photo credit: fré sonneveld, via snapwire
When I woke up this morning, Pitchapalooza had already ended, with winners announced. Participating has been a ride from the get-go. The euphoria of being selected as one of 25 contenders. The discomfort of stepping outside myself to ask friends, family, and total strangers for support. The up-and-down of watching my pitch pull into the lead, fall behind, then rally, a dozen times during the past two weeks. The disappointment of defeat, combined with relief that now I can return to life as it was before–no more fixating on how many votes do I have, will my pitch be chosen?
I decided early on that win or lose, I’d think of this as a learning experience. If you’re considering participating in NaNoWriMo’s Pitchapalooza, it’s a great opportunity to do just that: learn. Read up on the Book Doctors pitch advice ahead of time. Research what contestants in previous years have submitted. Fine-tune your pitch before you submit it, utilizing the suggestions the judges gave prior participants, because the principles remain the same. Keep your expectations realistic. You may not win the fan-fave category or be chosen by the Book Doctors, but the guidance and experience you get will help you learn to put failure into the proper perspective, and add some key gadgets to your writing toolbox.
Here are my take-aways:
Reach out. I’m an introvert who’d argue John Donne to the death that yes, I am an island—but being unwilling to leave said island would ultimately lead to me remaining alone with my books. Since I want other people to read them I must, by necessity, journey to the mainland. I’m at such an early stage in the process of writing and getting published, that creating an author platform still seems nebulous. To get my feet wet, I entered a contest–which was pretty painless up front, because it required minimal human interaction. Entry was only the beginning; once I was a participant, I had to step up and beat the bushes. Facebook, Twitter, my blog, sending out emails–and lots of chatting people up in person. While I abhor small talk, I do love to talk about my book, so my first taste of networking turned out to be easier than I expected. And more fun. Now, I’m actually looking forward to marketing my book. Wait. Okay, I’m dreading it less. Yeah.
Be grateful. Every participant received a personalized critique of their pitch, and the counsel the Book Doctors gave me was tremendously useful. They showed me where I was already on the right track, while pointing out areas that needed to be beefed up if I hoped to get the attention of prospective literary agents. On another note, as the contest progressed, I was amazed at how many people were genuinely encouraging, asking where they could buy The Door to Yesterday. My friends, my family, folks in my community–everyone was so supportive. I tried to thank as many of them personally as possible, by responding to every post and re-post by name. Reminding myself of how grateful I felt for everything I’d already received, helped me keep it all in perspective whenever I started to worry about the possible results of the contest.
Be teachable. I’m a solid writer, but as an author, I’m a beginner. The only things I know about publishing, I’ve learned on the internet. Which means I know nothing. This process has taught me a lot about being willing to learn from the people judging the contest, my fellow writers, the process itself. Gloria Chao, the winner chosen by the Book Doctors, deserved to win: she had a well-written, engaging pitch. I admit, it made me want to read her book. She has the writing chops to back up her win and I’m studying what she did well–along with the pitches of all the other participants–so I can implement those principles as I rework my own pitch. This is just the beginning, and if I want a career with longevity, I’ve got to keep on learning, continuing to be humble.
Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. When a near competitor in the fan favorite race started following me on Twitter the second day into the contest, my gut told me not to be flattered. And I was right.
Let it go. No–not like Frozen, with angst and swirling snowflakes. Being a grown up means recognizing that control is an illusion, that I can’t force the outcome I wish while staying true to myself. I did what I could do: I wrote my best, put me and my book out there, and fought fair.
At the end of the day, I can live with that.