I’m very happy to be able to participate as a Pitch Wars mentor for 2017. I love the idea of being in a position to help an aspiring author, because it wasn’t so long ago that I was one myself! Other writers have been invaluable in providing me the information I need—exactly when I need it—all along my journey to publication.
I had no idea there were valuable peer programs like Pitch Wars when I queried my book. I would encourage writers to look into contests where other authors are ready and willing to help you. The more input you can get on your query and manuscript, the better chance your story will have to shine and stand out.
For example, if a reader is confused by your plot summary, it’s possible an agent would feel the same way. If you’ve chosen the wrong genre description, another author might be able to make a better suggestion. Or if you can’t think of a great comp, a well-read friend might have a fantastic idea.
You don’t want to give an agent any reason to toss out your query. Follow guidelines closely. Stay within suggested word counts. Keep your query tight and polished. (You can publish your experimental, 500-page opus later, once you’re an established author! To break into publishing, make your story appealing, not a challenge.)
If an agent reads 100 queries in your genre today, what makes your story the most compelling? What makes your protagonist the most relatable? What makes your plot twist the most surprising? If your story is “quiet” (one of the hardest types to sell), make sure the query is still active. Provide clear and concrete details and descriptions; avoid generic statements and clichés.
Share your query with many different people. They will help you catch errors and avoid confusion. Edit, tighten and simplify.
And remember: you don’t have to take everyone’s advice. Only make changes if it works for you. It’s natural to feel defensive about criticism at first, but you may find in a quiet moment that your critique forces you to word something differently—and more effectively.
Good luck to all who enter Pitch Wars! My Wishlist will be posted on July 18th!