Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pitch Madness in review

Pitch Madness has dominated my life online for the past few weeks, and I love it. Twice a year I get to read amazing pitches from hundreds of writers and pick 15 to put up to agents. March 2014 Pitch Madness was one of the best ones ever, thanks to a new initiative from Brenda Drake. This time we had agent insiders working through the slush and highlighting things that they believed would interest an agent. It didn't mean every pitch on my team would be ones they'd tagged. But it helped me assess the pitches better. I could have easily picked about 45 pitches, there were that many that were that good. But ultimately I had to pick 15, with my slush readers getting to pick one they loved to save. 

My team was made up of friends who I knew had impeccable taste in books: Fiona McLaren, Meagan Rivers and Lauren McKellar. They all have some sort of publishing industry experience as well. I really valued their input and we worked as a team to ensure we had the best writing across a range of categories and genres. 

In the end, every single entry we chose received at least one request from an agent. Most got multiple requests and some had agents fighting over them to be the ultimate winner of the pitch. 

For those who didn't make it through, some of you were just unlucky as I had to whittle my list down, while others need to workshop their pitches or writing more to make it sparkle. 

Some common things that prevented me from shortlisting entries were:

  • Vague pitches.
  • Not having strong enough stakes (or stakes missing altogether).
  • Using rhetorical questions.
  • Not using all/most of the 35 words.
  • Me not being able to understand the pitch. 
  • Not having a killer opening sentence. 
  • Opening lines focusing on the weather when it's not a plot point. 
  • Opening with info dumps.
  • Telling instead of showing. 
I hope that helps those of you who are interested in being part of pitch contests. I will be judging/hosting for #LAV (Like a Virgin) and #NestPitch in the next couple of months and for #PitchMadness again in September. I hope to see your work in the slush.

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