Pitch Wars 2021 Post Mortem

By TB February 15, 2022

To Start…

I figured I would start this blog fresh off of the Pitch Wars 2021 showcase. It ended yesterday, last night the requests became public, and today I sent out the first batch of queries. After 3 months, it’s all over.

I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a mentee by Nanci Schwartz and LL Montez and with their incredible guidance I upgraded my queer little space opera SPANNER from a C- to a solid B+. It was fun at times, tough at others, but always a great experience, and I’m going to try to summarize that experience in this post. I usually suck at this kind of stuff, so bare with me if I ramble.

Pitch What?

I have something to admit.

I had no idea what Pitch Wars was before I applied. I learned about it a week before the application opened. I was gearing up to start querying SPANNER v1.0, getting some decent beta feedback I was acting on, and felt pretty good.

Then I find this hashtag on Twitter, follow it down a rabbit hole, and see that it’s a contest. Or, no. A mentorship program. Or, wait. A showcase? I had no idea, but I was intrigued and, more importantly, procrastinating on the whole querying thing, so I crammed. I learned about the program, went through all the mentors, picked out the four that I thought fit SPANNER best, and yeeted my little book into the ether.

And I…got in? Nanci and L picked me. Up to that point, only a handful of friends had ever read my work. Ever. Not just SPANNER. But anything. Imposter syndrome is a bitch, amirite?

But here were two complete strangers who read my stuff and thought it worthy of spending their (volunteered) time to make better. And shit, did they. From our first call together we clicked. They believed in SPANNER. They believed in my vision, and they wanted to help me execute on it.

For the next 2 1/2 months I revised. They suggested. I re-revised. They re-suggested. They pushed on certain things (moving the midpoint up was the real difference-maker for this book, I think), and they didn’t on others (the opening scene was the very first image I ever had in my mind for SPANNER and dammit, I wanted it).

After it was all done, they helped me write a query letter, a synopsis, they helped with my agent list. In short, they helped. I can probably never repay them.

Waffle Squad

Past mentees have stated this to death, but it’s the truth: the Pitch Wars community is the best part of the whole thing. 120 mentees, in a Discord, talking about everything and nothing for 3 months. Commiserating, cheering each other on, sharing knowledge freely. I had never been part of a writing group before (impostor syndrome, remember?), and suddenly I was surrounded by 120 people who were way better writers than me.

Little side tangent: Pitch Wars was great to me. It’s not great for others. Some mentors should not be mentors, and for a program as visible at Pitch Wars, it’s doubly rough for a mentee who gets stuck with a bad mentor. You have three months of trying to keep the peace because, get this, a mentor is the final arbitor of if a mentee’s manuscript gets into the showcase. So if your mentor sucks, and you call them out publically or privately…you get the picture.

Side side tangent: if you become a mentor for social clout, or to stroke your own ego, you suck. Go away.

But when bad mentors did come up, as they do every year, this little Discord community rallied around the affected mentees. It was awesome to see and I can honestly say I think some of these people will be in my life for years to come.

Side side side tangent: I wish the publishing industry was more into naming and shaming bad actors. Whisper networks are only useful if you can hear the whispers. Sometimes you gotta get a bullhorn and tell the world someone’s a shithead.

Showcase Goals, or, What They Tell You Not To Do

The agent showcase is the big draw of Pitch Wars. For 2021, somewhere around 200 agents signed up. 200 agents looking over 120 pitches, leaving comments, requesting manuscripts and samples. It’s incredible.

Or it’s not.

Some mentees get thirty or more requests. Most get less.

Author Lyssa Mia Smith made a really great post about setting goals and checking expectations. Tldr; making goals that rely on things you have little or no control over is a recipe for failure. You can’t control if an agent likes your stuff. You can’t control if an agent will like it enough to leave a little comment on it. You definitely can’t control if an agent will then read your stuff and fall in love with it.


That doesn’t stop people from making those goals.

It’s me. I am people.

A little background on me: I love math. I love numbers and analytics and spreadsheets. So I knew, well before the showcase, how many requests the typical adult sci-fi showcase pitch gets.

Four. The number for 2020 was four, not accounting for rounding errors. So I set a goal based on that.

My goal was two.

I wanted two requests. My mentors told me that sounded do-able, and that adult sci-fi lives off of cold queries, anyways. So, two requests just to prove to myself that at least two others humans thought I could write.

I ended up getting five. My partner and I went out for a nice dinner. We stayed in a hotel downtown. We ate cheesecake in bed. Not only did two people think I didn’t totally suck, but FIVE people thought I didn’t totally suck! Fuck you, impostor syndrome.

Moral of the Story?

There isn’t one. I said that right up at the top. I have no idea if the showcase will result in anything for me apart from a little boost in confidence and a nice jumpstart into the querying arena. What I do know, however, is that I have two incredible mentors in my corner, and 120 new writer friends who make this whole “writing” thing a bit less lonely.

Next year – wait, what?

While I am writing this, Pitch Wars announced that this year was the last. After ten years, Pitch Wars is coming to an end. As a latecomer to Pitch Wars, the news didn’t hit me like it seemed to have hit some others, but all the same I have Thoughts.

Well, Thought. Singular.

It’s a bummer that no one else will get to experience what I just experienced. Maybe something comes along that replaces it, but I’m dubious. Pitch Wars is a TON of work for a wholly-volunteer staff. Add into that a pandemic, global unrest, etc etc, and I find it hard to believe someone will step up to fill the void. I hope they do, all the same.

That’s all. You can leave now.

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