My #PitchWars Wishlist

Well, hello YOU!

I’m excited to be involved with #PitchWars again this year and can hardly wait to meet my new mentee!

I was an alternate in 2014 (way back yonder when they had mentees and alternates) and ended up finding my incredibly amazing literary agent, Kirsten Carleton, after she requested at the agent showcase.

Last year, I mentored two incredible ladies and am SO happy to say they both got agents within a few weeks! WOOHOO!

So, let’s get down to it…

Why should you pick me as your mentor?

Well, aside from the obvious hilarious comments in the margins of your MS (I personally think I’m super funny), I am an agented writer who knows what it’s like to write and revise a book(s) and get it ready for editors. Another plus is I’m a professional writer in my day job, focusing mainly on digital marketing. That particular skill gives me an eye to scrape away fluff and restructure writing in a way that makes your message clear so the impact is felt. Lastly, I was an intern for two different literary agencies and so I feel I have a good handle on the YA market, what’s selling, what agents are looking for, and what type of query is going to hook agent interest.

As far as my editing strengths, I particularly love helping hone character development and character consistency. You’ll hear a lot of “would your character really react like this?” or “This dialogue doesn’t sound true to your character. Maybe try ___.” I also really love helping with setting and making sure a reader “feels” the world you create. My goal is to go through your MS three times. First on the big picture stuff, second on line editing (smoothing out sentence structure, dialogue tags, tense, etc.), and then third as a last pass before the showcase. So yes, I’m going to require a lot out of you and you’re going to have to revise and write faster than you probably ever have before, BUT YOU CAN DO IT! I promise not to ask MORE than you can do in two months (think Professor McGonagall not Dolores Umbridge).

Finally, I’ve been in your shoes. I know what it’s like to read an edit letter for the first time and wonder how in the WORLD you’re ever going to accomplish everything. I know what it’s like to re-write a book(s), cut characters, shave off thousands of words, deepen characters, deepen your setting… you name it, I’ve been through it in my own personal writing.

So now that I’ve given you the hard sell on why YOU MUST PICK ME, here’s what I’m looking for in a manuscript:

My YA Wish List: 

  • Fantasy
  • SciFi
  • Thriller/suspense/horror
  • Dark contemporary
  • Historical with a unique hook
  • Pretty much anything dark/twisted/creepy

More details:

  • I am a huge YA fantasy nerd and love it all. Epic, light, historical, retellings (as long as it’s not an overt retelling). The only thing I wouldn’t be a good fit for is urban fantasy because I just don’t read enough in the genre to feel confidant to edit it.
  • I also really love SciFi, so send me your aliens and space operas and star ships! The only thing I’ll say about it is keep your pacing TIGHT because I work with YA (not adult) and so pacing has to be spot on (not too wordy/world building at the beginning).
  • I would LOVE to find an incredible YA political thriller or something full of suspense that you just can’t put down. Oh and if it scares me, I’m even more excited 🙂
  • I am not a huge contemporary reader, but I do love dark contemporary. So if you have sad/twisted contemporary with no paranormal elements, send it to me!
  • I love me some historical novels, but want something with a very unique hook, so if that’s your MS, SEND IT TO ME!
  • I can’t accept MG, NA, or adult of any kind for this contest. I’m a YA mentor only.
  • I am not the right mentor for paranormal.
  • I feel like it goes without saying, but diversity of all kinds is welcome.
  • Please use industry standard formatting for your sample pages and manuscript. Times New Roman (or Courier, but I prefer TNR), size 12, 1” margins all around, ½” paragraph indents, double-spaced text, and only one space between sentences.
  • Your query needs to show me the stakes more than the characters. I do need to know who the story centrals around, but more than that, I need to see the plot and how the stakes function within the plot. Keep it tight! Every word counts!
  • Make sure to have your manuscript polished and ready to go. If I make a request, I’ll expect you to send it within 24 hours: It’s your first deadline. Be ready to meet it because it only gets more intense from here!
  • If you’re not sure if I’d be interested in your story, ask me!! @destinywrites. Seriously, DO NOT hesitate to @ me because I’d love to chat!
  • Lastly, you MUST be open to constructive criticism if we’re going to meet our deadline. Hear me on this: my goal is not to get you an agent, my goal is to help you improve as a writer. That means I’m going to pick apart your work because that’s the only way growth is going to happen! I’m honest, but you can ask my mentees from last year, I promise to always be kind and respect your vision for the book as the author.

So as you can see, I’m looking for a mentee who is open to working hard and going deep. I’m committed to matching you stride for stride, so you put in the work and I’ll put in the work. As your mentor, I am here for you now, but also after #PitchWars because believe you me, publishing is a crazy beast and I want to be there with you every step of the way.

 

I can’t wait to hear from you!

*pick me, pick me, but here are the other awesome mentors too*

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My Girls Have Agents!!

Oh y’all, I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of Meghan and Tracie and all their relentless hard work! Because… was it worth it? YES! 

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#TeamDominate TOTALLY dominated!

Within a week of Pitch Wars, Meghan and Tracie had received offers (emphasis on the plural) of representation!

AHHH!

Congrats to Meghan Jashinsky who is now represented by Jessica Watterson at Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency!

And congrats to Tracie Martin who is now represented by Lauren Spieller at Triada US!

Lynnette and I had such a fun time finding these ladies in the Pitch Wars slush and working to help make their manuscripts shine! It’s an incredible honor to know I played a small part in helping them get to the next milestone in what I know will be very long and successful careers.

*happy sigh*

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Does #PitchWars Increase Your Chances of Signing with an Agent?

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I’m a huge fan of Brenda Drake’s #PitchWars!

I was in #PitchWars in 2014, received about 7 agent requests for my manuscript, and one of those requests later turned into an offer of representation!

The majority of the #PitchWars2014 class are still in contact thanks to a not-so SUPER-SECRET Facebook page, and although I can’t attest to the entire #PitchWars class (there were over a 100), I do have stats for the 85 mentees who participate in our group.

So, does being in #PitchWars increase your chances of getting an agent offer? I would say, YES! Out of the 85 mentees who participate in the Facebook group, 50 are agented and of those, 18 have book deals.

BONUS FOR INQUIRING MINDS: I would say the majority of those offers happened between January and July of 2015, but mostly toward the beginning of the year. For example, I was the 18th one in the group to receive an agent offer and I received my first offer at the beginning of February.

But HOW #PitchWars helps you get an agent may not be the way you think.

I did a poll of the 2014 mentees and 49 people responded…

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Out of the 36 people who responded that are now agented, only 5 of those offers happened because the agent requested via the #PitchWars agent showcase.

So, the numbers don’t lie. It is VERY clear that #PitchWars does indeed help you get an agent, but not necessarily because agents are going to see your work at the showcase. #PitchWars helps you get an agent because it’s one of the only contests that focuses on craft over connections.

@destinywrites

In #PitchWars, you’re working with mentors who have been around the writing block a time or two and are committed to seeing your manuscript become the very best it can be. They are committed to helping you fill in the plot holes, tighten up your dialogue, and make your manuscript and query so polished that when you start querying (which you will RIGHT away, trust me), you’ll start getting requests. Then when other agents read, they get all grabby hands with your book.

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Not only that, but working with a mentor also teaches you how to edit with an edit letter, hone your query, develop a pitch, and also exposes you to other writers. And finding your writing community is the only thing that’s going to get you through this crazy journey.

If you’re a writer of any genre who is looking for that extra edge before they start querying, give #PitchWars a try! You can find out all the info HERE.

And I’m so excited to be a #PitchWars mentor this year with Lynnette Labelle for you YA authors out there!

How I got my literary agent!

This post is something I’ve been dreaming about writing for over a year, so you know what that means?

I’m going to be LONG WINDED!

I learned a LOT along the way, so pull up a seat and settle in, because Aunt Dee’s gonna tell you all about it…

So I revised my manuscript last May and then began querying for about a month until I realized that my manuscript was just not strong enough yet.

You see, I subscribed to the rule of send out more queries every time you get a request because that means it’s working. It’s not always a bad theory, that is until you start getting form rejection after form rejection on your fulls, which is agent speak for “I stopped reading because it didn’t keep my interest.” Yeah.

Do you know what a form on a full feels like? Like this:

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Then something exciting occurred, I got an R&R (or in layman’s terms: an agent who says this is what I didn’t like about it, why don’t you try to fix it and then I’ll read it again). I totally agreed with her thoughts and so I immediately pulled my manuscript from consideration from the remaining agents who hadn’t gotten back to me and started working on it, but I was having a lot of trouble trying to fix certain areas of the book.

It wasn’t until I decided to enter #pitchwars and was selected and then mentored by the amazingly talented Trisha Leigh, who gave me such a comprehensive edit letter, that I kicked back into full gear. This book became an entirely different beast than the one before. I added almost 20k words, combined characters, changed up plot points, etc. It was a total overhaul!

I ended up getting several requests out of that contest and then additional requests in #pitmad a few weeks later. Then I began querying (not as widely this time) and got a really encouraging response on that as well.

I had silence for most of January. Just nothing but crickets in my inbox. I had basically stopped querying in December, so I was twiddling my thumbs, waiting on responses to requested materials.

Then, one afternoon an email from an agent I was really thinking would be a good fit pops up. Negative nancy over here immediately assumed that it was a rejection. I was already mentally preparing myself for the epic pity party I was about to throw myself because I had really thought that my manuscript would be right up her alley.

I took a deep breath and clicked on the email.

It was only 2 paragraphs… totally a rejection.

BUT THEN I READ IT! In those two paragraphs she gushed about my book and my characters and then told me she wanted to set up a call.

So what did I do?

I started balling my eyes out.

I called my husband and not being one to normally resort to tears, he immediately thought someone had died. It took him a few minutes to calm down from the scare and then he started crying too 🙂 I then called my mom and my sister (who cried), texted my CP’s and just jumped around all night long and consumed some champagne.

We had our call the next morning and we absolutely clicked. We laughed a lot and she GOT my book and my characters. It was like oxygen to my soul to hear her discuss Aniq and Willow like they were real people. Her vision for the book really echoed my own and it just felt right.

Ahhh! I probably talked way too much and interrupted too much (I do that when I’m nervous), but in the end, I didn’t scare her off because she offered representation.

I wanted to accept right there, but I still had requests out and so I needed time to be able to nudge.

Then came the longest ten days of my life.

I had several step asides throughout the week ranging in reasons from didn’t have time to read or didn’t feel passionately about the project to throw their hat into the ring. I then had one agent who read it and loved it and said she wanted to offer, but didn’t think she was the best agent to take it to market. She very graciously told me to go with the offering agent as this agent was just getting into YA and wanted to give me the best shot. It wasn’t until the very last day of my deadline that I got a call from a very amazing agent who has been in the industry a long time. Our call was almost an hour and I was beyond impressed with him and his vision for the book and my career. Both agent #2 and agent #1 had very similar revision ideas and it was absolutely not an easy decision, but in the end, I had to go with what my gut was telling me all along. So on Valentine’s Day (aww!) I accepted representation from Kirsten Carleton at Waxman Leavell.

I’m so incredibly excited to start this new phase of my career and roll up my sleeves and start revising my manuscript again!

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Right after I signed the contract!

And now for the thank you part of this speech (cue Oscar music):

I have so much to be thankful for, but want to give special shout outs to Ashley, Rachel and Alexa who let me show my crazy during this intense period in the query trenches and for somehow making me feel normal 🙂 To my amazing husband who saw my crazy, got scared, but still loved me. To the insanely supportive community of PW writers that I’ve been able to share this journey with! Our “secret” FB group has been a God send! And obviously thank you to  Trisha Leigh for taking on my MS and helping it get shiny enough to catch Kirsten’s eye! And finally, thank you Kirsten for taking a chance on me and believing in my writing! I think we are going to make a wonderful team and a force to be reckoned with!

And for the stats for those of you who love stats:

Queries sent: 25
Contests: 2
Requests: 26 — 11 cold query requests (7 fulls and 4 partials – 2 of which upgraded); 15 contest requests (all 15 were partials and 8 upgraded)
R&R: 1
Offers: 2

Total time in the Query Trenches: 4 1/2 months (2 months for the first round and then 2 1/2 months in round two)