Thursday, April 13, 2017

A #PitchWars Guide to Interacting with Mentors, Part 1

Pitchwars is one of the most exciting contests of the year, both for mentors and prospective mentees. It’s a huge contest, and everyone wants to be a part of it. In this three part blog series, I’m going to take a look at ways that you can benefit from the contest through your interactions with mentors, whether you’re chosen or not. A lot of the same principals apply to interacting with mentors, hosts, and judges of other contests, so if you're planning to enter TeenPit or QueryKombat, read on.

HOW TO INTERACT WITH MENTORS BEFORE THE CONTEST STARTS: 
  • DO read the bios carefully. Even if you’ve applied before, things change. A lot of us will fine tune our wishlists based on current trends, what we’re writing, or even just realizing that we worded something badly in a previous year. (Not that I’d do that…) It also really helps to get mentors' books from the library when you can, or download the sample pages from Amazon to get a sense of our writing styles. You've got a lot of time to decide who to sub. Use it wisely.
  • DON’T tweet about how much contests suck, or the mentors suck, or about how you’re sure you won’t get in. Being positive is contagious.
  • DO your research. Mentors are happy to answer questions, but some of us get a little frustrated about answering the same question over and over. 
    • We’re not Google. There are a lot of resources out there besides us. I know people say it only takes about 10 seconds to answer a question, and that’s true. Now multiply ten seconds times the 2,500 or so people who intend to enter. Even if you cut it down to the 100 or so who’ll be subbing an individual mentor – that’s a lot of time. We don’t get paid for this. 
    • There are a ton of entries on my blog with writing tips, including how to polish a query and/or contest entry. I tweet about them before and during the submission period. So when I get a submission where the only verb used in the first chapter is “was,” that tells me one of two things: either you didn’t care enough about my opinion to read all those blogs, or you decided you know better than me what works and what doesn’t. Neither of those things makes me want to work with you.
  • DON’T be afraid of us. We don’t bite, seriously. (Well, some of the romance mentors might, but only if you ask nicely.) We love interacting with potential mentees. It helps us get a sense of you just like it helps you get a sense of us. Ask questions if you’re not sure about subbing to someone! We want to help you find the best fit for your work. If I’m not it, I’m happy to point you to someone who is. But…
  • DO be polite, always. Both to mentors and other mentees. Someone was disqualified last year for being a dick on the hashtag. That shouldn’t be you.
  • DON’T pre-pitch every single mentor with the same tweet. In fact, don’t pre-pitch at all, it’s against the rules. General questions are fine, explaining your specific plot is not.
  • DO be respectful of our time. The twitter feed gets crazy. Some of us (especially the hosts) get inundated with tweets. It can take time to respond. Every minute spent doing Pitchwars stuff is time away from our day jobs, our spouses and children, cleaning our house, our hobbies, our workouts, and our own writing. We’re happy to do it, but let us decide how much time we’re willing to give. If you want to tweet a mentor at 10:00 pm on a Friday, don’t be surprised if you don’t get an answer until Monday. Also, don't DM/email a mentor or host unless they've specifically said it's OK or you have a pre-existing relationship with them that includes private messages or emails.
  • DON’T leave reviews trashing the mentors’ work. I mean, sure, that’s your prerogative, but if I see Wendy Writer called my book a “steaming dumpster of tripe,” do you think that’ll make me want to help her out?
    At the end of the day, we’re doing our mentees a favor. I generally prefer not to do favors for people who tell everyone they think I suck. (Positive reviews are lovely, assuming you've read the book, but won't affect your chances.)
  • DO take full advantage of the hashtag to find new friends. Follow other writers, connect. The blog hop is also great for this purpose. Only about 1% of applicants typically get chosen. But 100% of you can find friends and critique partners through the contest if you make the effort. Trust me, it’s worth it. Some of my closest friends and critique partners are people I’ve met through other contests. I'd be lost without them.

A couple of days before the blog hop begins, I'll post the next part of this series: HOW TO INTERACT WITH MENTORS DURING THE SELECTION PERIOD. Until then, focus on the one thing you can control: polishing your manuscript until it's your best possible work.

Hope to see you in TeenPit, QueryKombat, and PitchWars!



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