A year ago I didn’t know what a pitch (or a query was). I’d written a book and needed to figure out what my next step was. Apart from to write another book and continue to develop my writing skills.
I began to follow a lot of blogs, tweets, Facebook pages etc to see what was happening in the writing world around me. I soon realised I needed to practice writing pitches and queries if I wanted to find a publisher or an agent. I needed to learn the art of pitches, queries, first five pages and more to even put myself on the radar. If I didn’t get past the pitching, I wasn’t going anywhere because no-one would read my work. And that included the indie publishing route – readers need pitches too…
Since entering the social media universe in March, I have written and honed pitches for two of my books. For each I created: Twitter length (140 characters), elevator pitch, two sentence, one paragraph and more! Some I’ve entered into competitions, some I’ve used in standard querying. Writing the pitches and queries well enough to get a request for a partial or a full feels as big a craft as writing the book. Maybe I’m at an advantage because I once worked as an advertising copywriter, and commonly had to reduce things to a few well chosen words and sentences. I enjoy doing it! (I know most people don’t). But I’m not saying ‘hey, I’m a perfect pitcher’…no way! But something worked, as I had a little success in getting myself noticed.
Stepping way out of my comfort zone, in February this year, I entered the Romance Writers Australia ‘First Kiss’ competition. I submitted the first kiss, from my first ever completed novel (after running by my awesome CPs of course!)
I did it for anonymous, constructive criticism. Three judges score entries with comments on aspects of the entry. By entering I could get an idea of what I needed to work on and if I was doing anything right. It was a very hard thing to do…(Remember this is the person who refused to let anyone read their work until November last year).
Entering the competition feels like an age away now, and the results came out this week. I received my ranking and my score sheets – the top 6 went through and I was number 7. I posted on Facebook that I was teeth-gnashing about it, but in all honesty, I was overjoyed. Especially once I got hold of the score sheets for my first entry to an industry writing competition and saw the positives and the ‘needs work’. When I re-read the entry this week, I saw 100 things (oh, okay, maybe 20) things I’d do differently. Maybe next time I’ll make that top 6!
I think the upshot of my rambling is: By entering competitions, big or small, you get an indication of how you’re faring in an aspect of your writing, judged by people who have no connection to you. Often these competitions include other writers and readers of the genre as preliminary judges, so I think they are as valid for those wanting to indie publish too. They’re not just about discovering what the publishers want. You will fail to win, you might not even get past the first round, but you can often see the results and what the winners did differently. Which helps for next time.
I haven’t won any competitions yet, but what I’ve learnt has been reward enough. No, honestly it has. And I’ll tell you why later this week.