Monday, September 7, 2015

What I Learned From #PitchWars

The dust has settled, the mentees are announced, and all that's left is the (gulp) agent round.

This was my first year doing PitchWars, and I'm glad that I did. Yeah, it was a little hectic - I had edits due for THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, marketing, promo, and travel for A MADNESS SO DISCREET going on, fulfilling my end of the Kickstarter rewards for AMONG THE SHADOWS, plus critiquing for a friend - and suddenly my inbox had over 130 queries and first pages to read through.

But agents do that everyday. Every. Day. And they're juggling more than edits, promo and critiques for three projects... more like anything from twenty to the hundreds.

When I was in the query trenches I was often frustrated. Okay I was completely frustrated 100% of the time - and I was in those trenches for ten years. Sometimes I'd get such a lightning quick form rejection that I knew the agent hadn't glanced at my pages, or maybe even read the entire query. And it was irritating - I worked hard on that! That's my dream in your inbox! Give me the benefit of the doubt!

Through a few years of doing The Saturday Slash on the blog, and now after my experience in PitchWars, I completely understand that agents simply cannot read every word that is sent to them.

In some cases, yes, the writer worked hard - but maybe not hard enough. Did you do your research? Is the query about you or about your book? Does it open with a rhetorical question? Why would you do that? (see what I did there?) Have you identified your genre correctly? Is this even a YA book?

And in other cases, yes, it's your dream in the inbox... but maybe it's not the agent's dream. You could have an absolutely stellar query and opening page about something that agent is not interested in. At. All. That doesn't mean someone else isn't. While subjectivity is one of the most frustrating things about the industry, it's also the reason why bookshelves have everything from books about cats peeing on things to children's books meant for adults. And that's awesome.

My mentor-partner Kate Karyus Quinn and I agree that we didn't read a single query that was bad - nor did we read any first pages that were unsalvageable. And honestly with that many submissions, we were surprised at the quality of them. Which is why we decided to offer query and first page critiques on our blogs to everyone who submitted to us.

Quite a few people have taken us up on the offer. Through November, Kate and I will be posting these critiques on Mondays and Wednesdays. Any writer can learn from these - not just the author of the material being critiqued, so tune in!

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