The Live Pitch

If you’ve followed the blog for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve heard me whine about how ridiculously hard the query writing part of the process is. And. It. Is.

But if it’s really true that more people would rather die than speak in public, then a truly terrifying part of this writing process comes in the combination of public speaking your query.

Only you don’t have a nice page to explain your book. You have about a paragraph + answers for questions, some you might have expected, many you haven’t.


Seriously? Why wouldn’t you? Okay, I know it can be very intimidating if not terrifying, but realize this: a live-pitch is like moving your query from the slush pile to the front of the line. You are guaranteed that agent’s full attention for a few minutes. Your story gets the best possible consideration amidst the hundreds if not thousands of queries they get on a regular basis.

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Win the War? Wait, There’s More!


So let’s look over everything we’ve accomplished in the series so far:

  • Proper manuscript formatting is important.
  • Let your manuscript get cold before diving into major editing.
  • Read aloud to edit, read backward, switch fonts—change it up so you can see the errors.
  • Word economize!
  • Let other people read it. Friends, family, beta readers, writers groups, conferences. Get as much feedback as you can.
  • Get thick skin. Respond with dignity and grace to feedback.
  • You’ll probably have to rewrite. Accept that as part of the process.
  • Get some cred by entering contests. Also get some professional feedback this way.
  • When it’s time, consider working with an editor—especially if you’re self-publishing.

It always kills me when published authors say, “Hey, I get paid to make stuff up.” As though that’s all that goes into it. I guess they’re smiling at what they get to do for a living. But make no mistake, as I’m certain those of you who’ve been through this process already, writing is hard work. It’s some of the hardest work you can do. It’s an emotional rollercoaster ride of chaos. It’s probably like giving birth and then raising the kid to maturity. There will be moments of joy and moments of pure hell. But in the end, it’s worth it.


Suppose you’ve done all this and then some. Now what? Well, if you’ve really been through tons of drafts and had multiple people look at it, it’s time to get this thing published.

Self-pub. If you’re self-publishing, it’s time to study other self-published authors and see how they became successful. It’s also time to learn all you can about marketing your book to bring it the most success possible. It’s going to take a ton of work, so please don’t think uploading a novel to Amazon will score you instant success. You’ll have to get the word out. But plenty have done it and been successful, so learn from them.

Traditional. For those sticking to the traditional route. Now comes the fun bit we call querying.

Oh, Luke! How’d you get in here?

Anyway, if you thought all this stuff was hard, wait until you get into querying. It’s not unlike novel editing, only more intense because you have to be clever on one page instead of several.

But there are places that can help you out. Visit Janet Reid’s Query Shark blog to see the good, the bad, and the ugly—often the ugly. Learn what not to do so you do it right in your own.

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All the Progress

No, no, no! It wasn’t saved!!!

Before I begin, let me say how extremely GRATEFUL I am that WordPress has a rabid autosave feature. Why? Oh, there I was trying to get this post together when WHAMMO! The power goes completely out. Ack! Argh! Eeek! I hesitated even opening this to get it posted. Thank you WordPress!

The final part of Pitch Wars is underway. Yesterday I was super happy dappy thrilled to receive a request for more on SHADE—a full manuscript request in fact! For those new to the game, what this means is the agent wants to see your whole book. Sometimes they request partials, which is often the first 3 chapters or so. This is something you definitely want, whether partial or full, and it’s the step prior to receiving representation.

But the thing you also have to keep in mind is the agent can still pass on it. Most agencies I’ve researched will take anywhere from 3-6 months to get back on a full request, sometimes longer depending on their schedule. So while I’m hopeful and extremely grateful, what this does not mean is to put anything on pause.

There are a couple upcoming contests I’m looking into. One is Pitch Madness where you can hop on Twitter and pitch to participating agents using the hashtag #pitmad. That means you have 133 characters (you have to include #pitmad) to pitch your book. They also recommend having different pitches so you don’t sound repetitive and most importantly is be polite. These are agents after all and this is your reputation after all.

The other is the Cupid’s Literary Connection contest (deets here). This one requires a $10 donation, but you submit your pitch, some “bouncers” judge it and if you make it into the final round the participating agents duke it out over the entrants. As always, it’s no guarantee you’ll get an offer, but I think it’s always helpful to get front of the line access to agents vs. hoping your query navigates the slush pile.

Then perhaps querying in the near future. I may look into other contests too. I have a couple I should hear back on soon. One February 6th, and the other I believe is the 23rd or so. Of course I’ll post any news here.

In the meantime, as always, more writing.

That’s my progress. How are you doing on your projects? Any breaking news? Any contests you’re planning on entering? Requests on queries? Let me know!

The Pitch Wars Cometh…

I know, I’m terribly late to posting today. One of those days. But that’s all right, because tomorrow is….

Pitch Wars Day!

That’s right. The day I’ve been long preparing for is finally arriving tomorrow. For those who haven’t heard, Pitch Wars was a contest sponsored by Brenda Drake and a slew of other fabulous people where if selected the writer would be mentored by a business professional. They would receive feedback on their manuscript and work with their mentor to prepare a pitch for participating agents in the hopes of receiving requests for more material.

Why is this such a great opportunity? The professional feedback alone is worth the effort. But as any of you who’ve tried querying know, it’s hard to get an agent’s attention when they get hit with mountains of submissions daily. This is like stepping to the front of the line for consideration. Sure, it’s no guarantee, but front of the line, people!

My mentor is Marieke Nijkamp and you’d think we were destined to be mentor and mentee from the beginning. Both of us have rabid loves of all things geek, especially Doctor Who. I knew, however, when she was getting my obscure Captain Planet references we were a good match. She gave me great feedback, but I feel like I should explain. It’s one thing to get typo corrections and sentence structure feedback, which is important. But Marieke really dug into the heart of my book. It was like having my subconscious coming out and telling me the weaknesses of my story. The best part was she didn’t tell me this is how you must fix the manuscript. She told me more what she believed I was going for and where she thought it was week and what she thought could help fix problems.

Point being, I didn’t really disagree with anything. I really felt like she’d given SHADE a fair shake and helped me see things my subconscious had tried to tell me all along. And I really like where things went from there. I can’t believe how much SHADE has come along, and I’m proud of where it stands now. Thanks so much Marieke! And Happy Birthday tomorrow!

If only all our birthdays could be as awesome as this!

So tomorrow’s the day. I encourage you to visit the YA Misfits blog to see the pitches of yours truly as well as other mentees. I think it’s good to see how they pitched things to learn how good pitches are made.

The alternates’ pitches are being hosted on the blogs of Kimberly, Dee, FizzyGrrl, Mónica, and Brenda, which you should definitely take a look at as well. These are all strong stories. And if Pitch Wars isn’t what makes it for them, I’m sure you’ll see them in publication down the road via another route very soon. I know an agent would be crazy not to take a look at my the pitches of my friends Brian (The Key to Eden) and Kati & Heidi (Mystic Cooking).

Wish us all luck tomorrow! 🙂


This week I’m heading off to the Backspace Writers Conference in New York City.  I had hoped to leave you with some more meaty posts before going, but I’ve been steadily preparing for the conference which includes professional feedback on my query letter, the first pages of the first chapter, and the first 10 pages of the novel.  I’m looking forward to learning how I can continue to improve my writing.  And I’m looking forward to all the networking I’ll be able to do, hopefully with some agents, but I suspect mostly with other writers (whom I love meeting).

I plan to post notes here on what I learned and impressions I came away with.  I may even throw in a few photos of fun things I did while in New York.  (Sadly, the Statue of Liberty won’t be one of them, it’s technically closed for renovations…  I mean, yes, you can go to Liberty Island, but can’t go in?  No thanks!).

I’ve been to a smaller writers conference and also came away with feedback (very helpful) and networked with writers (also very helpful, as they may know things you don’t).  But I think the big ones are best saved until you’re ready to handle feedback professionally, and that takes developing thick skin.  So for all you thin-skinned writers out there–start working up to it.

What do you think about writers conferences?  Helpful?  Not?  Post the details in the comments below.