PITCHWARS: SHOULD I OR SHOULDN’T I? by mentor, Michael Mammay
PITCHWARS: SHOULD I OR SHOULDN’T I?
That’s the question, right? Should I, or shouldn’t I? Simple. Binary. Sometimes it’s easy. Like if the question is ‘Should I eat that last taco?’ Yes. Obviously. Do I want to go see the next movie that’s a reboot of a TV show with you? Absolutely not.
But what about Pitch Wars? There it can get a little more complicated. Today I’m going to share a few of my thoughts that might help you work through your decision making period.
I’m not going to spend time here telling you about all the great things Pitch Wars does. There are dozens of blog posts, tweets, book acknowledgements, and roving bands of barbarian writers who already lay out all the benefits. It’s good. Today I’m going to focus on if it’s right for YOU.
Let’s start with the basics. Do you have a completed manuscript that you’ve edited and polished, and hopefully had a couple qualified people critique? Because that’s the prerequisite. Without that, you don’t need the rest of this post. But if you do, or if you can get there by the end of July, read on.
Let me start by reading your mind. I’m going to take all the reasons you have in your head for not doing it, and talk through them. <cue eerie mind-reading music>
1. But my book isn’t good enough (I’m not good enough.) Do. Not. Self. Reject. If I could put that on repeat a dozen times, I would, but I feel like that would make for a boring post. Look…maybe your book *isn’t* good enough yet. But maybe it is. You are not a good judge of that. Here’s a conversation I had with a critique partner of mine last week. I had just sent her the sequel to my book that got me my agent. Nobody had read it yet but me.
Her: This is great.
Her: What? You knew that when you sent it to me.
Me: I really didn’t. I had no idea.
Her: You’re an idiot.
Okay. I’m paraphrasing. But the sentiment is real. And the thing is, we’re all idiots to some extent when it comes to our own writing. All. Of. Us. You can’t see the mistakes in your writing the way other people can. But you can’t see the magic, either. You’re too close. I felt so much relief when that reader (and a couple others) told me that it didn’t suck. Because I didn’t know. I was too close.
Do. Not. Self. Reject.
2. It’s too embarrassing. I know you said don’t self reject, but if I enter and I suck, everybody will know that I suck and that is horrible and I’ll die. You probably won’t. Last year about 2000 people entered Pitch Wars. Less than 200 got in. So that means right around 1800 people didn’t. If you try and don’t get in, you’re in good company. More than that, you’re pretty anonymous. As a mentor last year I read 140 entries. I didn’t select 139 of them. While I can definitely tell you who some of the people are who I didn’t pick because we’ve stayed in touch, I can’t tell you much about their books. And even if I could, it’s a year later. You know how much a writer can grow in a year? I ran into someone a couple weeks back who thanked me for a 5 page critique for her. I didn’t remember it, so I looked back through my email and found it…May of 2016 I’d done the critique for her as part of an online offer. I’d proposed some fixes to a couple of very basic problems. You know where I ran into her? As she was announcing the publication deal for that same book. Two points, there. One…I didn’t remember her or the errors in her book, because we didn’t stay in touch and I read tons of stuff. Two, even if I did remember her, everything I knew back then about her as a writer is irrelevant today.
Bottom line, mentors are reading a hundred or more entries in a week or two. I promise none of us have the time to sit around and discuss the ones that aren’t quite there yet. We *do* gush to each other over the good ones. It’s a very positive environment behind the scenes.
3. I’ve looked at the agent list and the agents who rep my genre have mostly already rejected me. Doesn’t matter. Your mentor will look at that, probably, and may take it into consideration, but these days most agents are willing to take another look after you go through revisions with Pitch Wars. Because they know the deal. It won’t be the same book.
4. Rejection sucks, and I can’t take it right now. Okay…this one is a bit more complicated. Every time you bring this up in public, the first thing you’re going to hear is that you have nothing to lose. And in theory, that’s true. You can enter for free. But there are other factors.
Yes, rejection is part of writing. One could argue that even the idea of being rejected is good practice for being a writer. After all, if you can’t deal with rejection, this is going to be a tough business for you. Everyone gets rejected at some point. Everyone.
With that said, only you know you. You know where you’re at right now in your writing journey and in your life, and maybe you’re not in a great place to deal with rejection at the moment. I know for me the ability to deal with it comes and goes. Only you can answer that. So while I’d encourage you to try to overcome this fear, that’s not always possible. Talk it through with people you trust. Assess where you’re at. We’d love to see you enter, but at the same time, you have to protect yourself.
I will say this: Pitch Wars rejection is a little easier than some others, mostly because there’s a specific date where you will definitively know. As hard as it is, you know when it ends, which is a bit easier than with agents, where you usually won’t know when you’re going to get an answer.
5. My book is ready now, and I don’t want to wait to query. This might be valid. Entering Pitch Wars takes time. I’m not talking about the time to write and polish a manuscript. If you’re trying to get published, you have to do that anyway. But if you’re entering Pitch Wars, you’ve got more to do. You’ve got to do at least some research on mentors at a minimum. Realistically, you’re also going to spend time online, refreshing your email, and all the other sometimes productive, sometimes less productive things that writers do while they wait.
Beyond that, you’re looking at roughly a month to find out if you got in or not, and then if you do get in you’ve got two more months of work ahead of you. Most of the time, this is all worth it. But if you’ve got a book that you’ve edited and polished and edited again and you’re ready to query, that’s a lot of time to wait.
But the time might be worth it. What’s your hurry? Maybe you do have a book that’s pretty close to ready. It happens. I know it happens, because it happened to me. I entered Pitch Wars in 2015 with a book that is pretty close to what I queried my agent with. I finished writing it in July, and Pitch Wars started in early August, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I got in, and I didn’t make a ton of edits. I made a few. But for the three months of August to October, I probably worked a week on them. My book was already close. Here’s the thing…we still made it better. Dan, my mentor, gave me some notes. I reworked the first chapter several times in the week leading up to Pitch Wars, fixing every word. And with the two months of Pitch Wars, I re-read and polished my book, removed some more junk words, and I made a few other changes that made it stronger. Is that the difference that got me my agent? I don’t know. There’s a chance she’d have signed me anyway. What it did, though, was give me peace of mind. When I started querying, I knew I had the best book I could write at the time.
And at the same time, for the price of three months I gained a huge support group, I met a ton of wonderful writers, and even worked on some of their books. All of that better prepared me to be a writer, no matter what happened with my own manuscript.
I gained access to a group of experienced writers going through the same thing as me, and a group of mentors who had often already been through it. The value of having somebody you can ask questions about when things get confusing—and it’s publishing…trust me, things are going to get confusing—it’s valuable thing.
6. I’m crazy busy. I don’t have the time to devote to intensive re-writes. Another complicated issue. Pitch Wars is work. There’s really no way around that. Your book doesn’t magically go from what it is today into what you dream it can be. There’s only one way there, and it’s through hard work. Pitch Wars is going to cram that work into two months. Maybe that’s not possible for you. If you’re in a medical residency or in your first year out of law school, if you’re having a baby, if you’re going through some difficult event…maybe the timing doesn’t work. Maybe you’ll be better off putting in the hard work at a more convenient time. That’s okay. But the work is still there. So if you can make it fit, why not now?
So that’s it. That’s what I’ve got. Pitch Wars isn’t for everybody. Hopefully some of this will help you decide if it’s for you or not. Whichever way you choose, good luck in your writing endeavors.
Thank you for your experience and advice, Michael! We’re so happy to have you back as a 2017 mentor!
Michael Mammay writes Science Fiction, and sometimes fantasy, usually revolving around military characters. A lot of the ideas that go into those books come from having served in the Army for quite some time. There will also probably be explosions. On the page, not necessarily in real life. He’s represented by Lisa Rodgers of JABberwocky Literary Agency.