A couple months ago, I found out about a contest called PitMad (short for Pitch Madness). Apparently, it’s a really big deal among writers.
Before I go into my story, let me briefly explain how it works:
For one day, writers all over the country pitch their books using a Tweet with the hashtag #PitMad. Throughout that day, a bunch of participating agents comb Twitter looking for Tweets that interest them. If an agent favorites your Tweet, they want you to send your query letter and sample material.
Now, in a way, that’s a really big deal. An agent requesting your query is a solicited query, meaning they’re specifically seeking you out (versus an unsolicited query, where strangers pitch them all kinds of random stuff).
In another way, it’s not a big deal. 140 characters tells the agent nothing about the real book. To put in in perspective, the previous sentence alone was 100 characters. You get that and 40 more characters to sell your entire book.
Still, it’s a chance to get a little exposure, so I decided to jump on it. Only I didn’t hear about the contest until the night before it started. I was chatting with another writer and he mentioned it in passing. I did some research online and decided it was something I wanted to get involved in.
The result was craziness! I spent hours writing a set of Tweets, scheduled them for posting, and set my alarm for 5:00AM (when everything started). Did I mention it was also the day before we moved to Phoenix. EEEEK!
When the alarm went off, I admit I wanted to hit the “SNOOZE” button and roll over. But I logged onto Twitter, made sure my first Tweet went out, and waited with the rest of the writing world.
During the process, I reached out to a handful of writing friends, all of whom were participating. All day, we sat with baited breath, staring at our Twitter screens and sharing messages with each other.
Once I started following the feed, I lost hope. It was pure insanity. There were so many #PitMad Tweets, I couldn’t keep up. Seriously, the screen scrolled so quickly, I couldn’t focus on anything. I actually laughed at my monitor thinking, “No agent can wade through this mess.” Seriously, there were hundreds and hundreds of Tweets per minute.
Then, at 1:00, I got a favorite.
I admit, I jumped up and down and hooted and hollered for awhile. When I found out the rest of my group didn’t get a single favorite all day, I realized how rare it was.
That evening, I compiled my query and two sample chapters, and sent them off to the agent who’d requested them.
Her slush pile (the amount of queries she has to go through) was so large, she didn’t get around to mine for almost two months. That just shows how many people are submitting books!
On Thursday, I got the email.
In it, she said that while the main character was utterly relatable, she had to reject the novel.
I think I stared at the screen for about an hour after that, stomach aching. I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to tell anyone. I’m a prideful person who doesn’t like to air his shortcomings. Honestly, I just hate sharing my failings with the rest of the world.
But, after thinking about it, I realized I made my own mistakes in the process. That, coupled with the need to get used to rejection, made me decide to share what I learned:
1. Someone out there said “The biggest success is failure.” Sure, it’s cheesy. But, thinking to last week’s post (where I mentioned getting huge criticism at a writers group), I focused a lot more on my writing and my story was much better for it. Rejection makes you better, if you handle it correctly. There are so many people out there who give up after being rejected. I refuse to be one of them. If you can push past the hurt and use it, what you create will improve. I know I’ve said that before, but the reminder is nice.
2. I read an article awhile back saying that if your story isn’t ready, DON’T SEND IT. I admit I didn’t heed that advice. I was so caught up in the contest, I convinced myself my pages were good enough. Well, now that I’ve shared the first chapter with two different writers groups, I’ve ended up rewriting most of it. And what I have now feels so much tighter and better than what I sent to the agent. I’m not saying it would be accepted now. But it’s such a better face to put forward.
I would have much rather withdrawn from the contest and sent her the query and sample chapters now. Sure it would have been unsolicited and gone into her giant anonymous pile. But it would have represented me much better. Those old chapters were not ready for review, and I shouldn’t have sent them. As a reminder, I created this fun meme:
3. So why did I send unready pages, you might ask. Well, part of it is I convinced myself they were good enough. But there’s another – almost embarrassing – reason. Because of the way I stumbled across the contest the day before it happened, part of me couldn’t help but see it as a sign. Then, when I got a favorite, I saw it as an even bigger sign. With these signs around, I put on the blinders and went for it. What a mistake. People like to imagine lots of things as signs. Admittedly, I think there are occurrences that can’t be explained. But most of them are just in our heads because we want to something so badly. Taking a step back and looking at it rationally, I realized you typically don’t get signs when you’re so unready, you’re scrambling around putting together unfinished material, LOL.