Ah, PitchWars 2019. I remember you well. I was heavily pregnant with Baby #3 by the time September came around and due to give birth to my baby boy. I knew that if I didn’t finish my novel in time – it would never happen.
JUST KIDDING. It would just be A LOT harder. Not impossible, but harder. My many, many unfinished manuscripts wouldn’t land me an agent. But a polished one could.
Tip 1: Finish your first draft!
Throughout my pregnancy, I wrote, finished and revised my YA Contemporary fantasy at my favourite restaurants and cafes. Because I didn’t have the advantage of my critique partner at the time – social media overwhelms me and I didn’t have the spoons to do anything rather than finish my book – I paid for Michele Sagan’s fantastic editorial service for my manuscript, query letter and synopsis.
If you have the resources to pay, I highly recommend her! If you don’t, there’s still plenty you can do to get your submission package ready for the querying trenches. It will probably take longer though, but it’s okay to take your time to get your book ready for querying. Better to take your time to query than blow your chances by querying too soon!
PitchWars is a great way to get support – if you get selected. Industry professionals like agented authors and editors have a lot of experience to share when they offer mentorship. I haven’t applied for AAM or #RevPit myself but these are some examples.
So back to my Pitch Wars story.
My husband took my two girls on a holiday with his family members, leaving me with my mother and newborn for a few days. Bliss! My mother would go walking around my neighbourhood in the morning and come back with tasty packet of nasi lemak with my favourite extras – paru, bergedil.
I excitedly read through the mentor list, sent out out my mentor application with my polished manuscript, query letter and synopsis. It was so exciting to feel like I was one step closer to getting my book in the hands of a potential mentor.
And then, I waited. And waited some more.
Tip 2: Publishing involves a lot of waiting. Get used to it.
And then, it happened! My first full manuscript request! I couldn’t believe it. My story actually grabbed the attention of a potential PW mentor! I sent it through and hoped for the best. And waited some more.
Sadly though, it didn’t spark enough interest for me to get selected. All the PW hype immediately died for me, then and there. The rejections from my potential PW mentors were kind, and I remember one being very personalised which I appreciated. But it still stung.
So I took a step back from all things PW-related. As much as I was happy for everyone else who got in, I didn’t.
I participated in #DVPIT in October 2019, which was a massive boost for me because I had actual agents liking my tweets! I wanted to tweak my book a little bit more so I only started sending out queries in January.
The nightmare of querying had begun. I obsessively checked my inbox for replies which didn’t come within days, or weeks. HAHA. And then the rejections started piling in. And yikes, that stung too. Along with the rejections came partial requests, which then turned to full requests.
And then….the first game-changer. I received my first R&R on a full! An agent rejected my book, yes, but saw enough potential in it to give me a seriously helpful edit letter – for free. I thanked her, stopped querying, and got to work on my R&R. I sent it to the agent, who still rejected it, but it was still a stronger book.
My second game-changer happened shortly after. I came across a tweet from Meredith Ireland (HI MEREDITH!) saying she’s open to selecting a mentee. I figured, well, why not, it’s worth a try. Thank you, Twitter. So I applied and then forgot about it. Having three small kids is very helpful because they just tire you out completely.
When Meredith emailed me and asked for my synopsis and the rest of my book, I was confused because I thought she was an agent. Hahaha. But she wasn’t in my agent spreadsheet. Then I realised OH it’s the mentorship I applied for! She loved my synopsis and opening pages, and asked for the rest of my book. The rest is history.
My agent emailed me as I was revising my book asking for my full, and I asked her if she could wait til I finished revisions with Meredith – she was happy to. When I sent my much stronger book to her, she kept reading it then asked me if my book was still available (if any other agent had expressed an interest in representing me) and I said YES STILL AVAILABLE SO AVAILABLE lolol. I had racked up a lot of rejections by then and was just about to lose hope and shelve it. And it finally happened! I got The Email About The Call and sent Meredith an excited Whatsapp!!! My call with my agent was at night while my kids were asleep, with my one year old strapped to me in his carrier, while I bounced on my exercise ball. It was perfect, and I knew that she was the right agent for me. I sent out nudges to all the other agents who had my full MS, all of whom stepped aside, and accepted Alli’s offer of rep.
Tip 3: The right agent will LOVE your book
I cannot state this enough. Your book, the book you wrote and love, will spark something in the right agent for you. The right agent for you is a career agent – the agent who’ll stick by you and support you in the very common event that your first book doesn’t sell. The right agent will believe in you and your writing career, and communicate transparently with you about All The Publishing Things.
In short, I got rejected by Pitch Wars but it made me a stronger writer, and I signed with my agent without it. Keep going, one step at a time, and take all the breaks you need – especially if you’re an ND and BIPOC author like me. This industry is brutal, so look after yourself. There are so many books left for you to write, if your first one doesn’t get you an agent, or land you a book deal.
If you’re an ND (self-identification is valid) and/or BIPOC author, especially one who got rejected by Pitch Wars, drop me a line in my contact box. I’d be happy to take a look at your query letter and first 5 pages. I’d be a better fit for YA or Adult novels, not MG or PB.