The Slow Pitch

I did #PitMad a few weeks ago. If you don't know what that is, that's ok. I didn't either until very recently. Basically, #PitMad is your day to pitch a completed book to a captive audience of fellow authors, agents, and publishers who are actively looking for new work to share and publish. Pretty cool, huh?

Twitter pitching contests are becoming more and more popular. I opted not to participate in #SFF (science fiction / fantasy) on June 18th, but I did do #PitMad on June 4th. My cousin, Ashey Warren, participated in the event earlier in the year and she reflected on it as well on her blog.

The concept is simple (and wonderfully outlined on Brenda Drake's website here). You get to tweet up to a couple of times an hour for 12 hours. The contest starts at 8am EDT, which is super early on the west coast, so plan accordingly. I took the day off, although you can totally use something like Tweet Deck to schedule your tweets. I didn't do it this way, more on that in a bit.

You need to construct at least 12 (if not more) tweets that contain 140 character minus whatever hashtags you use to identify your work. So, for my novel, I had #PitMad, #A (for adult), and #SFF (for science fiction/fantasy). That left me roughly 125 characters to play with. Otherwise, your tweets can really be about anything that will hook someone's interest on your novel.

Agents / publishers who are interested favorite your tweets and invite you to query them. This is the good part.

Let's start by saying that I have minimal experience querying on a novel. I do however have several years of experience querying for short fiction. Doing a query is a necessary evil that is a slow, slow process. With a novel, that process can easily stretch for months for each person you query, and even then there is no guarantee that you will hear anything back at all, let alone useful (or positive) feedback.

With something like #PitMad, you DO have a captive audience. You DO have people who are reading the pitches on your book, and if they indicate interest, there's a reasonable chance they are already interested in what you have to say. Does that mean they will snap up your book? Not at all. Does that mean you have a reasonably good chance (if someone favorites a tweet) that you will get an agent to actually read your work? Absolutely.

Now, on to the part about why I took the day off of work and actually sat around manually sending tweets. I was fortunate enough to have some interest in my book. Assuming an agent favorites hundreds of tweets (and yes, many do), I didn't want to be at the bottom of that stack. I wanted to be ready. So, going into the day, not only did I have all of my tweets ready to go, I ALSO had a query letter ready, a couple of different length synopses, and several different cuts of my book (different agents want different sample lengths). This meant that when I did manage to land a favorite, I was able to put together a query in less than an hour of the time the tweet was favorited.

I have no idea if that made a difference. I really don't. But, it makes me feel professional, and I think it IS professional, so it's totally worth it if you can take the time. Plus, I was able to craft slightly different tweets based on what I saw on the hastag, and I think that improved my outlook some. I was also able to retweet or other authors that had pitches that sounded interesting to me.

Which, brings us to the last nice thing about #PitMad. Even though you can only tweet twice an hour, retweets help get the word out. You certainly don't want to ask your follows to spam the hashtag, but having some extra retweets of your tweets during the day will only get you more attention.

A big thank you goes out to everyone who helped me on the 4th with some retweets. I really do appreciate it.

I'm planning on doing #PitMad again in the future, and in fact will likely continue doing it until I have sold a book. I think it's a brilliant way of approaching the publication of a book, and major thanks to Brenda Drake for organizing it.

State of Things in 2015

2014 was an exciting year for me and I made some major progress on things that are very important to me. I thought I'd give you a general status update now that we're into 2015 on things like the book, what I read, and what I did last year.

Submissions / Publishing

I submitted my first short story to a literary contest before I was in high school. If memory serves, it was to something that Glimmertrain was offering.

That first submission was arduous, mostly because I had to bundle everything up in a big manila envelope and ship it off to an address that I'd found in the Writer's Market. Of course the story didn't get published. I wasn't terribly surprised.

The thing that does surprise me a bit is that I didn't submit anything at all after that until June of 2013. There was at least a ten year gap there. Granted I didn't do a ton of writing in high school, but I did an awful lot in college. I'm not sure why I didn't try to publish anything that I was doing in creative writing, but I didn't.

Regardless, I submitted eight times in 2014 and have been incredibly fortunate in the reception that Distinction in the Darkness has been receiving. The other stories that I have submitted are still going through review processes and I hope to have good news to share there someday soon.

I always get asked when you can read more of my work. That's an excellent question I wish I had a better answer to. Something I didn't know until I started down this path was that posting stories online anywhere (even here on my own blog) is often considered to be 'first publication' and a lot of places that publish fiction don't like not having first publication rights. So, I don't put things that I'm working on online until they have been accepted. Hopefully I'll have some other things to share in 2015 though. It's a challenge for me, do I work on publishing stories, or do I work on the book?

The Book

I spent all of 2014 rewriting my book. I finished a full draft in 2013, and decided that while I was pleased with the direction the plot was going, I wasn't pleased with the writing. Rather than trying to spot fix the entire manuscript, I rewrote it. I honestly believe this was the correct decision at the time and I don't regret it. I also don't think I'd ever do this again. I'm a better and more experienced writer now than I was when I first started the novel, and I think that when I start working on book 2, I'll be better equipped to avoid the total rewrite scenario.

I have several amazing people who have taken time in 2014 to read the book, and their feedback has been invaluable. I'll talk more about this process of alpha/beta reading in a future post.

2015 is hopefully the year I submit the novel. I have a road map of changes I need to make to the novel first though. Primarily, I need to do additional cleanup of language. I have threads that should run through the entire book, but don't. I have repetitive action scenes. I have a conclusive, but perhaps somewhat under emphasized ending. These are all very fixable problems and that's what I'm working on now. This will be time consuming, but hopefully not a year's worth of writing.

FavoriteFive of 2014

Finally, I'd like to start a tradition of talking about some of my favorite things, specifically things I read, in 2014. Not all of these books were published in 2014, but I did read them last year.

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline [Science Fiction] Ready Player One may very well one of my favorite books of all time. I finished it in just a handful of hours, and likely would have finished it in a single sitting if I had been able to. It's a brilliant story of gaming, particularly nostalgic video games from the 1980's, and how those games fit into a massively multiplayer online virtual reality that has replaced in the Internet in our not so distant future. Oh, and there's a multi-billion dollar race to find the easter eggs hidden in the game by it's creator. Brilliant writing and a ton of fun.

2. The Martian by Andy Weir [Science Fiction] Cast Away meets Lost in Space. More or less. I loved this book. Mark, our astronaut protagonist, gets stranded on Mars after his crew presumes him dead. The Martian is his story of the following months alone on the planet and how he attempts to survive the harsh Martian landscape.

3. Skin Game by Jim Butcher [Urban Fantasy] The Dresden Files continues to be one of my absolute favorite series of books, and is one of my favorite suggested entry points into the fantasy/urban fantasy genre for new readers. I'll talk about this more in a series I have planned for 2015 called Fantasy 101.

Skin Game is the newest entry, and in my opinion one of the best Dresden books to date. In this novel, Harry Dresden must pull off an Ocean's Eleven-esque heist. Except instead of knocking over a Vegas casino, he has to rob an underworld vault that belongs to a god.

4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn [Mystery/Thriller] I don't read a ton of mysteries, but I read enough to know this isn't your typical one. The brilliant thing about Gone Girl is that the mystery is solved early enough in the book that you then get to experience the fallout of what actually happened. This is another one that I couldn't put down. I'll warn you that if you've seen the movie (or want to see the movie) you should consider which experience you prefer (book or film) because your experience may vary. I found that David Fincher's adaptation was so perfect that the movie was almost not enjoyable after reading the book only a few days earlier.

5. Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty [Urban Fantasy] I listen to Mur talk weekly on her podcast I Should be Writing. Shambling Guide was the first of her writing I've read, and I loved it. It was one of the few books I chose to take on vacation with me last year and I absolutely devoured it. It's a very enjoyable urban fantasy novel with some interesting world components and a great story.

Zoe, an out of work editor, finally manages to get a job for a travel books company in New York. Except that the travel books aren't exactly for... humans.

Other notable examples include Partials by Dan Wells, Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson, and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

I really appreciate all of the support from this year, and I'm very excited for 2015. Happy New Year!