Do Pitch Contests Help or Hurt?

Today is the crazy Twitter pitching frenzy that is #PitMad.

I proudly claim veteran status of this writing contest, and many others like it. Now that I’m on the ‘other side’ of the query trenches–agent and book deals in hand–I’m asked by many writers if contests like this help or hurt.

Pitch contests can take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride with the hype, the excitement, the swelling hope…and the sometimes letdown.  I know writers who find this process harder than querying.  Don’t get me wrong–I think querying writers should use every opportunity to get their work in front of agents–but I’ve learned that you have to keep contests in perspective so you don’t emerge crushed (and convinced you should throw your book out the window.)

Contests can help writers if they keep a few key things in mind:

#1: Use the opportunity to HONE YOUR PITCH/HOOK/LOGLINE.  Ditto with the first 250 words.  Make them as strong and grabby as they can be and LEARN from the other writers doing the same thing…

#2 Check out the websites of any agents that request to see your manuscript. What authors do they represent? What books have they sold? Make sure they’re legit, and someone you’d want to represent you. The old adage ‘a bad agent is worse than no agent’ is entirely TRUE. On the positive side, I found contests to be a great way to discover and connect with agents.

#3 DON’T LET A PASS GET YOU DOWN (for long) It’s subjective–just like in the real query world. Find encouragement from all the other writers in your boat, then hone your pitch and let the experience springboard you back into querying. (and writing and revising!)

#4 MEET OTHER AWESOME WRITERS This is the REAL gem of contests. I’ve met some of the best critique partners this way–not to mention fellow writers who motivated and encouraged me in the query trenches. There is so much we can learn from each other and from our shared experiences.

#5 WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, WRITE THE NEXT BOOK  Is your MS drifting in an endless sea of rejection? Maybe it’s time to set it aside (for now) and dive in to that next book. Nearly every author I know has at least one “shelved” book. (It was my THIRD book that led to my agent and book deals.

So, to all the writers who bravely put themselves out on the proverbial rejection ledge, whether through contests or traditional querying–congratulations on taking risks and moving toward your goals!

NEVER EVER EVER EVER GIVE UP.

For additional motivation:

 

Rejection Rescue: Never Give Up

“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.”
― Winston Churchill

It’s always hard when something you’ve put your heart and soul into gets what feels like a ‘meh’ response.  That’s the nature of art–as it’s an extension of the person who created it.  If we didn’t care what people thought, we wouldn’t be trying to get an audience for our work in the first place.  We want to make people feel…just not feel ‘meh’.

Today #pitchmadness was whittled down to the finalists and for all those who didn’t make the cut, it’s hard not to feel left behind in the land of Not Good Enough.  Are you dealing with rejection?  Take heart, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, get back on the horse, and [insert favorite metaphor here.]

I’m diving back into my newest book, immersing myself in a world and characters that are still coming to life around me.  In this world, anything is possible; the only limits are the ones I set.  I kind of feel that way about real life, too.  That’s the dreamer in me.

Get back to what you love.  And never give up.

The dream is still possible…you just have to keep trying.

Out of the Zombie Slush Pile (my #pitchmadness entry)

Hooray! I made it out of the “zombie slush pile” with my pitch for THE DREAMSPEAKER’S DIARY.  On to Round 2 of the crazy, creative frenzy that is #pitchmadness.

Many of my fellow zombie slushees requested I post my entry…so here it is, with a few thoughts to encourage as well…

Name: Jenny Moyer
Title: THE DREAMSPEAKER’S DIARY
Genre: YA
Word Count: 89,000

Pitch:
Brier hides her ability to speak her dreams into existence, but when a secret dream lab comes after her she must push the boundaries of her dreamspeaking abilities to save herself and those she loves.

Excerpt:

When I turned six, I learned the monsters in my closet were real—but what scared me most was realizing I had put them there.

This is my first thought when I wake in the basement closet sprawled beside the baseboards. My fingers trace the grooves of claw marks—in the place my mother couldn’t cover with paint.  Her words from that night come back to me and I’m reminded that, as scary as the creature in the closet was, the people who will come for me if I’m discovered are worse.

My second thought is that I have to get my dreamspeaking under control, because this is the third time this week I’ve woken up in the damn closet

The floor creaks and a light switches on.

“Brier?”  My sister’s muffled voice reaches me beyond a wall of old coats.

Squinting against the sudden brightness, I scramble out on my hands and knees.  “Owen?  What are you doing up?  It’s the middle of the night.”

“I thought I heard you on the stairs.”  Her eyes search my face, drop down my Hello Kitty shirt and tattered flannel shorts.  “Why are you in the closet?”

“A…mouse.”  My eyes shift toward the shadows.  “I saw a mouse.”

“And you followed it into the closet?”

Taking her arm, I steer her toward the stairs.  “Just one mouse can cause a lot of problems.  We’re talking infestation.”  I switch off the light and lead the way back to our rooms.

Thoughts on contests:

I’m going to be honest: pitch contests will take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride with the hype, the excitement, the swelling hope…and the sometimes letdown.  I know writers who find this process harder than querying.  Don’t get me wrong–I think querying writers should use every opportunity to get their work in front of agents–but I’ve learned that you have to keep contests in perspective so you don’t emerge crushed (and convinced you should throw your book out the window.)

#1: Use the opportunity to HONE YOUR PITCH/HOOK/LOGLINE.  Ditto with the first 250 words.  Make them as strong and grabby as they can be and LEARN from the other writers doing the same thing…

#2 DON’T LET A PASS GET YOU DOWN (for long) It’s subjective–just like in the real query world. Find encouragement from all the other writers in your boat, then hone your pitch and let the experience springboard you back into querying. (and writing and revising!)

#3 MEET OTHER AWESOME WRITERS This is the REAL gem of contests. I’ve met some of the best critique partners this way–not to mention fellow writers who are beside me in the query trenches.

#4 WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, WRITE THE NEXT BOOK  Is your MS drifting in an endless sea of rejection? Maybe it’s time to set it aside (for now) and dive in to that next book. Nearly every author I know has at least one “shelved” book.

I’m excited to have made it this far, but if I don’t make one of the teams, it’s on to #pitmad on March 29th (an even crazier contest!) Hope to see many of you there! Last time, I tweeted and pitched like a madwoman (or a very determined writer) and #pitmad led to multiple partial and full requests for THE DREAMSPEAKER’S DIARY. It happens.

So, here’s to every one of the over 400 writers who bravely put themselves out on the proverbial rejection ledge, and diligently whittled their manuscripts down to compelling 35 word pitches for  #pitchmadness. We all deserve awards for bravery and commitment to our publishing dreams! So MANY GREAT concepts did not make it out of the slush, and even fewer will make it to Round 3.  Good luck to those of you still on the coaster, and for everyone else…NEVER EVER EVER EVER GIVE UP.  See you at #pitmad March 29!