I resisted online writing contests for years, opting instead for ones that were linked to conferences. Finally, after my second time as a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Literary Contest, four years of querying four different books, a growing blog and magazine platform, but still no agent, I decided to enter author Brenda Drake’s fabulous Pitch Wars contest.
Column by Jamie Pacton. Jamie writes Middle Grade fiction,
blogs for Parents, and she’s represented by Stefanie Lieberman
at Janklow & Nesbit. There’s more info about her and her writing
at www.jamiepacton.com. You can also connect with her on Twitter.
The result— less than two weeks after the contest ended, I signed with a wonderful agent who loves my Middle Grade adventure-fantasy.
Pitch Wars is a beautifully simple concept— in late August writers submit a query and the first chapter of finished manuscript to four possible mentors; the mentors pick a mentee and work with them for three months; then, in early November, literary agents request full or partial manuscripts based on a writer’s 50-word pitch and first page. (Check out my pitch, excerpt, and the agent comments here to see how it works.)
So, why should you try out for Pitch Wars next year?
1. The numbers are in your favor.
Pitch Wars ended two weeks ago, and already more than 10% of the mentees have agents or offers of representation! One of my fellow mentees had more than twenty agents request his manuscript, he fielded multiple offers, and now he’s signed with an agent who’s passionate about his project. I sent off eleven full or partial drafts and had my first offer the day Pitch Wars ended. If the success of last year’s mentees is any indicator, the good news will keep rolling in.
2. You get to work closely with a published mentor.
The mentors who participate in Pitch Wars are experienced, already-published writers who want to help with your book and many of them offer insight on query letters and synopses as well. My mentor spent hours on the phone with me—talking late into the night his time since we live on opposite coasts— as we discussed plot points, characters, details, and sentence-level revisions. His willingness to help, his belief in my work, and his suggestions for revision helped my story tremendously.
3. You gain a huge community of other writers.
The Pitch Wars mentees—all 125 of us hang out in a secret Facebook group. Over the last few months we’ve shared our stories, worries, successes, hopes, and disappointments. We’ve become critique partners, copy editors, and sounding boards. We’ve cheered mentees on and cheered them up. I’ve even met a fellow mentee who lives a few streets over from me for coffee. It’s like a normal writing group on steroids, and I love it.
4. The exposure for your writing is priceless.
It’s scary to send queries into the void, and it’s easy to feel like just another name in an agent’s overcrowded in-box, but Pitch Wars offers amazing exposure. Before the contest, there are interviews with you and your mentor; all sorts of Twitter activity happens before, during, and after the contest; and your pitch and excerpt stay on Brenda’s website for agents to see, even after the contest is done. (Check out all of this year’s books here.)
5. Excellent agents from reputable agencies participate in Pitch Wars.
The agents who participate in Pitch Wars are the real deal. Many of my dream agents were on the list this year, and agencies with tremendous sales records—Janklow & Nesbit, The Bent Agency, New Leaf, TraidaUS, Foundry, ICM, Writer’s House, Fuse, and many, many others—participated in the contest. You want these agents to see your work and fall in love with it!
6. Pitch Wars allows you to grow, expand, and improve your manuscript.
Beyond all these numbers, dream agents, offers, communities, and everything in between, perhaps the best thing about Pitch Wars is that it helps you make a better book. It offers a tangible deadline, and it can galvanize change in your story. It certainly did that for mine. And, really, you can’t lose—even if you have no agent interest during the contest, you still end up with a polished manuscript, a complete synopsis, and a strong query that will give you a leg up as you head back into the querying trenches.
Although Pitch Wars is done for this year, Brenda Drake’s still got one more contest up her sleeve. Mark you calendars and head over to #PitMad, a Twitter Pitch Party, which has helped many writers get agents. It happens on December 4th 8am-8pm EST, so, get your 140 characters ready, and good luck!
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers' Conferences:
- Oct. 28–30, 2016: Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference (Los Angeles, CA)
- Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
- Feb. 26–March 3, 2017: Writers Winter Escape Cruise (conference/cruise departing Miami)
- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writers Workshop (Nashville, TN)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer's Digest Conference (New York, NY)
Hook agents, editors and readers immediately.
Check out Les Edgerton's guide, HOOKED, to
learn about how your fiction can pull readers in.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Literary Agents Explain Why They Attend Conferences (And It's Not What You Think).
- Voluntary Masochism: Writing With Emotion.
- How I Learned to Kill My Darlings.
- Why Tough Love is Crucial to Writers.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and writing a query letter.
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