A note from my RIGHT HAND

Hello, all!  Allow me to introduce myself. When Super Intern, aka Erica Chapman, moved onto fame and fortune as an associate editor for Entangled Publishing, Louise asked me to step into the heroic void. Thus, the Bat-tern has donned the mantle and sworn to save queries from spam, defeat the specter of bad grammar, and to pluck the awesome from the quagmires of the slush. Also, Batgirl was always my favorite superhero and it’s shorter, which matters on Twitter.

For my inaugural post, Louise asked me to talk a little about Pitch Wars. Pitch Wars is an online writing contest of sorts. There were thirty-seven mentors. Each selected a top pick and two alternates from a very large pool of manuscripts. Each mentor then worked with their top pick so that the manuscript was the very best it can be and helped them formulate a short pitch. The top picks and all the alternates then had their pitch and the first two hundred and fifty words of their manuscript posted on the hosting blogs. The participating agents got first crack on the top picks, but Pitch Wars coordinator extraordinaire, Brenda Drake, kept track of any other agents who wanted the manuscripts for when Pitch Wars ended. The alternates could be requested by anyone.

Louise loves these types of contests. It's why she's closed to queries more often than not because she wants the freedom to request anything that catches her attention, whether it's through a contest like this, a conference, or an intern who lurks in the shadows of Twitter. After accompanying her onto the Pitch Wars battlefield, I can see why she feels this way. All of the Pitch Wars manuscripts were very high quality. There were actually two pitches that I considered to be excellent, but I knew they didn't fit what Louise was looking for.  The authors of those pitches later signed with other agents.

Pitch Wars was set for January 23rd and 24th. At the time, Louise was still in South Africa. There was an eight-hour time difference and her internet connection was VERY sporadic, so my role was that of advanced scout. On the 22nd, we hammered out strategy. I created a template for my scouting reports and filled in as much as I could beforehand. This is why aspiring authors should have websites with excerpts or descriptions of their WIPs, by the way. There were two top picks that I flagged as definite possibles before Pitch Wars even started and Louise ended up requesting materials from both authors. At 8am on the 23rd, Pitch Wars commenced and we entered into battle.

I don't think Louise slept during Pitch Wars. I know I didn't have a life.

There were 37 top picks and 62 alternates, 99 altogether. We read them ALL. One of the participating authors took the time to put together a spreadsheet of how the agent requests broke down. You can download it here. Louise requested the most, 37. Out of those 37, 2 were middle grade, 7 were adult fiction, and the remaining 28 were young adult.
The requested materials began to trickle in almost immediately. Three authors never responded to Louise's request at all and one author was still revising. Louise requested three fulls based on the strength of the partials. All in all, we had 36 manuscripts to evaluate.

Louise is home now and back to grabbing catnaps between bursts of awesome agenting. I still don't have a life.

So why did Louise request those 37? Well, in each pitch, there was something that made it different from everything else. Personal taste entered into it. The pitch had to be something that Louise could fall in love with. I admit she did take my preference into consideration for some, which is why she requested every fairy tale-esque manuscript.  Above all else, though, the opening snippet had to be compelling, forcing Louise to request more so we could read further.

Why didn't Louise request the other 62?  Mainly, it just wasn't what she was looking for. The quality really was amazing, but not everything fit her criteria. Some were too similar to what she already represented, some didn't seem right for New York, and others just weren't what she likes to read.

I feel it worth noting that out of the 37, only 22 were ones that I marked as recommended. 2 were marked as pass and she requested them anyway because something in them resonated with her. The other 13 were ones that I flagged as possibles. They were either manuscripts where I liked the concept, but I was unsure about some other aspect, or they were horror.

Since my idea of horror is when Bambi’s mom gets shot, I believe it’s fairer to all involved if someone else does the in-depth evaluations of horror manuscripts. Sometimes Louise makes me read them anyway and I suspect she uses how far I get into the book as an indicator of how good the book actually is. If the writing’s strong enough to get me to the halfway point and I go to bed with the lights on, it’s a mark in the plus column.

The fact that I consider E.T. a horror movie whereas Louise reads Stephen King before bed, it just shows how subjective this business can be. Sometimes it's really just a matter of persistence, to keep writing and revising and querying until you find the right agent who loves your work as much as you do.

As of right now, I don't think anyone has released any stats how many authors received representation offers as a result of Pitch Wars. I can tell you that out of the 34 authors who sent us materials, five received offers from other agents. As for Team Fury? Well, it was her entry in last year's Pitch Madness that originally got Louise's attention, but her Pitch Wars alternate manuscript sealed the deal. Author Rachael Slate joined Team Fury on February 15. And Louise is still not done going through all the requested manuscripts...

Currently, I am continuing in my never-ending quest to empty the slush email while Louise catches up on her backlog. We want everything to be nice and neat because Louise has agreed to participate in the 2013 Pitch Madness. If you have a completed, polished-until-sparkling, manuscript and Louise is your dream agent, follow Brenda Drake's blog for more details. Submissions will open on March 15th and entries go live for the agents on March 26-28th. Last year's rules are here, but they are subject to change. Good luck!