal. Sympathetic posts from writers who weren’t chosen for PitchWars, but found representation anyway.
I wanted to write one of those posts. The Happy Ending posts. What I was hiding from was the “I got into PitchWars and a year later, I’m still seeking representation.”
I know it’s an important perspective. I know it’s important. I know I should be eager to write it, to share my journey and admit what we writers all already know–that this path is long and winding, and often really hard. That skill and perseverence are important. That you shouldn’t give up. And that’s all true.
But I was still hoping that if I stalled long enough, I’d get to write the happy ending post instead.
And someday, I hope I will.
[Update from future Emily via time machine: Hey, past me! It’s 2020 and the world’s on fire (literally! Don’t even ask. You really don’t want to know!) but there is some good news! You have an agent and a 2-book deal with a total dream editor at an amazing imprint, so don’t give up!]
A year ago, I was overcome with excitement about getting requests from PitchWars mentors. A world of possibilities glittered before me… But this post isn’t about my PitchWars experience. It’s about the months after.
Since November, I’ve been strapped in tight to the query rollercoaster. It started with a steep plunge during the agent round, during which my first request didn’t roll in until Day 2, by which time I was already numb and defeated from a long night of watching others collect dozens of requests while I sat on the metaphorical bleachers with virtual mascara tracks streaking down my face.
I’d swapped MSS with other mentees prior to the agent round and received really positive feedback. My 300 word pitch got wows during our pitch critique sessions. So I tried to keep my expectations low, but I didn’t completely succeed. I let myself dream a bit. Then the day came and I wasn’t in the middle of the feeding frenzy some had predicted–I was completely outside the fishbowl, flopping around on the table. (Feeding frenzies happen in fishbowls, right?)
In the end, I did get some requests, and they were from really wonderful agents. So I perked up a bit and threw myself into querying while I waited to hear back from them.
There’s really nothing like tossing a bunch of queries out in mid-November to get your blood pressure up.
As Thanksgiving approached, agents across the country sat down to clear out their inboxes before the new year, and I, like many querying writers, ducked and covered as the rejections came quick and hard. Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch.
Checking my email last November felt like throwing my front door open, yelling, “Good morning, world!” and having one, two, or three strangers run up and punch me in the face.
So… that was fun.
Still, I brushed myself off in the new year. Revised, sent another batch of queries. And it went better. More requests for fulls, more interest.
I queried, I revised, I got requests, I got rejections.
I had close calls.
The close calls are a big part of why I postponed this post for so long. I’d sit down to type it, then I’d get my hopes up, and hit “save draft” instead. There were the back and forth emails with an agent who seemed SO excited…but reluctantly passed. Or the agent who “couldn’t put it down!” …but had decided to leave the business. The agent who was “swept away” but owed her loyalty to a current client working on a book with similar themes… And so forth.
Some rejections left me feeling optimistic. Others I shrugged off, knowing the agent probably wasn’t the best fit anyway. Others broke my heart.
I turned to my PitchWars classmates for support, and they came through time and time again. Many of us were in the same boat, and we commiserated and sulked together. Others took time away from celebrating their new agents and book deals to make me laugh with their righteous indignation on my behalf. They loved my book, they believed in me, and they refused to let me give up.
I wrote a new manuscript. And I got into a new mentorship program. (Check out Author Mentor Match- Round 5 opens soon!)
I’m not quitting. I still have fulls out for my PW book, and I’m gearing up to query the new book soon.
I still believe there’s a “How I Got My Agent” post in my future.
[Future Emily again: Hey, sorry to keep interrupting! But whoomp, there it is! The How I Got My Agent Post]
But not today.
So, to all of you applying to PitchWars–Throw yourself into it. Let yourself get excited if you get requests. Let yourself grieve if you aren’t chosen. Cheer others on, cheer others up. If you get in, give it your all. Revise your heart out and make friends! If you don’t get in, snag a CP or a writer friend from the pool of talented writers who also didn’t get in. The community is there if you’re willing to open up to it.
The past year has been emotional, and downright rough at times, but incredible as well. And it’s absolutely true what they say– the community is the prize. Really.
Earlier this summer, I met two of my Pitchwars 2017 Classmates for the first time, and Rajani LaRocca and Andrea Contos were just as wonderful in person!
We drank champagne as our children ran wild together, and we stayed up late to watch the 2018 Mentor list go live. (Pssst- They’re both on it, and they are amazing and wonderful and you should sub to them if your book fits their wishlists!)
If you’d told me a year ago that I’d take my kids to stay with someone I’d never met before, I would have side-eyed the heck out of you. But I didn’t hesitate when the time came. Going through intense revisions, an agent round, and all that comes with it is a powerful bonding experience that turns strangers into close friends. I’m so thankful to have them and all the other PitchWars 2017 Mentees in my life.
I didn’t want to write this post. But I did it. In part because I think this industry could use a bit more transparency, and also because there may be someone in my shoes a year from now who needs to read it. And while I LOVE “how I got my agent” posts,” I think it’s important to share the other experiences, too, including (especially?) the hard stuff.
I don’t have the perfect closing for this post (and if I wait for one, I may never find the courage to post it at all) but but to all the Pitchwars hopefuls, GOOD LUCK! Whether you’re chosen or not, you’ve written a BOOK! A WHOLE BOOK! I’m so very proud of you.
And to the entire PitchWars community: You are the best. You make the tough times easier and the good times great.
Happy PitchWars, everybody!