That’s the question on everyone’s minds right now, right? The sub window opens August 2 and mentee hopefuls everywhere are frantically polishing their MSs, tweaking queries, and changing their relationship status with Twitter to: it’s complicated.
How do I know this?
Because, I’ve been you.
And I CAN HELP YOU. So gather round potential pitch warriors, while I offer up some tips to increase your odds of being selected as a 2017 mentee.
TIP #1: DO YOUR HOMEWORK
The easiest way to short your odds is to sub to the wrong mentors. When the blog hop goes live on July 19, read the mentor wish lists c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y and whittle your choices down to the best possible fits for you and your work.
How else can you get to know the mentors? Check out their books for a sense of their strengths and styles, read their blogs, watch the Pitch Wars Live interviews (or recordings if you can’t catch them live!), and follow them on Twitter. Ask follow up questions* about their tastes if you’re unsure (note: mentors won’t be able to answer questions until after the blog hop goes live, July 19, but you can start thinking about the kinds of questions you might want to ask now).
And most importantly, do your homework. There may be “helpful” resources floating around on the inter webs that claim to have info on what the mentors want and don’t want, but in past years we never saw any that were 100% accurate. Don’t rely on second hand info, go straight to the source, do your own investigation with your MS in mind. You don’t want to waste a sub on the wrong mentor due to misinformation.
*WE LOVE QUESTIONS! Just be careful not to straight up pitch your MS to mentors on Twitter. We can’t tell you whether or not to sub to us, you’ll have to decide that on your own. We can tell you more about general things and books we like and don’t like to help you pin down best-possible fits. Basically, ask questions we can give definitive “yes or no” answers to, not “maybe….it would depend….” answers. (e.g., “Do you enjoy fairy tale re-tellings in fantasy worlds?” Yes! Good question! “Did you read A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES? Did you enjoy it?” Yes! And I loved it! Great question! “Would you want a Beauty and the Beast retelling in a fantasy world with fairie lore woven in throughout?” Well… I could tell you I like Beauty and the Beast, and fantasy worlds, and fairie lore, but the real question here is “do I want it” and that answer’s going to be “maybe…it would depend on your hook and how it’s done… ” And that’s not really going to help you narrow down your choices. See the difference?)
TIP #2: IT’S NOT A RACE
Take your time to make your choices, guys! It’s not a race to lock in your mentor picks. Have your favorites, but keep your eyes and ears open. A mentor may tweet how desperate they are for YOUR EXACT BOOK later in the game, even if it wasn’t spelled out in their wish list. If you’ve already made your picks based on wish lists alone, you could miss it!
Lemme tell you a little story: In 2015, I thought I’d made my picks, had narrowed it down and was ready to sub. In the days before the sub window opened, one of the mentors who I thought would be a good fit and was still
stalking following on Twitter tweeted about how much she wanted a good sister story. Meanwhile, there was a mentor I’d been convinced I was definitely subbing to who’d been tweeting about things they loved and wanted that were starting to veer further away from my genre. I swapped them out on my list and subbed to the mentor who wanted the sister story…. and…guys, THAT WAS THE MENTOR WHO PICKED ME!
And here’s another story: Last year, our absolutely incredible mentee almost didn’t sub to us. Why not? She’d subbed to my co-mentor in the past and thought she’d have a better chance picking mentors who’d never seen her work before. But at the last minute she saw a tweet where my co-mentor basically, unknowingly, begged (yes, literally begged), for her MS. Our mentee changed her mind and subbed to us and… the rest is history (thank goodness, it’s almost a year later and I still think about how much I love her MS all the time).
So be flexible, keep evaluating your best choices as you come across new information between July 19 and August 2.
TIP #3: BE (M)SELF-AWARE
Be honest with yourself about your work. It’s super easy to develop mentor crushes while reading the bios of these amazing and talented writers (I only had several dozen in 2015). If you find yourself saying things like “well, maybe my MS isn’t that dark” or “oh yeah, it’s totally hilarious!” but you know…maybe…deep in your heart, that you’re stretching a bit (because, mentor crush): don’t sub. Sub to the mentor asking for your degree of dark and your level of comedy, etc., etc.
Of course, you want a mentor who you think will be a good match personality-wise, but put the MS first. Don’t waste a sub when you know your MS isn’t really in line with their tastes.
TIP #4: BORROW SOME EYES
No, not in like a horror genre way. But get some extra eyes on your query, first page, and synopsis.
I can hear some of you now, “I’ve read it literally fifty billion times myself, it’s fine, it’s grammatically correct and polished and makes perfect sense.”
Trust me, it’s not.
Guys, I’m a query QUEEN. I can whip any query into shape in like thirty minutes or less. I just get queries. But I’ll openly admit my own query was always weaker than anyone else’s I worked on (and I’ve worked on a LOT).
Because it’s SO easy for your mind to just fill in the blanks when it knows your MS inside and out. You need someone who has not read your MS to look at your materials from the outside. They’ll see the holes right away, they’ll raise questions, they’ll point out things that confused them.
And then you can fix it.
TIP #5: FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS
Another super easy way to hurt your odds is failure to follow instructions. Here are ALL THE DETAILS you need to know to sub to Pitch Wars. Read them. Bookmark them for later. Double check that you understand the length the sub window will be open and all of the submission guidelines. Have everything you need for the sub packet (query + first chapter) formatted properly per the guidelines and ready to go.
TIP #6: BRING THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
Alright, so I wanted a Mindy Kaling gif of her saying “Why Not Me?” (the title of her latest book), but I couldn’t find one (and I searched for…way too long), so instead you get this one. ANYWAY!
There’s a difference between being realistic and being negative. In 2015, this contest received nearly 1,600 entries for 125 spots. Last year, I think it was closer to 1,900 for about the same number of places. The odds of not getting in are much higher than the odds of getting in.
But every year hopefuls on Twitter count themselves out and put their own work down before the mentees are announced. Guys! Don’t do this! Mentees work their asses off, in Pitch Wars, and beyond. They don’t give up before the game has even started. If you’re saying “I know I’m not good enough for this” before the mentees are even chosen, what are you going to say when we ask you to WORK for the next two months? What are you going to say when it comes time to post your pitch in the agent round? If you’re already counting yourself out, why should a mentor choose you?
As long as you followed the instructions and submitted to mentors accepting your genre/category, IT COULD BE YOU (especially with the behind the scenes trading back again this year). This contest isn’t for perfect stories that need zero work. It’s okay to know your story could be better (spoiler: it could always be better). This is a contest for great stories that we can help become even better. If you enter, you have the same odds as everyone else (they just happen to be horrible odds).
Recognize that, be prepared for the odds not to go your way, feel all the feelings, but don’t bash yourself and your work in public. You wouldn’t go to a job interview then stand in front of the person who interviewed you and say “I know I’m not good enough for this job,” would you? It does not increase your odds of getting in.
(And while we’re at it, play nice with everyone else too. Being kind to one another is mandatory in this contest. Read more about the Pitch Wars anti-bullying policy here. )
TIP #7: DONATE FOR EXTRA ENTRIES
This is the BIG one… did you know you can sub to TWO EXTRA MENTORS if you donate to Pitch Wars!?
THIS IS HUGE! Six entries instead of four would DEFINITLEY increase your odds of finding the right mentor match. If this is an opportunity you’re able to take advantage of, take advantage!
TIP #8: CHECK OUT THE SCAVENGER HUNT
Don’t forget! There will be a scavenger hunt during the blog hop again this year. More information to come, but if you read the “All the details” post carefully, you may have noticed there’s “an exciting prize!”
SO, GOOD LUCK, PITCH WARS HOPEFULS!
We know, it’s a crazy ride from when the sub window opens until mentees are selected. But even though the odds aren’t in your favor, enjoy the ride. Make friends, meet CPs, learn, and look for the opportunities (and believe me, they are plentiful) no matter what the outcomes.
Oh, and welcome (or welcome back!) to the Pitch Wars community.
**Note: If you saw this post last year, it’s been updated to reflect any changes to this year’s Pitch Wars details, which can be found here: Pitch Wars 2017… All the details!