I’m volunteering as a Pitch Wars mentor again this year. If you haven’t heard of it, Pitch Wars is a contest that pairs aspiring authors (who have a completed manuscript) with more experienced “mentors” (agented authors, literary agency interns, etc) to help the former secure literary representation.
Why Do People Enter Pitch Wars?
Well, for one thing, it’s a lot of fun. People engage on the #PitchWars hashtag, meet like-minded writers, and find new critique partners. It’s also a proven path to success. At last count, more than 60 of last year’s “mentees” have landed an agent. One of them just announced a *major* book deal.
Perhaps because of this, competition is fierce. This year, we saw a record number of entrants: 1,957 by my count, which is 23% more than last year. Each mentor can choose only one applicant. There are 125 mentor teams, the most ever, but only a fraction of entrants will be selected. By my calculations, around 6% of applicants will be selected.
Entries by Age Category
From the age category breakdown, it’s clear that young adult (YA) entries dominated once again, with 47% of the entries. We saw a much higher fraction of adult (33%) than middle grade (17%) submissions. New adult subs remain the distant minority at 3%.
Entries by Genre
So what about genre? Fantasy was the most prevalent by far, followed by Contemporary and Science Fiction. The genre field is free-form on the application, so many entrants specified subgenres. Yet 35% of the mention “Fantasy” and 25% mention “Contemporary.”
The Koboldt/Mammay Inbox
Now, let’s talk about the inbox for me and Michael Mammay, my co-mentor for 2016. We received 141 submissions this year, a shockingly high number. We’re so grateful to the authors who chose us as a possible mentor team. We wanted adult SF/F; you sent adult SF/F. Thank you!
Here’s how we’ve operated: we have a massive Google doc of all entries, including the author, title, word count, genre, and rivals (other mentors). We looked primarily at the sample chapter, which we scored on a scale of 0 to 3 based on writing strength. We didn’t always agree, but our scores were remarkably consistent:
Time for some real talk. If you want to believe that you’re the special snowflake author who writes perfectly, and that the world is made of rainbows and unicorns, you can skip the next paragraph.
Most of the scores we gave out (75% for Mike, 78% for me) were less than 2, meaning we feel that the writing isn’t there. Passive voice, telling, and clunky dialogue were some of the most common problems. Mike remarked that the writing often lacked tension, which we need to pull us forward. Granted, we’re just a couple of authors — not agents, not editors — so feel free to take this with a grain of salt. But I hope that these authors will find critique partners and keep improving.
On the bright side, you’ll notice that we both rated 8-9 entries as 2.5 or 3, meaning we thought the writing was outstanding. A couple were jaw-droppingly good, works that we’re not even sure we could help.
As it stands, there are at least 10 submissions we could take on and mentor. We can only choose one. You’ll know which soon enough.
Apology in Advance
I’m excited that several entrants to submitted to us were selected by other mentor teams. Even so, if you’re reading this, there’s a 90% chance you’re about to have your author heart broken. I’m sorry about this. It’s a natural part of the publishing game, sadly: not everyone gets in.
If that happens, I encourage you to leave social media for a while. It’s hard to be on the feed when the lucky 6% are celebrating, and you’re not. Do whatever you need to do to get past it. Give yourself some time to react (in private), and then get over it and get back to work.
This Is Not The End
I never got into anything like Pitch Wars. I never had any luck with the Twitter pitching events, either. I landed my agent through old-fashioned querying. I went on submission and saw my share of rejection letters. Then I worked with some of the CPs I’d met through Pitch Wars to improve my manuscript.
That manuscript became The Rogue Retrieval, the first book in a trilogy with Harper Voyager. Not because of Pitch Wars or PitMad, but because I kept working to improve my craft. If you do the same, there’s a good chance you’ll make it this far. Hopefully much further!
This is not the end for you. This is the beginning, and I hope you’ll stick around until you get what you came for.
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