Thursday, August 24, 2017


I'm a longtime reader of your blog though I only occasionally comment. After extensive use of google and reading your post topics on the sidebar, I found the blog posts I remember on twitter pitching (the devil), conference pitching (also the devil) and how to reference #mswl in a query letter. I couldn't find one on blog contests like pitch wars. I apologize if you did already address this and I missed it. Since you always have the best interest of writers in mind, I'm very interested in your opinion of the value of this sort of blog contest. Thanks so much!
I don't participate in pitch wars since I get more than enough good stuff via the incoming queries, but I know several agents who do, and have found things that way.

The real question here is "is there a downside to entering something like PitchWars?"
No, there isn't.
It doesn't preclude you from querying other agents.
It doesn't require you to sign with anyone.
It doesn't cost money.
And it might get your work in front of people who otherwise wouldn't see it.

I think of PitchWars like a networking cocktail party.
You don't know if anything good will come of it, but it's not going to hurt you to go.
Well, it's not going to hurt you unless you drink too much and do the hoky-poky into the punch bowl.

Which means, don't do anything stupid on Pitch Wars either.
What's stupid?

1. Not following the guidelines.
More than anything else, this marks you as difficult to work with.
Now, I can hear each and every one of you having a mini-rodent wheel bout here. The truth is, if you're worried about following the directions correctly, you're going to do fine.  It's the people who read the directions and say "I'm not writing no stinkin' synopsis, I don't care what they want" that are the problem.

2. Arguing with the editorial comments.
While it's entirely true that some comments are utterly wrong, were inspired by revenge, jealousy, sloth or lust, and only dunderheads read your manuscript, you don't actually get to say that.
If you get feedback you think as wrong-headed you say only one thing: thank you. And then you stop talking.

You might be surprised when you read the comments some time later to discover they've morphed (it's MAGIC!!) into something worth considering.

3. Being a thankless beast.  
 The folks doing PitchWars and the like are donating their time and expertise. Respect that.

Bottom line: pitchwars might help, it won't hurt, and no one got anywhere without lacing up their rocketboots and leaving the safety of their front porch.




Adele said...

(OT, but I just can't sit back and not say anything)

You take one tiny little vacation and that's when your 15 minutes of fame happen! Thanks, Janet and the Reef, for your kind words last week.

Colin Smith said...

Possibly the most time consuming aspect of PitchWars or any other Twitter pitch event is coming up with a great pitch. And while we may not like pitching, as Julie Falatko points out in her video, there are some advantages to going through the exercise. This has become something I tell my kids (and myself): if you try, you have a better chance at succeeding than if you don't. In fact, if you don't try, you're guaranteed to fail. :)

BTW, thanks again, Julie, for yesterday's impromptu Picture Book Q&A. It was a lot of fun. And thanks to everyone who asked questions. I'll work on putting the comments into a separate doc for the Treasure Chest.

Speaking of yesterday's article, well spotted, John! How honored I am to be in the NYT Crossword. Maybe one day I'll make it to their book list... :D one got anywhere without lacing up their rocketboots and leaving the safety of their front porch.

This is not the best way to get to Carkoon, by the way. Rocketboots are a big fashion no-no there. You'll be laughed off the tarmac. :)

Theresa said...

"Well, it's not going to hurt you unless you drink too much and do the hoky-poky into the punch bowl." Good advice for lots of life situations!

OP, if you go for it, I hope pitchwars is a success.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Despite tool of the devil, I did pitch at this past weekend's conference. I got 4 for 4 full requests and asked for 1 synopsis (shoot me now). However, my book is not ready for querying much less full submission.I am pre-beta reader. I mostly wanted to see if there was a market for my weird ass fantasy. After 4 strong yeses, I decided I was good to go and left to visit my kid in Brooklyn. But that's a story for another day.

Anyhow, pitching in its many forms can't hurt. As long as you don't stab agent with anything sharp. But in the end it comes down to the writing. One of the 4 agents made a point of saying just that- great concept but if your query doesn't wow me, I won't read the book.

So in the end, pitch if so inclined- it does get you in contact with agents and editors. But in the end, it will be the writing. Only the writing. Always the writing.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Years ago I became friends with a lively, creative, and funny girl while we were working together at a tedious job. She had just bought one of the new computerized knitting machines and designed a new kind of ski hat.

She told me she had an appointment to show the hats to one of the biggest retailers in the country.

I was astounded at this act of audacity.

"Aren't you nervous?" I asked.

"Shaaaryn," she replied, (you have to imagine this in a somewhat nasal Boston accent) "all they can say is no."

She sold the hats, thousands of them, quit the job, and I went on to sell my jewelry designs coast to coast.

So, peeps. Remember this.

All they can say is no.

I still see those hats everywhere.

Lennon Faris said...

I've never participated myself, but I like reading through the PitchWars and guessing which ones will get favorited. After a while it's much easier to see.

Speaking of doing the hokey pokey on the table tops, I've seen agents vent about writers waiting a looong time to send them material after a PitchWar. Unlike an in-person pitch where you can tell an agent that it's not ready, PitchWars are supposed to be for finished products. It's tempting to just send your half-baked idea out and see if it gets noticed.

Colin, "You'll be laughed off the tarmac." - There is no laughter in Carkoon. Maybe you meant to say, 'shot down from the sky with mss spitballs?'

Colin Smith said...

Lennon: Trust me, there is laughter in Carkoon *shudders*... the kind of laughter that comes from the deep recesses of your nightmares... the laughter of your kindergarten peers the day you wet yourself because the teacher called you to the front of the class... the laughter of your boss the day you asked for a raise right before he handed you a pink slip... the laughter of that mugger as he kicked you to the floor, right before he slit your throat... Now, ask yourself--how is it you remember that? Welcome to Carkoon...

Colin Smith said...

... I kid you not, folks. Carkoon is so frightening, Stephen King would be huddled in a corner whimpering, and Laird Barron would be taking notes...


Claire Bobrow said...

I've had the magical experience referred to in the last sentence of #2. It's true!

CS said...

PitchWars is absolutely awesome, but it's not for the reasons people think. I was picked for PW 2015, and got good feedback from my mentor. Then I looked at the schedule for the next round of the contest and said WTF? So I gave up on that and just worked on the manuscript.

After the contest, someone set up a facebook group for the people who had participated. So just like that, we all picked up a hundred+ writer friends who were all around the same stage as ourselves: good amateurs, working hard to get published, but not published yet. THAT was the amazing part. They've been great critique partners, advice-givers, and supporters for two years now, and still going strong.

Yesterday, I signed with an agent. (!) I didn't do that in any way directly connected with PW, but at the same time, I don't think it would have happened without the people I met that way.

The point I'm trying to make isn't so much about PitchWars. There are lots of great communities out there, and this blog is one of them. I'm mostly just a lurker, but I know how strong the community is here. Out of all the things you can do as a writer to help your career, finding a community that will support, understand, and challenge you is probably way overlooked.

So my advice: yes, do PitchWars! It's a great experience. It won't change much directly, even if you 'win'. But any opportunity to get feedback, meet other writers, and engage with your peers is something worth pursuing.

Colin Smith said...

WooHoo!!! Congrats CS!! Thanks for coming out of lurkville to share your news with us. :D :D :D

All the very best to you with the adventure ahead... :)

BJ Muntain said...

Schmoozing is easy these days. My only advice for the OP is:

1) Be professional.
2) Put your best work forward.
3) Be friendly - but professional.

Like Janet says, it's like a networking cocktail party. If you wouldn't start a violent argument at a cocktail party, don't do so with PitchWars or any of the other networking opportunities online. If you wouldn't grope the hostess, then don't act sleezy online. Put your best face forward, and act like people will remember who you are - and you want them to remember you kindly.

Joshua Mason said...

I found my agent via @Pitdark last year, and my book is releasing in November. So yes they are worth doing if your work is ready. As stated before it wont do you much good if you get picked and you don't have a polished book to send them. And be ready for critiques, they may not be what you want to hear. Good luck to all who are fighting the good fight.

LynnRodz said...

CS, you took the words right out of my mouth. If nothing else, PW gives you an amazing group of writer friends that you wouldn't have had otherwise. I was in the same 2015 group and we're over 200+ strong as a community. We've helped one another with queries, synopsis, pitches, and finding CPs, beta readers, and plain old moral support. Not to mention, we celebrate every milestone someone accomplishes. (Congrats, CS!)

If nothing else OP, enter PW, you'll find an amazing bunch of writers on that same path you are. It's a lot nicer having companions than traveling that road alone.

Karen McCoy said...

Congrats, CS! Very well said. I've referenced this link before, but it's written by people involved in #PitchWars and has a lot of good things to say.

Mark Thurber said...

I submitted to PitchWars this year and have found it fun, helpful (lots of good insights from mentors and others), and a good prod to get manuscript, query letter, and synopsis in ready-to-query shape. I don't have any expectation that I'll be among the mentees chosen today, but like other commenters I recommend the experience!

Julie said...

I agree with Janet & BJ. Be professional.

I did PW for the first time this year and was shocked when Brenda Drake, the awesomeness who runs PW, announced that people had been harassing the mentors with a note pushing them to get stats out and critiques of people's work.


The mentors were/are volunteering time and effort for very little personal gain and getting grief for it. How to axe your own career in one easy lesson.

The world is a very small place. Kindnesses may not be remembered, but obnoxion almost certainly will be.


La Mandarin said...

I also did pitchwars last year. I had two awesome mentors, and the first thing they gave me was a 15 page edit letter. I basically rewrote my book from the ground up in 2 months. It was ridiculous and awesome because it connected me with other writers (published and unpublished), gave me practice in receiving massive editorial feedback, and taught me what it was like to be creative on that scale with a tight deadline. I haven't gotten an agent yet, but my mentors and many of my "classmates" will be friends for life.

As Janet said, it can't hurt but can really help with a little luck and a lot of hard work.

Lynne Main said...

Although I've never done Pitch Wars, I have done Pitmad a couple of times. Met some cool writers--folks that have friended me and vice versa--along the way. Also, I was lucky to receive a like from an agent. Unfortunately, the like didn't work out, but it did tell me one thing: my idea for my book is a good one, or I wouldn't have gotten a response to it. Nice to know I've haven't banged my head against the writing wall for nothing.

There is another Pitmad coming up on September 7, I will be pitching away once again.

Like Janet said, it can't hurt and you never know when or where a golden opportunity for your book will pop up. And you really do need to leave the safety of your front porch to get anywhere in life.

Thanking folks for their time and trouble is worth it's weight in gold. 'Cause you want people to remember you for the good stuff, not the bad.

Oh and Sharyn, 'somewhat nasal Boston accent'? I so resemble that remark, says the former Mass. girl. ;)

John Davis Frain said...

Okay, I'm sold. As someone who couldn't explain the difference between PitMad and Pitch Wars, I'm ready to belly up to the pit and jump in with no parachute.

September 7, you say? Guess that puts a learning curve in front of me with a deadline. And who among us doesn't love deadlines!

I'm in!

Lynne Main said...

John, good luck with Pitmad! It's a lot of fun. I am also on deadline because of it with my final edits of my book. After rewriting the first chapter (thank you Janet, on the post about a series of events!) and a couple of tweaks story-wise that reflect my Chapter 1 changes, I'm ready to go with the querying.

Like I said, I've never done Pitch Wars, so I can't say exactly what's involved, but I'm sure there's folks here that can give the lowdown.

BJ Muntain said...

For those confused (it's so easy to get confused, with the shortened Twitter names):

#PitMad occurs directly on Twitter - It's a Twitter pitch party, where the author posts their 140 Character pitch (including the necessary hashtags) in kind of a free-for-all, as agents go through them and pick ones that look interesting. It's generally best to post about once every hour or so, and maybe use slightly different pitches each time. This gets your pitches in front of agents and editors, and gives them a chance to 'like' it, in which case you follow the submission guidelines they give you. (Generally, PitMad requests get thrown to the front of the slush pile.)

Pitch Wars, on the other hand, is an online contest. According to Brenda Drake's site: "Pitch Wars is a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents. The mentors also critique the writer’s pitch to get it ready for the agent round." The prize is to get one of these mentors and work with them for two months on your novel and your pitch.

Two different things, but both are useful in their own way.

Lynne Main said...

Thank you, B.J. I knew there would be someone here who had the lowdown on Pitch Wars. Thanks to PitMad, I took a hard look at my writing and saw where things needed to change, revised, etc. when my 'like' didn't turn into a 'love'. Hopefully, this time 'round I'll have better luck with the querying.

AJ Blythe said...

Thanks for the great commentary on the #pitch??? options there are. I've seen some but never been brave enough to put myself out there, mostly because of the public arena. But as Sharyn said, the worst that can happen is 'no' (or silence).

Panda in Chief said...

Sending out a vicarious Huzzah to one of my friends who made the #PitchWars list for YA! Not sure if she hangs out in these waters, but we were both in the SCBWI NV Mentor group last year. I think any kind of opportunity to work with a mentor should be grabbed by and held onto for dear life.

And thanks again to Julie and Snappsy for sharing so much info and insight on PBs yesterday.
I vote for a Snappsy FF contest too.

Colin Smith said...

A very late, waaay past my bedtime comment to let y'all know I've posted the Julie Falatko Q&A to the Treasure Chest. I hope this proves to be helpful to lots of people.

Thanks again Julie for answering our questions. And thanks Janet for letting us take over your blog for the day. :)

Ashes said...

I am a big fan of PitchWars, but a couple caveats:

First, they require you to revise. This can actually be FANTASTIC for authors who are almost there, and author's who've had peer feedback but are looking for some next-level feedback from published authors. But, I wonder if some authors don't submit MSs already in really good shape, and what then? I just hope that authors don't revise just for the sake of revision. \

Secondly, I think PitchWars is headed towards a paid model. They have encouraged donations to the organizer in the past, I have even seen it worded rather strongly. A pay-to-play PitchWars would quickly change my opinion of the contest.

All that considered, I was involved in a similar contest once. I made a great contact in my mentor, who had the most fantastic insights. That connection alone was worth entering for, but I also came out of it with 2 requests for fulls and another quickly when I started querying the revised material.