There are writer-bloggers out there who are better than I am about developing an online community. There are any number of reasons why I’m not terribly accomplished at this, which is not really the point. The point is that they’re better and they do much more with their site and their readers than post 600 word folk tale variations for 50-some odd of you to read (for which I am immeasurably grateful, by the way).
This is where “Pitch Wars” comes in to play. It’s a contest run by Brenda Drake that is intended to help polish up writers’ query letters and first 250 words – basically, the parts that are going to grab an agent’s attention. Given that the whole point of the query letter is to get said agent to request your manuscript and reading your manuscript is the bare minimum that will be done before anyone will even think about offering representation, any and every kind of polish is a good and useful thing.
Think of a query letter as knocking on the door of a safehouse. Your goal is for the agent to invite you inside. The query letter gets the agent’s attention – that and, often, the first 250-500 words of your manuscript are essentially how you say, “Good afternoon.” If your words grab her attention, she’ll say, “Password,” at which point you present your whole manuscript. Maybe your manuscript is the password and maybe it isn’t.
There’s a certain amount of luck with timing and a certain amount of proper fit – you might have a great manuscript and said agent knows it but, at the same time, doesn’t feel a click. She passes – and if you’re lucky (and super-polite and professional), maybe she passes it on to her colleague, because she knows he’ll like it.
So. Pitch Wars.
A writer I follow on Twitter posted about this as she’s one of the participating authors. Basically, Brenda lined up 31 agented writers, I think all of whom have had a manuscript either published or sold to a publisher. Anyone who wanted to participate put together a submission package (query plus 5 pages) and sent it in to as many as three of said authors. I decided to do this because there was no downside that I could see and only good. My assumption was that I would go nowhere but as a result of the submission, I would have a new query draft and a newly minted first five pages.
To my immense surprise and equal delight, my work was selected by Michelle Painchaud, who’s got a YA thriller coming out in 2014 and a pretty kick-ass agent to boot. Between now and Jan 16, 2013, Michelle is going to critique my writing within an inch of its life and I am going to make it as good as it can be. On Jan 20, Michelle emails in my three-sentence pitch and 250 words to the contest and 16 literary agents look it over, along with the other 30-some participants.
At this point, the goal is to be the person who gets the most requests for a manuscript, but holy shit, even getting this level of support and coaching is amazing. Even no requests is not losing, although come on – 16 requests would be ridiculous and I wouldn’t be able to sleep.
Not that someone reading your manuscript is a guarantee of an offer but that’s the thing – there’s no downside here. Just good experience and generous help.
Michelle is reading The Sovereign Palace, which one reader says is the best thing I’ve written and which another said it gave her nightmares. Soooo…
Anyway. This is exciting news and I’m a bit beside myself with it all.