Posts Tagged ‘#PitchWars’

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A common superstition among modern humans is that if two good things happen in rapid succession, a third is sure to follow.  Equally popular is the belief that this works for bad things, as well.

I’m going to focus on the good for today’s post.

For the better part of two years I have been convinced that I could never afford to purchase the services of a professional editor to improve my daughter’s and my middle grade manuscript to the point where an agent will fall in love with it.  It is certainly true that our family budget has no room for $600-$1,000 or more to be spent on what is, at this stage, only a hobby with no discernible future.  I have not purchased myself a new laptop to write on for the exact same reason.  And this fact is what has motivated us to doggedly enter as many Twitter pitch contests as we can, in the hopes that 1) we will gain some insight into the querying process, 2) network with agents, editors, and fellow writers, and 3) just maybe win a free session with a professional editor.  Over the course of the last two years we’ve gotten our fair share of #1 and #2, but so far the Twitter gods or the fates or the muses or whomever have neglected to kick down that #3 and fulfill the sacred trifecta.

And then the other day, in the regular course of Twitter writerly business, I got a new follower — an editorial service run by two professional editors who’s day jobs are editing manuscripts for a children’s book publisher.  They have a deal where they will do a full-manuscript developmental critique for under $200.  I gleefully sent our manuscript and the down payment. Finally, we’re getting a professional editor to read and critique our manuscript, and offer industry-savvy advice for making it sellable.

Okay, that’s One.

Then this afternoon I discovered that I had four Twitter notifications.  I occasionally get one or two in a week, when I tweet a link to this blog or participate in a contest.  But four at once is practically a riot.  It turns out we had won a contest I’d forgot I had even entered.  This one is called Mentees Helping Mentees (#menteeshelpingmentees), and consists of a group of past PitchWars winners offering to critique the query and first 10 pages of PitchWars 2017 hopefuls. We somehow made it into the tiny handful of Middle Grade entries chosen.  Which means that in the next couple of weeks we will receive detailed feedback and advice on how to fine-tune our submission package.

That makes Two.

I guess all there is to do now is wait and see what Three is going to turn out to be….

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My Annual Pitch Contest Calendar now has a permanent home!
See the menu at the top of the page.

contest

Okay, kids – get your Twitter pitches, 35-word pitches, queries, and first 250 words shined up and ready.  Here’s a breakdown of the pitch contests coming up in 2017.

If you’re new to the concept, these are contests for authors with complete, polished manuscripts who are seeking representation by an agent and/or an editor.  These contests are fierce and popular, and the competition is strong and numerous.  But there are several advantages to entering:

1) Putting yourself out there. If you’re new to querying and not sure how to begin, or nervous about exposing your work to strangers, this is a good way to dip your toe in the raging whitewaters of the publishing world.

2) Getting feedback on your presentation.  Theses contests are all about those fiddly bits you use as bait to lure an agent or editor.  It is assumed your book is already finished, edited, beta’d, revised, and polished. You know – what you thought was the hard part. What you may not have as thoroughly vetted and sparkly are your query (including your all-important 35-word pitch) and the first 250 words (roughly the first page) of your manuscript.  These will make or break your first impression.  Even the perfect agent who was born to fall in love with your manuscript will never read it if you don’t hook her with your query and the first page of your manuscript.  Most of these contests have built-in feedback rounds or swarms of freelance editors offering free advice to contestants.

3) Networking with other writers, agents and editors in your genre.  Even if you don’t “win” (I’ve been doing this for a year, and I never have – and neither have most published authors), you will meet other contestants and judges, as well as participating editors and agents.  Most of these contests exist in the Twittersphere (or at least have a corresponding hashtag where those who have enetered can commiserate while they wait for the results).  Follow these hastags and be part of the running conversations.  You will meet other writers with books similar to yours, querying in the same genres.  You will meet agents looking for books like yours in your genre.  You will meet the judges, who are often fellow writers and past contest winners.  You are bound to make new friends and valuable contacts.

One last thing before I get to the list: In case you don’t know what a Twitter Pitch Party is, it is an event – usually lasting 12 hours – where you are invited to pitch your manuscript right on Twitter using a specific hashtag plus one for your book’s genre. Agents are well aware of these contests, and follow them eagerly. If they like a pitch they will favorite it, and that is your invitation to send them a query.  #PitMad is the most well-known and popular of these (and it happens four times a year).  So, to be clear, you must pitch your book using only a total of 140 characters INCLUDING “#PitMad” (or whatever) and one or more category/genre tags:

  • #PB = Picture Book
  • #CB = Chapter Book
  • #ER = Early Reader
  • #MG = Middle Grade
  • #YA = Young Adult
  • #NA = New Adult
  • #A = Adult
  • #SFF = Science Fiction / Fantasy
  • #UF = Urban Fantasy
  • #CF = Contemporary Fantasy
  • #HistFic/#HistFan = Historical Fiction / Historical Fantasy
  • #R = Romance
  • #Myst = Mystery
  • #WF = Women’s Fiction
  • #NF = Non-fiction
  • #Mem = Memoir
  • #LF = Literary Fiction

It is important that you read and follow the rules for these, and practice good contest etiquette: Usually only pitch twice per hour, never favorite another writer’s pitch (that is how agents request queries!), etc.

So, without further ado, here is the 2017 calendar of pitch contests.  Some of these have not been officially announced as of this posting, but I will update this post as more information (and more contests) are announced.  Good luck!

It is important that you read and follow the rules for these, and practice good contest etiquette: Usually only pitch twice per hour, never favorite another writer’s pitch (that is how agents request queries!), etc.

So, without further ado, here is the 2017 calendar of pitch contests.  Some of these have not been officially announced as of this posting, but I will update this post as more information (and more contests) are announced.  Good luck!

January 23: Sun vs. Snow
Character question + query + first 250 words of your manuscript. Open to the first 200 entries received (in 2016 this took 4 minutes!). 16 entries chosen for each team (Sun and Snow). Teams work with authors to polish their entries before posting for the Agent Round. Open to MG, YA, NA and A (including erotica).
Details: https://chasingthecrazies.wordpress.com/2016/12/13/2017-sun-vs-snow-details/

February 13: Son of a Pitch
Query + first 250 words of your manuscript. First week open to all for feedback. Then the top 50 entries go on to week 2, to be whittled down to the final 20. Agents and editors will make requests from the finalists.Open to YA, NA and A of all genres.
Details: http://kjhstories.blogspot.com/2017/01/say-what-son-of-pitch-is-back.html

February 23: #PBPitch
Twitter Pitch Party – Picture Books only
Details: www.pbpitch.com

February 24: Pitch Madness
Pitch Madness is a contest held every March, where writers enter for a chance to win requests from the participating agents. Writers submit a 35-word (max) pitch and the first 250 words of their completed manuscript on submission day. Then a team of readers choose the top sixty (60) entries to go onto the agent round. Though Pitch Madness has a game theme, the next contest will transition to more of a critique based contest with agents simply requesting in the comments of the entries’ posts instead of having the agents play for requests. Also, hosts will coach our team members, helping them polish their entries and first pages.
Details: www.brenda-drake.com/pitch-madness/

March 6: #SonofaPitch
Twitter pitch party. Include #SonofsPitch, genre and age category; 1 tweet per hour.
Details: http://kjhstories.blogspot.com/2017/01/say-what-son-of-pitch-is-back.html

March 23: #PitMad
Twitter Pitch Party. 8am to 8pm EST; only 3 tweets allowed per project.
Details (not yet updated for 2017): www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/   also: http://www.brenda-drake.com/contest-schedule/

April 5: #AdPit
Twitter Pitch Party – Adult books only
Details: https://heidinorrod.wordpress.com/adpit-and-kidpit/

April 5: #KidPit
Twitter Pitch Party – Children’s books only (Picture Books, Early Readers, Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult)
Details: https://heidinorrod.wordpress.com/kidpit/

April 7 (TBD): Pitch to Publication (#P2P17)
“Pitch to Publication is for writers with FULLY COMPLETED manuscripts, who are ready to achieve the next level of literary wholeness. Authors will submit a query and 5 pages of their draft manuscript to one of our highly sought-after freelance editors. Each editor will select one (and sometimes two!) authors to work with for 5 weeks of intensive manuscript development. Your editor will help prepare you and your work for our agent round on May 22nd!” Editors will be announced March 13-20. This contest has been postponed; new dates not yet announced. Possibly cancelled permanently; the site has been taken down

April 7: Revise & Resub (#RevPit)
“In this contest, authors will be eligible to receive feedback and full edits on their manuscript from professional editors, ensuring their works are polished and ready for those agent inboxes. Writers will submit their query and first five pages to their top three editors and one alternate, who will then go through submissions and select one (or two!) winners. These matches will go through an intense, month-long editing process before reposting their submissions from finalized projects.” Details: http://www.reviseresubmit.com

May 17: #QueryKombat
64 kombatants in a single-elimination tournament style query-off. Entries will go head-to-head in six rounds until only one entry remains. Agents look at winners of each elimination.
Details: http://www.michelle4laughs.com/p/writer-contests.html

June 7: #70Pit17 
1 page contest based on McLuhan Test, which says the sixty-ninth page is far enough into a novel that things should really be happening, and it can be a better snapshot of the entire book’s style than the first page. 70pit takes this idea but removes the connotations with the number 69.  Entrants submit 257 words from either their 69th or 70th page. Agent round July 7. Details: https://larawillard.com/70pit/

June 8: #PitMad
Twitter Pitch Party. 8am to 8pm EST; only 3 tweets allowed per project.
Details: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/

June 22: #SFFPit
Twitter Pitch Party for Si-Fi and Fantasy books ONLY, for all age groups.
Details: http://dankoboldt.com/sffpit/

July 21: #AdPit
Twitter Pitch Party – Adult books only
Details: https://heidinorrod.wordpress.com/adpit-and-kidpit/

July 21: #KidPit
Twitter Pitch Party – Children’s books only (Picture Books, Early Readers, Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult)
Details: https://heidinorrod.wordpress.com/kidpit/

August 2-6: Pitch Wars
Published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents over a 2-month period.
Details: www.brenda-drake.com/pitch-wars

August 30 – September 3: Pitch America
This contest will feature the first 500 words and the 35 word pitch of completed and polished manuscripts written by Latinx. This exclusively for Latinx writers and to work on the diversity in publishing issue.
Details: https://pitchamerica.wordpress.com/submission-guidelines/

September 7: #PitMad
Twitter Pitch Party. 8am to 8pm EST; only 3 tweets allowed per project.
Details: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/

October 2: #DVPit — Children/Teen 
Twitter Pitch Party. 8am to 8pm EST; open to PB, CB, MG, & YA fiction and non-fiction. The event was created and is moderated by literary agent Beth Phelan.
Details: http://www.dvpit.com/about

October 3: #DVPit — Adult
Twitter Pitch Party. 8am to 8pm EST; open to all adult fiction and non-fiction. The event was created and is moderated by literary agent Beth Phelan.
Details: http://www.dvpit.com/about

October 13: Nightmare on Query Street (#NoQS)
Halloween-themes contest. Around 40 entries are chosen and paired with expert mentors. The shined and polished query letter and first 250 words go before agents for requests. Contestants must answer a Halloween-themes question in their submission. For MG, YA, NA, & A.
Details: http://www.michelle4laughs.com/p/writer-contests.html

November 7: #WEpit — Children/Teen 
Twitter Pitch Party dedicated to women’s empowerment. You may pitch four times per project between 8am to 8pm EST; open to PB, CB, MG, YA & A fiction and non-fiction. The event was created by husband and wife team, Rachel Mannino and Chris Mannino.
Details: http://www.getupandsavetheworld.com/wepit.html

December 7: #PitMad
Twitter Pitch Party. 8am to 8pm EST; only 3 tweets allowed per project.
Details: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/

2018

January 18: Insecure Writer’s Group — #ISWGPit
Twitter Pitch Party. 8am to 8pm EST; 1 tweet allowed per hour.
Details: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-twitter-pitch.html

THIS IS BY NO MEANS A COMPLETE LIST. MANY CONTEST HOSTS HAVE NOT YET COMMITTED TO OR ANNOUNCED THEIR 2017 SCHEDULES. CHECK BACK OFTEN!

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Last week in That “Aha” Moment I talked about how you never know when a good idea will strike, and also about when you may have to let one of those ideas go.  I closed by telling you how my new Critique Partner and a professional editor both pointed out what was missing from our book, and that I would share with you what that was, in case it applied to you, too.  It was really quite a game-changer.

What’s been missing from my daughter’s and my book were the stakes.

stake
[steyk]
noun
  1. something that is wagered in a game, race, or contest.
  2. a monetary or commercial interest, investment, share, or involvement in something, as in hope of gain: I have a big stake in the success of the firm.
  3. a personal or emotional concern, interest, involvement, or share: Parents have a big stake in their children’s happiness.
  4. the funds with which a gambler operates.

 

In fiction, this means the goal or outcome the hero wants. And more importantly, what is in the way of achieving that goal?  Another word for this is “suspense.”

To be fair, we did eventually get around to adding in stakes to our novel by the time we got to the end.  And we went back and diligently hinted at it in the early chapters, too.

This is, apparently, not sufficient.

Our first clue (ignored) was when we struggled to come up with a longline, or 35-word pitch.  For sure, this is not easy under the best circumstances, but the crux of the pitch is the stakes. If you can’t figure out what your main character has at stake, there is a problem with your book.

We began writing THE LAST PRINCESS by the seat of our pants, without an outline, and letting the story evolve as we progressed.  In fact, we never actually intended the story to include a villain, but one sort of appeared organically, and we added him to the story.  In the end the final conflict is rather juicey and full of hard choices — stakes — but that suspense, that energy, that urgency, is simply not very apparent at the beginning.

It needs to be.  In fact, I’d suggest that by page 50 (page 30 for children’s books) it should be clear to your reader what is at stake for the hero, and just as importantly, what will happen if she or he fails.  And remember, failure is an option.  It depends on what kind of book you want to write.

What does this look like?  Imagine I told you I had a guaranteed winning lottery ticket worth millions, and I was willing to let you have it.  Now, imagine I told you the only way to get it is to climb up the outside of the U.S. Capitol Building and retrieve it from the top of the dome.  Before midnight tomorrow.  Now you have some suspense.  Can you do it?  How will you do it in time?  How will you get past security?  Do you have the skill and equipment?  What if you get caught?

It doesn’t have to be that dramatic.  A woman is engaged to a horrible person but falls in love with a different, wonderful man.  But she must marry the first in order to save her dying sister.  A boy has a dream of becoming the best cornet player in New Orleans, but he lives in poverty and can’t afford nice clothes to audition for the band.

So how do you sharpen the stakes?  Pour on the pressure.  The engaged woman learns the wonderful man loves her back, and he’s rich, too.  But her fiancé is the only surgeon qualified to perform the life-saving operation.  And when he gets jealous he drinks.  The cornet player earns the money to buy a nice suit, but his mother loses her job and can’t afford to buy food for the family.  If you really want to lay it on thick, add a time-bomb: The band auditions are this Friday, then the talent scout is leaving town. The sister’s condition is worsening by the day.

For our book, we need to put the conflict with the villain right up front, and make it clear what the hero has to lose — personally — if she fails to defeat him.  That’s the thing about stakes, they have to be personal.  It’s not enough to just save the kitten from the fire.  The kitten has to be personally important to the hero.  Ask yourself this question:  What would happen to your hero if he/she fails?  If their life could pretty much go on unchanged, your stakes aren’t high enough or personal enough.

This’s what was missing from our book.  We had stakes, but they weren’t personal enough.  It came own to saving other people or going back to her normal life.  Not enough suspense.  But now we know how to fix that.  We’re going to have to let go of some of our favorite lines, even favorite scenes.  But the results should help make our manuscript irresistible to readers — particularly agents.

PitchWars-Logo

This is the big one, kids.  The gold standard of pitch contests, and one of the longest-running. There are something like 130 mentor teams participating this year, broken into four age categories: Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult and Adult. The contest runs from today through November 9.

But what is it?

Oh! I didn’t see you there, under that rock.  Okay.  PitchWars is a contest for writers with complete manuscripts and a polished query letter. You choose four mentors or mentor teams (a lot of those this year) and submit your first chapter, query, and contact info. Over the course of the next three weeks, those mentors will review all of their entries and request additional materials from those writers whose manuscripts they like. And by “like” I mean they feel like they can connect to the story and the author, and can offer concrete advice for revising the entire manuscript to agent readiness. These are experienced people — slush readers, professional editors, published authors. Many of them are past PitchWars winners.

Then, for the next two months, the chosen mentees will be in constant communication with their mentors, frantically revising their manuscripts and query letters according to their mentors’ advice.  Then, during the first week of November, these revised pitches and manuscripts will be showcased for participating agents.  There are over 60 of those, this year.  The goal, of course, is for an agent to sign you.  That happened to over 50 people last year, and over 200 in the 4-year history of PitchWars.

Do you have a manuscript you are ready to query?  If so, and you want to enter, the details are here.  When you are ready, the entry form is here.

Good luck!