I don’t actually consider myself, or anyone, a “PitchWars flop,” but, “Advice from a PitchWars-mentee-who-didn’t-achieve-her-showcase-goal-but-learned-and-made-friends-and-is-still-querying-and-hasn’t-given-up’” isn’t QUITE as pithy. (Plus, I’ll know who actually reads and who doesn’t from the “hey, don’t call yourself that!” responses. *devil horns*)
Also, Pitchwars had a major evolution this past year (2018), with much thought and care put into centering the mentorship aspect of the contest, and changes to make the showcase a more positive experience for everyone involved. I can only speak to my own pre-changes experience, though, so take all this with a grain of salt. Also, I hear there are, like, a million agents participating this year, so that’s going to change things as well!
With the fine print out of the way, welcome! This post pairs well with “Okay Fine,” where I shared my emotional ride during and after the showcase. Mentees, just pin that one for later. Today’s post is more pragmatic, with suggestions and advice for all, including those going through querying/submissions sans PitchWars.
First of all, I love PitchWars. Participating was one of the best things I have ever done, as a writer and as a person. However, if Pitchwars was about growing my book baby, the showcase was much like labor—exciting, painful, and I wish I’d prepared myself better beforehand.
If you’re a current mentee reading this, congratulations! You’re showing a willingness to consider all possibilities. Last year, my attitude toward posts like this was more, “lalalala I can’t hear you.”
And if you don’t read on, I won’t judge. But if you hang around, I think you’ll get at least one helpful hint for surviving (and thriving? Maybe? I make no promises) the PitchWars Agent Showcase.
Okay, soooooooo… the PitchWars Agent Showcase! The moment you’re propelled to instant bestseller stardom! Or not! But maybe! But! Okay, no one knows. That’s the honest truth. You may be this year’s rockstar feeding frenzy success with a book deal by April, or get a dozen requests that kick off a brief, successful querying stint, collect a bajillion requests but none pan out, or you may be sulking over your espresso the morning after.
Whether you’re elated or stunned by the experience, don’t let anyone shame you for your feelings. It’s HARD not to get your hopes up, and when you’re dreaming of your name on an LA Billboard, (Who, me? What? No, I would never!) anything short of that can feel like a letdown. I thought my feet were firmly planted on the ground before the pitches went live, but two hours after they did, I learned I wasn’t “totally fine with getting no requests” after all. Surprise! Ha! Haha!…. Ha….
Happy, sad, numb, however you feel—it’s ALL OKAY. And again, things have changed this year. I believe requests will only be visible to mentors until the showcase is over, which is brilliant. This year’s mentees can avoid that “walking on stage at graduation only to realize you’re naked in front of everyone,” nightmare-esque feeling I had. Now, obviously people weren’t laughing, but the very public nature of requests amplified the pressure, and that has been addressed.
Also, I hope the changes encourage agents to take their time reading all the pitches, with less pressure to get to the “hottest” few first. After all, every mentee is going to choose their future agent based on research, not which agent got there first. (*ahem,* Right, mentees?)
Okay, advice time:
- Get those FB Threads ready:
If it hasn’t already been done, have someone in the mentee Facebook Group create separate posts for:
It’s really good to have a set place to rejoice about good news or sob about heartbreak. No one wants to be that person screaming about their five billionth request to a pack of mentees crying in their Starbucks. Trust me, they won’t appreciate it, no matter how wonderful and loving they may be. Vice-versa, no one should have to feel guilty about raining on someone else parade.
Let the happy ones happy and the sad ones sad, in their respective spaces.
PLUS, you can mute threads. So, if you’re crushing it and you need a few days to savor the joy without anyone dragging you down, mute the pity-party thread.
Or, if you’re…. wait for it… watering down that latte with your tears (Yeah, I’m riding this figure of speech until the wheels fall off, sorrynotsorry) and you have to mute the celebration thread so you don’t smash something, do that! All’s fair in love and Pitch Wars. Oooh, that’s a better title than my original one. Hmmm…
- If you can, resist the urge to ignore those on the other side. Obviously, you need to take care of yourself, but I can say from experience that the mentees who garnered oodles of requests and still popped into the whine thread to cheer on the “FRC/NRC” members (that’s Few Request Club/No Request Club) earned eternal love and devotion. A hero is the person who garners a billion requests but still takes two seconds to scream “I BELIEVE IN YOU!” at the writers who are struggling—they will never forget that kindness. Ever. Ever ever ever.I would die for many of the soon-to-be-NYT-bestsellers (yeah, I’m calling it now) who went out of their way to say something supportive when I was emotionally bruised and battered. Someday I’ll be on my deathbed, still chucking their books at every nurse who walks by.In general, kindness is great! Even more so when someone is hurting.On the flip side, you’ll never regret putting down that cold, salty latte (hey, I warned you) to congratulate someone on a request or offer. And not like “Wow, I’m sooOooOOooo happy for you… Must be nice.” Say it and mean it. You contain multitudes, and that means you can be happy for someone even if you’re less-happy for yourself. Consider it good practice for going on submission someday.
Many of my closest PitchWars friendships were formed during and after the showcase, not before it. I muted threads when I needed space, then when I was feeling stronger, went back and scrolled through to congratulate people. I did my best to cheer on my fellow warriors through my double-iced-mocha-tears, because I was happy for them, and many of them took time out from their well-deserved celebrations to pick me up, dust me off, and remind me my journey had just begun.
Which brings me to my third piece of advice, somewhat related.
- Know your audience (aka “Read the Room”)
If you start out in the ZRC but are suddenly propelled out of it with an avalanche of requests, let your fellow pity-partiers know, then promptly move your squeeing to the celebration thread. Those who want to flail with you will find you there, and you’ll spare the disappointed folk extra angst. Don’t stifle your joy, at all, but be conscious of how and where you share it, at least while it’s still fresh.Same deal in reverse—don’t invade the happy threads to sulk. Let everyone have their moment.
- Do your research Invest in a Publisher’s Marketplace membership for a month and/or talk to friends to be sure any agent you submit to or accept an offer from has the potential to get you where you want to go, wherever that may be.And if you don’t get an agent through PitchWars, don’t fling queries at every agent on the planet. If you know you wouldn’t want to work with someone, don’t waste their time or yours. It may seem like failing to get an agent—any agent—for your current manuscript is the worst possible outcome, but it isn’t.
5. When the dust settles, remember where you came from.
Right now, you’re all in this together. And that doesn’t have to change. Some of you will get agents quickly, others more slowly, and many will still be querying six months from now.
Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you know how well someone writes based on this one subjective measure. We all know of incredible authors who racked up hundreds of rejections before succeeding, and PitchWars mentees aren’t magically immune to this phenomenon. Sure, getting an agent means a writer has something good going on, but not getting an agent doesn’t mean the reverse. All penguins are birds, but all birds aren’t penguins, get it?
Mind your manners. Don’t unfollow mentees/writers because they do or do not get an agent when you do/do not. While we’re at it, maybe don’t do this when you get a book deal or become a best-seller, either. It’s fine to keep a small list for legitimate reasons, but manipulating your twitter follower ratio to look cooler by dropping others based on some arbitrary success metric is tacky. And people do notice.
You don’t want to be that person, do you?
If your Slytherin drive to succeed is overriding your Hufflepuff loyalty right now and you’re thinking, “But what if appearing more exclusive on twitter will boost my future book sales!?” …Uh, I highly doubt it. And I’ll gently remind you that other writers can be your biggest supporters, but they’ll be less inclined to do so if you treat them poorly. The writing journey is long and twisty and full of unexpected rivers—so don’t burn bridges.
6. Last piece of advice: This is just the beginning.
Let me repeat. THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING. Some of last year’s ZRC/FRC members started querying days later and had book deals announced before the feeding-frenzy recipients did. Others queried for months and snagged incredible agents via the slush pile. Others (hi!) wrote a whole new book and are just now getting out there to query again. Sorry. I know you didn’t want to hear that. I didn’t either. But history shows it’s pretty common for half or more mentees to still be querying 6 months to a year post-PW. That doesn’t mean it will be you! It’s NOT going to be you! And if it is you—which it won’t be!—DM me any time. I’m ready to give you the best pep talk of your whole darn life.
(Hi! Future Emily here, checking in from 2021. My dreams came true! It just took a while, so hang in there!)
Regardless of how the showcase goes, this is not the end of your journey. No one walks out of the showcase with a book deal in hand, so even the lucky ones will still have hurdles to jump. This is not your “one chance.” It really isn’t. I can’t promise you much, but I can promise you that.
But look at you! You wrote a book! You let people read it! You made your book better and learned new things!
Now go forth and take the publishing world by storm. I’ll be cheering you on, every step of the way.