This is a continuation and the final one in the series of blog posts concerning issues presented to Pitch Wars. You can read the beginning of the series HERE. This post will be addressing the issue of expectations tied to Pitch Wars and the culture that has risen around it.
This is a hard post to write because everyone comes to Pitch Wars with very different experiences. But we want to discuss and acknowledge some of the heightened expectations surrounding Pitch Wars in the past few years. Pitch Wars was started as a small contest where writers with industry experience and publishing professionals could guide mentees through the publishing trenches. Though it was posited as a contest, the heart of the program was mentorship. And to this day, this is still the point of Pitch Wars. It is meant to provide guidance and support to talented and hard-working mentees.
Pitch Wars has helped to foster many talented writers, including some who have gone on to write amazing best-selling work. However, it’s important to remember these talented writers came to Pitch Wars with this talent. What mentors and Pitch Wars provided was help polishing the manuscripts and writing eye-catching pitches (because, let’s admit it, a good writer is not always a good marketer or publicist for a story). So, the extra boost that Pitch Wars gave possibly helped get the story out there faster, but we know that all of these amazing writers were meant for their own success regardless.
As those who’ve done Pitch Wars can attest, the mentor-mentee relationship can be a special one when done right, equal parts editor, cheerleader, and advisor. Our aim for our mentors is to give our beloved mentees support in all forms.
Now that we’ve discussed what we hope Pitch Wars does, we should also discuss what Pitch Wars doesn’t do. To be frank, Pitch Wars does not provide your only or last-ditch chance at getting your story published. Our worry is that some might treat Pitch Wars as if it can do the miraculous. Pitch Wars is meant to provide support and guidance. And part of that guidance means being honest and saying that there are absolutely no guarantees in publishing. Publishing is an unpredictable business, one that centers on timing and luck as much as talent. There is no one single answer to success in publishing, and if there is then it’s probably the perseverance and drive of the writers themselves.
In our bid to write an honest discussion, we asked some former mentees for their thoughts on the culture that now surrounds Pitch Wars. Unfortunately, they did admit there was internal comparison. With something as public as Pitch Wars it’s hard to avoid. Everyone in a single year’s mentee pool might look around and assume they’re on the same footing. But, to be honest, this isn’t the case. Some of our mentees are coming to us with their first manuscript and some raw talent. Some of our mentees have honed their talent for years and are pretty much pros at revision now. And still more of the mentees are somewhere in the middle. Some of our former mentees stated that it was tough for them because they thought that “Pitch Wars was a ticket to them getting their dreams.”
We were saddened to learn that some mentees were so stressed they lost sleep, lost weight, lost appetites. Our intent is that the program is a way to relieve stress not add any extra. However, because the timeline of the past few events were very short between the beginning of Pitch Wars and the agent showcase, we understand that it could have caused anxiety, especially since everyone works at a different pace. (Please rest assured that this issue will be addressed in the new iteration of Pitch Wars).
We’d also like to dispel the concept of “winning” Pitch Wars. Some of our past mentees received dozens of requests in the agent round and ended up signing with an agent they slush queried. Some of our mentees got very few agent requests, went on to slush query or partake in #Pitmad and now have amazing book deals. Pitch Wars wasn’t made to specifically get an agent and a book deal. Instead, its purpose is to prepare mentees for the rigors of the publishing world. Every path the mentees take after Pitch Wars varies greatly, but the hope is that they walk away with more confidence in their talent and ability to navigate the publishing industry. There is no way to “win” Pitch Wars just as there is no way to “win” publishing. Though it did start its life by being called a “contest” The War that we’re all fighting is against the pain and suffering that comes along the publishing path. Your mentor is there to help you battle things like “form rejections” “full synopsis” “elevator pitches” and “querying.”
We hope that no one believes Pitch Wars is the only path to publishing success. We also hope that if you do not get a mentor through Pitch Wars, you know that there are many other avenues for mentorship and support from the writing community. Finally, we are committed to taking Pitch Wars back to basics. This means talking about how mentors want to find talent and nurture it. Talent that might have succeeded without them, but that they’re happy to help people hone as they head into the rough querying waters.
Guest post by Kat Cho, Pitch Wars Committee Advisor
That’s it for this series of blog posts. To find out more about Pitch Wars and to get the new schedule go to this page.
And I hope you’ll join us on June 7 at 8AM to 8 PM EDT for our next #PitMad! Need to know more about #PitMad? All the information is on this page.
This is a thoughtful post, like the three before it.
Since I know a few people who have been Pitch Wars mentees, I can say that they were experienced writers, but that the mentorship makes agents take this more seriously. As a result, I do believe the manuscripts get a closer look. The high # of people who get offers isn’t like how it looks in the typical way people query. The doors often open for people talented/lucky enough to get mentored.
Very thoughtful response. And smart to manage people’s expectations.
This is a wonderful post, Kat. Thank you for writing so thoughtfully and honestly. Can I add that I think we also need to talk about the writers who don’t get agents or book deals? I mentored twice, and love PW so much, and this is an important topic to me. Of the four mentees I worked with in two years, one of them signed with an agent. The other three are in different places — and are tremendously awesome. As this post suggests, we all define success in different ways. For me, I think success means that we, mentors and mentees, learned together. We all improved as writers (and, in my case, as a person). It’s the journey that makes this life beautiful, and I think Pitch Wars can help writers enjoy that journey more. Regardless of what path each writer takes.