Why You Want Me For Your Pitch Wars Mentor

Yes, this is another Pitch Wars post.
Non-writers: Due to editor input, I have given your consolation monkey a festive hat. I hope you enjoy it.

Writers: Here is is, the day you’ve been waiting for: Happy Pitch Wars Mentor Bio Day!
Today is the day, my friends, where I hope to convince you that I am the mentor you are looking for.
But first, some reminders and information:

Submissions start today (11/26)! The cut off time to get your applications (query & first five pages of manuscript) in is 8PM EST on December 5.

Send your applications to brendadrakecontests@gmail.com. Writers can apply for up to 3 coaches. The coaches’ categories are set. Coaches can only consider the categories they’ve signed up for. Writers cannot apply for a coach that is not in their category. (Note: My category is Middle Grade.)


For additional information about this contest go HERE.

· This is open to finished manuscripts only.
· You may only enter one manuscript.
· Only the genres requested by each coach will be considered for the contest.

Formatting
Subject line: Pitch Wars Application: Coach Name you want to apply for: Title
(Example: Pitch Wars Application: Brenda Drake: GONE WITH THE WIND)

Name: Your Name
Genre: The genre of your manuscript
Word Count: The word count of your manuscript

Query letter here (embedded in email). Single spaced. No indentions. A space between each paragraph.

First five pages of the manuscript here (embedded in email). Single spaced. No indentions. A space between each paragraph.

““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““
REMINDER: You can send an application for up to 3 coaches.

Check back soon for a complete list of the amazing agents participating in the contest. There are over a dozen!

Now, about me

First off, let’s talk about what kind of project I want to work with.
Give me your Middle Grade!
I read and enjoy middle grade in all genres, but I am most interested in mentoring for fantasy adventures, fairytale retellings, or horror. Bonus points if you can make me laugh.
Some of my MG favorites are: The Peculiar, The Graveyard Book, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Sea of Trolls, Breadcrumbs, and The True Meaning of Smekday.
Less recent, but still oh so relevant is absolutely anything by Roald Dahl.

Okay, you have a manuscript that fits the bill. What kind of notes can you expect if we work together?
I will give a thorough content edit, with some line editing of things that particularly stand out to me.
For more details regarding these kinds of edits, I’m going to refer you to this post by Rachelle Gardener.

Now, why should you choose me?
Besides the fact that I draw awesome monkeys?
Because I will be the Rufus to your Bill and Ted, the Mr. Miyagi to your Daniel-San, the Professor X to your Jean Grey–and when you are discouraged, I will be the Atrayu to your Artex.

Only better, because you will not give up and die.

Here is what I have to offer:
I get stuff done. So far, this year managed to finish my own manuscript, write an awesome query, sign with an amazing agent, and go through two rounds of fairly extensive revisions. At the same time I have read more than 80 books (many of them MG) and made time to work on a few favorite critique partners’ projects. I have done all this while homeschooling my daughter; maintaining a household, friendships, and a happy family life; doing volunteer work; and hand-crafting three Halloween costumes–including one for a chicken.
The point is, I work exceptionally hard for the things that are important to me. Your manuscript is important to me. I want to win, but more than that, I want to see you succeed.

I have query letter skills. I wrote a query letter that The Query Shark liked enough to refer me to my agent. If you’d like to see some of my query crit work, you are welcome to take a look at a critique I did for Slush Pile Tales.

I’m really good at critiquing. This may come as a surprise to some of you, but I really don’t like to brag–at least not about things that I’m actually good at. I bluster and trash talk for fun, but the things that I know I excel at I usually keep pretty close. That little personality quirk was making it tough for me to figure out what to say here, so I went to a friend and critique partner for help (Annie Laurie Cechini, author of LIBERTY, Rhemalda, 2/13). I asked Annie if she would write up a little testimonial for me. One hour later, she emailed me this awesome video:

If that doesn’t convince you, nothing will.

I’m looking forward to working with one of you. Choose me for your mentor and I’ll even let you pick our team name.

The Competition

Today all the coaches are posting bios/wish lists on their blogs. Before choosing your top three picks, check all the coaches’ posts in your category. To jump from blog to blog, just click on our pictures below.

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Disclosure: I am using Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase any of the books I have linked to, I get a teeny-tiny commission. However, I would much prefer you purchase from your local indie bookstore.

This Means War

Non-writers: This post will likely be boring for you. I don’t want you to go away empty-handed so I drew you a picture of a monkey. Enjoy.

Writers: I am thrilled to announce an exciting new contest–one where you could team up with me to take over the world get your manuscript the agent attention it deserves. Read on for more information.
(Also, be sure to watch this space later this month to learn exactly what kind of manuscript I’m looking to work with. If you are not already a blog subscriber, now would be an excellent time to remedy that. See options in the top right sidebar.)

We’re extremely excited to announce an upcoming event where agented authors, industry interns, and editors team up with aspiring writers to shine up their manuscripts and pitches to present to some awesome agents.

Here’s the deets…

The teams will consist of 1 agented author or industry intern or editor (coaches) and 1 aspiring author.

November 26: The coaches (listed on the linky below) will post on their blogs what genre/category they want to coach. They’ll be very specific genres. Aspiring writers will hop around and decide which coaches best fit their manuscripts.

November 26 through December 5 at 8PM EST: Aspiring writers will submit 3 “applications” to their top choices for coaches to the contest email (brendadrakecontests@gmail.com). That means, participants will send three separate emails to the contest email addressing each with one of their three top choices for coach.

December 5 through December 10: Coaches will read the applications and pick teammates.The coaches don’t have to pick from their applications. If a coach passes on an application, it is then up for grabs and another coach, if they haven’t connected to their applicants, can snatch it after notifying the applicant and if the applicant chooses the coach.

December 12: Teams will be announced. On the announcement post there will be instructions on how the winners must send their work.

December 12 through January 16: Each coach will read their teammate’s manuscript and give general notes on any issues they find. The coach will help their teammate get his or her pitches ready for the agent round.

Note: The material for the agent round will be a 3 sentence pitch and the first 250 words of your manuscript. Coaches will read manuscripts and query letters only once and give notes. It is up to the writer to use the notes from their coaches to get the manuscript and query letter in as best shape as they can to send to requesting agents. The coaches will critique the three sentence pitch and first 250 words. The coaches will read them as many times as they deem necessary. In no way will writers expect the coaches to read the manuscript and query letter more than once or the pitches more than twice.

January 20: Coaches will submit shined pitches to the contest email.

January 23 and 24: Agents will read and make requests on the pitches they like (it is likely that not all participants will get requests).

January 25: We’ll announce the team with the most requests and who will take home the winning prizes (an amazon gift card for each).

This is open to finished manuscripts only.

You may only enter one manuscript.

Only the genres requested by each coach will be considered for the contest.

Formatting…

Subject line: Pitch Wars Application: Coach Name you want to apply for: Title
(Example: Pitch Wars Application: Brenda Drake: GONE WITH THE WIND)

Name: Your Name

Genre: The genre of your manuscript

Word Count: The word count of your manuscript

Query letter here (embedded in email). Single spaced. No indentions. A space between each paragraph.

First five pages of the manuscript here (embedded in email). Single spaced. No indentions. A space between each paragraph.

““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““

REMINDER: You can send an application for up to 3 coaches.

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Get those manuscripts ready! To keep up with the mentors’ trash talk any further information, be sure to check out #PitchWars on twitter.

The Key to Doing Absolutely Everything

I mentioned in my last post that I was needing to do a bit of costume design for my girl (and her chicken). She debuted her Tardis dress at a party on Friday night to rave reviews from the one person who knew what a Tardis is. Lucky for her, she has a good friend with similar interests:

Saturday, Newt had her first 4H chicken show, including a costume contest–which is why I ended up making three costumes this year. Once again, no one was geeky cool enough to get her Dr. Horrible/Captain Hammer costuming, but Newt didn’t care.

Sidenote: As her first show, none of us expected her to come home with this:

So exciting! She can’t wait to do another.

I had someone ask me the other day how I possibly have time to write, sew costumes, cook dinner, do laundry, homeschool, and any of the other 416,832 1/2 things I have/get/want to do. I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
I don’t do all those things. At least not on the same day.
That’s the key to doing it all. Don’t try to do it all at once.
I made Newt’s (and Phyllis’s) costumes in the week after signing with my agent, while waiting on his revision notes.
Walt has been helping out with dinner quite regularly.
The laundry–is a disaster.
Homeschooling…we are making some changes, starting with an online curriculum that will free me from some planning and instruction time. (A change in the way we do things has been on the horizon since last spring, but we recently became a bit more motivated.)

Now I am back in revisions and working as hard as I possibly can, without neglecting too much the things that are most important. I get up insanely early and steal minutes as often as possible throughout the day. Walt reminds me to take time off, even when I think I don’t need to. Even when I really don’t want to. He’s good like that.
I also say no a lot, often when I’d like to say yes.
Can you help with this year’s Nativity Festival? Sorry, no.
Want to make applesauce together? Yes, but I can’t. So no.
Would you critique my manuscript? Nope. Maybe next month.
If you are on the receiving end of one of my nos, please don’t feel badly. I only have room for so many yeses–and for the most part, they are all reserved.

How I Got My Agent

Note: This was originally posted on a collaborative blog I was a part of. That blog no longer exists and so I have moved this here. Unfortunately, I could not move the comments, but I was then and continue to be very grateful for all the well wishes. ~H

If you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed this lovely little gem this morning:

 

I always enjoy reading “How I Got My Agent” stories, so I thought I would share mine as well (though oh-my-gosh-I-am-suddenly-feeling-very-shy).

HOOK’S REVENGE is my first novel and it took me an outrageously long time to write. I had the idea several years ago – while half-sleeping off the flu, half-listening to my daughter watching a DVD of Hook. When I woke up, there was a character in my head, but I was a busy young mom and not ready to pursue a career in writing.

Still, I sketched out the idea and slowly wrote a horrible first draft. In the meantime my family moved back home to Oregon (more than 3000 miles away from where we had been living in Maryland), I began homeschooling my daughter, and my father-in-law passed away. (He actually entered the hospital the same day I wrote “the end” on my first draft.) Though I enjoyed writing, I wasn’t at a point in my life where I could make a serious commitment to it. Instead, I played with words on my blog and continued reading and learning.

Last fall, I did some beta reading for a good friend. I was ecstatic when she landed a publishing contract and was inspired by her success. It was time to at least try.

I got to work. I started getting up earlier and/or staying up later than everyone else so I could write. I fell in love with my story all over again. I rewrote, revised, and rewrote some more. In addition, I set about building a support network. One of the best choices I could have made was to join SCBWI. There I found friends and mentors that really helped me to hone and polish my work.

In July, I felt that my manuscript was ready to begin submitting to agents. I read Query Shark and Slush Pile Tales to learn how to write a query letter, then spent an afternoon crafting one. After running it by a couple of friends, I revised a bit and set it loose on the world. (By that I mean, I sent it to five agents, then waited by my inbox.)

Two weeks went by with no response. I began to suspect that everyone hated it and/or hated me. I started a new project anyway.

Around that time, I saw on twitter that Janet Reid (the Query Shark) was offering a personal response to queries sent to her within a specific time frame. This was not to be a critique or query advice, but a non-form response–likely a this-is-why-I’m-rejecting-you response. The only problem? Janet does not rep middle-grade.

However, I did a little more reading on her blog, and found this bit of advice:

Query everyone. Forget that crap about honing a list and researching
what agents like. Query everyone. If they say no, so what. Maybe just
maybe you’ll find an agent looking to branch out, looking for a fabulous
new voice, looking for you.

Edited to add: Lots of agents say otherwise. They really hate being pitched to for genres they don’t represent, as it clogs up their already full query boxes. I’m not giving advice here – just stating what I did. Choose your own adventure.

I took her advice and sent in my query. Within 16 minutes (yes I counted) she sent me a lovely reply referring me to her colleague, Brooks Sherman. I’m not going to lie, that bit of encouragement made me cry. The validation was wonderful.

So, I queried Brooks, and nine other agents. I started getting page requests, along with some rejections. It was all very exciting and frightening and all-around-crazy-making.

A couple of months after I started querying, I decided to reread my manuscript. I read the first third one evening and when I came to bed, I told my husband, “You know what? It really is good.”

The very next day Brooks emailed to say he would like to chat. I was feeling really good about my ms and so excited to have The Call. We set up an appointment for a few days later.

That night I read more and my heart sank. I had gotten past the most polished, most recent, best part of my story. Things were not so good anymore, and I had achieved enough distance to finally see it. My manuscript was not quite ready and I was almost certain Brooks was only calling to tell me so–to let me down easy.

I was really nervous on our call, waiting for the rejection. But it turned out that he saw a lot of promise in my manuscript, and loved the voice, but he saw the same problems that I did. We spoke for nearly an hour on ways to make things better. I promised him first peek at my revisions and hung up encouraged and excited to make changes.

Over the next week I ended up getting four new page requests from a couple of contest I had entered – one from an agent that I had had my eye on for a very long time. I worked feverishly to complete revisions so I could give Brooks a first pass and not keep anyone else waiting too long.

When I completed my rewrite, I was so proud of my work. I ended up adding an additional 5000 words and really loved the way things had changed. Brooks loved it too and quickly offered to represent me. I asked for a week to think it over and alert the other agents that were interested. I ended up with two offers (and a very interested third who did not have time to get an offer in before I accepted with Brooks, but very graciously offered a hearty congratulations).

One offer was from Brooks–who had an incredible enthusiasm for my work, but is still a fairly new agent, and another from the agent I had, at one time, thought of as possibly “my dream agent.” You would think that that would have made me happy, but I was miserable. It was hard to choose between Brooks and the other, more established agent. I needed to choose between passion and experience.

I emailed Brooks about where I was in the decision process and his reply blew me away. I knew for certain that he understood and loved my work. I also felt confident that he knows what he is doing. And I knew we would have a great time working together. The choice was suddenly easy. Though the other offering agent truly is fabulous, in my opinion, the best agent is the one that loves your work the most. That’s the one that will fight the hardest for it.

I am 100% confident in my choice and really looking forward to our working together. I can’t wait to see what kind of mischief we’ll cook up.

 

 

 

PS: A few people have asked about my stats. Here you go:

Queries
Sent: 16
Page Requests: 5
Referrals: 1
Rejections: 4
No Response: 5
Query withdrew due to offer: 1

Contests
Entered: 2
Invitations to query: 1
Page requests: 4

Offers: 2

*Ahem* Please Prepare for a Teeny-Tiny Announcement

To any and all interested parties,
I am pleased to announce that Brooks Sherman of FinePrint Literary Management has exercised his extreme good taste and offered to be my agent. I exercised my well-honed character judging skills and accepted.
Thank you.

PS: OH MAH GOSH! I’M SO EXCITED.
PSS: If you would like to read more about how this all came about, I wrote about it here.
PSSS: If you would like to read a sample of my manuscript, click here.

Why You Should Be On Twitter

Twitter Bird logoI’m going to make a pretty bold statement. Consider yourself forewarned:


If you are at all serious about writing, no matter what stage of the publishing process you are in, you should be on twitter.

I can hear some of you twitter naysayers already: But why twitter, Heidi? I’m already on Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, and Instagram. What is so special about 140 characters?

Read on and I’ll tell you.

Twitter can make you a better writer
Honestly, isn’t that enough of a reason right there? See for yourself:

Note: Adrien-Luc Sanders give amazing writing tips. Go follow him immediately.

Twitter gives you all the good dirt.
From contest information, to what agents and publishers are currently dying for – or sick to death of, query information, and even tips on other items of writerly importance, twitter spills it.

Writing can be isolating. Twitter is where your friends hang out.
At least that’s where mine are. Want to be a member of the club?

There are a lot more reasons why twitter makes sense for writers. I didn’t even get into #AskAgent#WriteClub, or #indiechat but you can figure those out on your own. Just get over there and get tweeting.
Not too much though, you do still need to save time to, oh, I don’t know, actually write something a bit longer than 140 characters.


 
PS: If you could use a twitter how-to, Business 2 Blogger recently posted a handy primer. Pop in and check it out.


PSS: If you’d like to follow me on twitter, I can be found here, saying things like this: 




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