Pitch Wars Mentor Musing

For the past three weeks I’ve had my nose buried in my Pitch Wars searching for the manuscript and mentee that are a match for me. With a matter of days left to go until the mentor picks have to be in I have yet to mark my top pick, but I’m pretty close.

I won’t give away the top runners for me, but I will share a bit of my reading process and then some tips for improving your chances as snagging a spot in future pitch contests.

So here’s my process for my mentee:

  1. I scan through all the pitches as they come in and get a basic impression. If a pitch piques my interest as I may read the prose. And if that prose makes me want to salivate with literary lust I ask for the full.
  2. I set aside reading time, go back through the pitches and add in the prose. I then categorise the stories into folders in my emails under Full Requested, Maybe, Not For Me.
  3. As fulls come in I save them to Voice Dream Reader and I spend a heck of a lot of time with earphones as I do things like cook dinner so I can get through the requests. I also listen to the manuscripts in my car as I do a fair bit of driving for work.
  4. As I listen to the stories I determine:
    1. How much I enjoy the story.
    2. If I believe I can value add to the story.
    3. If I believe I can value add to the story in the required timeframes for the competition. (Yes this is different to the point above).
  5. I stalk the author. Sometimes this happens simultaneously with other points above. I want to know if I can work with the author, and I want to know if publishing professionals will want to work with the author. The author would have to behave pretty badly for me not to want to take them on.
  6. I begin making notes to get ready for the revision round. If I think there’s going to be a war (which there may be for me this time) I may hold off so I don’t do a stack load of wasted work.
  7. I let Brenda know where I’m at for who I want to mentor and it goes from there.


Now, onto tips!

  • If you are going to enter a pitch contest make sure your manuscript is in a good place:
    • Show, don’t tell: Here is a great article another Pitch Wars mentor shared that I highly recommend aspiring authors read: https://nicolelochoa.com/2016/08/16/do-i-tell-too-much/
    • Foreshadowing: You need to give the reader the opportunity to work things out, or at least be able to connect the dots after the twist is revealed.
    • Learn the technical side of your craft, like how to format dialogue.
  • You need to make sure your pitch glitters so much the contest coordinators have to slide on sunglasses.
    • Research what makes a good pitch and use the formula. And here’s an article on creating a pitch and query that the amazing Brenda Drake prepared earlier.
    • Workshop your pitch/query with both people who do know your story and people who don’t. Yes, pitches need betas too!
  • Make sure you familiarise yourself with the rules of the contest you want to enter and comply.
  • Be nice, professional, and not creepy on social media with contest officials. If you want to be a professional writer, you need to have some level of professionalism online. That doesn’t mean be a robot, but don’t be racist, sexist or any other negative ist that will make someone not want to work with you.
  • Take advantage of the networking opportunities. Connecting with the contest coordinators and other entrants is an amazing opportunity. But don’t just be there when the contest is on (I’ve already noticed my Twitter followers start to dwindle, which happens regularly around this time), say the course and keep in touch because publishing is a community and it actually takes a village to write a book. Despite what people think, writing isn’t a solo sport.

I love being a Pitch Wars mentor. It’s such a rewarding experience. I’ve made so many friends being involved with pitch contests – it’s the reason why I’m on this blog!

What’s your favourite thing about pitch contests? What experiences would you love to share with AO&R readers.


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