I was a Pitch Wars Reject (Until I Wasn't)

We’re still many months away from Pitch Wars 2018, but that didn’t stop the jolt of excitement I got when I saw mentors announcing they’d be returning to the contest this year.

If you’re not familiar, Pitch Wars is a contest created by the fabulous Brenda Drake, (details here) and it has a very special place in my practical and cynical little heart.

Not only did it introduce me to my mentors, who I now consider some of my dearest friends, but it also directly led to signing with my fabulous agent.

But before all that, I was a Pitch Wars reject.

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I entered Pitch Wars in 2015. I’d written an adult contemporary fantasy, and I hadn’t really start querying it yet, and Pitch Wars was only a month or so away, so I figured it couldn’t hurt.

I was a baby querier then. All full of promise and possibility. A sweet, summer child. And so I skipped into entering. I did the things: picked my mentors, watched a few of the skype calls, participated in a few of the # games.

But here’s the most important part—I made friends.

I know how cliché it sounds when mentors, former mentees, and even entrants talk about how making connections is the most important part of the contest.

I have a results-oriented brain. I am not a fan of failure. I get it. You’re not entering a writing contest where you work on your book and put it before agents, where they make requests and people get offers, to make friends, right?

Actually, you are.

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See, I got rejected from Pitch Wars in 2015. I got requests. Hooray! And I got glowing rejections. But rejections are still rejections, and I walked away wondering if I’d just wasted a whole lot of time getting involved in the contest only to be turned away.

Pitch Wars (I say this so lovingly) is a bit of a time-suck. It’s nearly impossible to avoid spending time on the #, interacting with mentors and fellow hopefuls. It means trading excerpts and queries and generally stressing about the contest, about writing, and eventually, about life. Because doing those things leads to relationships. To friendships. To critique partners.

I got rejected in 2015, but I walked away with some of my favorite friends. And yes, we still talk years later. We still read each other’s books. We still cheer for each other through agent signings and book deals, and we carry each other through the hard times.

Still, I hesitated last year. I was no longer a sweet, summer child. I had a book I loved—young adult thriller this time—and I truly believed it was the best book I’ve ever written. It meant things to me in ways other books didn’t. And I’d thrown a few pitches into #pitmad with really good results and plenty of full requests.

Pitch Wars would mean I’d stop querying. It would mean putting my book out there (publicly) and waiting for the rejection. It would mean entering into the time-suck (I love you, PW!) with no guarantees that I wouldn’t walk away, again, without making it to that final round.

I did it anyway.

It worked out pretty well for me.

I got requests! I got picked! And then I got notes from my amazing mentors and I made the book I loved even better. I got to know my fellow mentees, and I am so incredibly grateful for all of them.

And then we got to the agent round, where I told myself I’d be happy with even a few requests. I got a lot.

I don’t know where I fell in the spectrum of requests by the time the agent round was over. I know I was near the top, holding my own in a sea of YA fantasy 😝 , but I’ve never actually counted it. Because really, it doesn’t matter. People who got fewer requests than me got offers too! Lots of them. Second totally true cliché: it really does only take one!

The requests turned into an offer. And then another. And another. Plus a few more.  All with agents I would’ve been beyond thrilled to work with. In a matter of months, I went from fearing rejection to watching something I’d hoped for, and worked endlessly for, come to fruition.

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Maybe it would’ve happened without Pitch Wars. Maybe, but probably not quite like it did! And when I look back at Pre-Pitch Wars Andrea, waffling on whether to enter at all, I want to knock her upside the head.

Third totally true cliché: you never know what will happen if you don’t try.

So, if you’re like me, tossing around the idea of entering this year, but wondering if it’s all worth it. The answer is yes.

It was worth it the year I got rejected, and it was worth it the year I didn’t.

I won’t lie and say signing with my agent wasn’t a huge bonus of the contest, or that I’d give that up because she is STUCK WITH ME. But even if it hadn’t ended with agent offers, it still would’ve been worth it.

Don’t be afraid to try. This business is hard. It’s built on putting yourself out there and fielding the sometimes harsh rejection that comes with it.

But sometimes, (cliché number I’ve lost count coming up!) putting yourself out there leads to success you couldn’t have imagined. And even better—friends to share it with.