(As originally published in the May/June 2017 Writer’s Digest.)
In the words of Brenda Drake, founder and bestselling author:
How #PitchWars started: The first Pitch Wars contest was in 2012. After running several contests for writers, I discovered that the requested pages or full manuscripts agents received [from the winners would often receive feedback that amounted to] the writing and/or story falling apart after the first few chapters. Then one fated day, I was watching “Cupcake Wars.” A baker had an assistant help create beautiful cupcakes for the judges, and I thought: That’s what our writing community needed. We needed experienced mentors (published and/or agented mentors, industry interns and editors) to help writers who were getting rejections from literary agents work out what was failing in their manuscripts.
Why you should pay attention: Pitch Wars has had close to 200 successes with writers finding agents and book deals [to date]. More than 50 authors were offered representation and/or publishing deals from our 2015 event, and our 2016 contest ended with 24 mentees signing with agents—and one snagging a publishing deal within the first month of the agent showcase ending!
Where it lives off Twitter: Pitch Wars has lived on my blog at brenda-drake.com/pitch-wars, but is moving to a website of its own at pitchwars.org. The site is currently under construction and we hope to have it live by the time you read this. It will have numerous resources for writers, as well as a forum for Pitch Wars community [members] to hang out and help each other throughout the year.
When to follow: March is the best time to start following the contest. [Ultimately, during the submission window in August, you’ll be applying directly to your top four choices of mentors, so you’ll want plenty of time to meet all the prospective mentors, to learn more about how to present yourself and your work, and to make yourself known in the conversation thread ongoing under the hashtag.] Leading up to the submission window, we host critique workshops, mentor interviews, and a blog hop with the mentors’ bios and what categories and genres they want to mentor.
Who it can help the most: Writers with a finished, polished and unpublished manuscript who are looking for agent representation.
What it could do for you: Not only can it help your writing, but it can also get you noticed by many of the top literary agents in the industry.
How to get involved: Follow the website (and be sure to read the complete contest details there). Participate on the hashtag #PitchWars all year long to tap into a great community of writers helping writers and cheering each other on. Many writers have found close friends and critique partners on the feed. Mentors share advice, too. Then, submit your applications in August, and you never know—you might be our next success story!
so what about #pitmad? #PitMad is solely a Twitter pitch party, hosted quarterly, and happens only on the hashtag. Dates are announced and pitching guidelines are posted in advance of each event at brenda-drake.com/pitmad. #PitMad has connected many writers with agents and publishers. (Success stories are featured at brenda-drake.com/pitmad-successes.)
When to follow: During the event: Each designated #PitMad day runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time.
Who it can help the most: Writers with a finished, polished and unpublished manuscript who are looking for agent representation or a publishing deal.
What it could do for you: #PitMad is a fun way to pitch literary agents and get to know the community. Sometimes it’s successful, sometimes not, but it’s great practice. Jumping in a bigger pool and seeing if anyone bites helps writers see if they have their hook down [to an effective teaser]. Also, it helps writers learn how to focus on the main plot of their story and how to pitch it. [Agents “favorite” pitches to show interest, and sometimes a writer will garner interest from an agent/publisher who she wouldn’t have thought to pitch.] It helps bring literary agents, editors and writers together.
How to get involved: Prepare several 140-character pitches for your manuscript, making sure to include sub-hashtags for category and/or genre. Then, on the day of the Twitter pitch party, tweet your pitches. You get three tweets per manuscript, so be sure to spread them throughout the day. Easy!
Brenda Drake (brenda-drake.com) is The New York Times bestselling author of Thief of Lies, Guardian of Secrets, Touching Fate and Cursing Fate. She is passionate about hosting workshops and contests for writers. Find her on Twitter @brendadrake.