Each quarter we try to spotlight something helpful to writers and provide them with appropriate information. This week I have an interview with BRENDA DRAKE, founder of PITCH WARS. Read on to find out more about this interactive and free service for writers.
CHRISTINE VAN ZANDT: What is Pitch Wars?
BRENDA DRAKE: Pitch Wars is a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and help the writers to shine it up for agents. The mentors also help with their mentees’ pitches to get them ready for the agent round. Writers send applications (query and first chapter of manuscript) to the four mentors that best fit their work. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the writer they want to mentor for the next two months. Then we hold an agent round with tons of amazing agents making requests.
CVZ: Tell me about Pitch Madness.
BD: Pitch Madness is a contest held every March, where writers enter for a chance to win requests from the participating agents. Writers submit a 35-word (max) pitch and the first 250 words of their completed manuscript on submission day. Then a team of readers chooses the top sixty (60) entries to go onto the agent round. The agents play a game against the other agents to win requests for more pages of their favorite entries. The best played agent request wins either a partial or full manuscript read of the entry. The game for Pitch Madness changes each event. We’ve played poker, paintball, darts, and Monopoly.
CVZ: Then how is #PitMad different?
BD: #PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 140-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. Because #PitMad has grown over the years, industry professionals are finding it overwhelming to search the feed. It goes by so fast now, it’s a little mind-boggling. And we don’t want to scare off the industry professionals. So our new rule is that you may only tweet three (3) different pitches per project (you may pitch more than one project) for the day. I suggest every four hours tweet a different pitch. The pitch must include the hashtag #PitMad and the category (#YA, #MG, #A, #NA, #PB and #NF) in the tweet. The “#” is important to include. It will sort the categories to make it easier for the agents/publishers.
CVZ: Wow, that’s amazing! How can these processes help a writer?
BD: The Pitch Wars mentoring period for the contest shows the writers the weaknesses in their writing and the mentors teach the mentees how to fix those issues. In publishing, authors must meet tough deadlines all the time. The rigorous two months of revision teaches the writers how to work on a deadline. Whereas, #PitMad is a pitch party–anyone can participate without going through a submission round, and it helps writers place their manuscripts directly with an agent or editor who is searching for something specific on Twitter.
CVZ: When did this all begin?
BD: The first Pitch Wars contest was in 2012. After running several contests in the past, I would find that agents made more requests on entries to read only to find the writing and/or story fall apart after the first few chapters. Then one fated day, I was watching Cupcake Wars. A baker had an assistant help them create beautiful cupcakes for the judges. So I thought, that’s what we need. We need mentors to help writers who are almost there, but keep getting rejections, to help them work out what is failing in their manuscripts.
We’ve had so many successes in the contest with writers finding agents and book deals. The 2014 round had over forty-plus successes, and 2015 ended with nineteen agent offers within the first month of the agent round ending!
CVZ: Has this helped you personally as a writer?
BD: Definitely. I believe that when we read and analyze other writers’ manuscripts, we develop a critical eye that can help us with our own writing. Also, by exchanging your work with other writers, you develop great relationships. There are many amazing and giving people in our online community of writers surrounding the contests. Many have met long lasting critique partners through the contests.
I’ve met my critique partners in the community. They were there in the first drafts of Thief of Lies and Touching Fate, and all the other manuscripts I’ll never show the world. And they were there to cheer me on when I got my agent, when I got my book deal, and when I had to make difficult decisions. This community is welcoming, they show compassion for others, and they support each other. I’m truly blessed to have this opportunity.
More about Brenda Drake:
Brenda Drake is the author of Touching Fate and Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers Series) from Entangled Teen, and host of #PitchWars, #PitchMadness, and #PitMad.
Article by Christine Van Zandt
Co-editor of SCBWI’s Kite Tales; Owner of freelance editing firm, Write for Success
Twitter: @WFSediting, ChristineVZ
E-mail: KiteTalesEditor@yahoo.com; Christine@Write-for-Success.com