Your Hopes Don't Rest on a Contest (or suggested reading for #PitchWars hopefuls)
Okay y'all, it's time for my requisite Pitch Wars day post--the one where I remind everyone that Pitch Wars is just ONE path to publication, and even it requires engaging with some of the others to see success.
First, the stats: I was selected for the 2015 Pitch Wars class with The Outs, a mind-bending YA sci-fi thriller with comics references, an amazing heroine, and a Jekyll/Hyde relationship that gives me the creeps. I loved that story. I still love that story.
That book received exactly zero requests from agents during the Pitch Wars agent round. It didn't land me an agent. Friends were flying forward in their publishing journey, and I was standing completely still. Even though I'd gotten into Pitch Wars, and put in so much work, I felt like a failure. Like maybe I was doing the wrong things. Like maybe it would never happen.
And yet... that book eventually sold to a small press that had requested it before the contest began, and is now out in the world (albeit under a pseudonym).
My story didn't end there, though. One of the best things a writer can do is always to write the next book, and so I did. This time I decided to switch tactics. Maybe I'd try a middle grade novel this time. Something new, and fresh, and fun. So I wrote a magical book called The Hotel Between, and went on submission to agents again. On my own. Without a contest to back me up.
The Hotel Between was a much better book than the previous one. That's usually how it goes--we writers get better with every project. And my improvement showed. The Hotel Between caught the attention of Erin Young at DG&B Literary. Erin took me on as her client. Erin submitted The Hotel Between to Simon & Schuster, who bought the book. And now... now we're quickly racing toward a fall 2018 release date. Soon I'll get to see my cover. A year from now, people will see my book on shelves all over the place.
That all happened after what felt like a huge Pitch Wars failure.
Now, don't get me wrong, I loved my experience with Pitch Wars. My mentor, J.A. Souders, was so kind to dedicate time to me and my manuscript. And the Pitch Wars class of 2015 have become some of my best writerly friends. There's a community here that's amazing, and I'm a part of it, and I will always celebrate that.
But the Pitch Wars contest was only a small part of my journey. It wasn't "the thing" that got me an agent. It wasn't required for me to sell my book to S&S. The Pitch Wars community aided me along the way, to be sure, but publishing has been around a lot longer than these twitter contests, and will last long after everyone's forgotten about Twitter. And I know so many people who didn't get in to Pitch Wars their first try, or didn't get in at all, and they're thriving. There are MANY paths to publication, and no author's path looks the same as any other. Do not lose heart. Continue writing your best. Continue seeking publication via all the routes you're comfortable taking. Persevere.
Because your story is your own, and only you can measure its shape.