Monday, August 31, 2015

#PitMad, an Unbeaten Path

By: Ataska Brothers  

I finished my novel in February, created a Twitter account in March, and signed a contract with Fantasy Works Publishing in April. The publisher I really, really wanted. Two days after I signed the contract, I received an email from an agent. The agent I really, really wanted...

Here’s what transpired during my first month on Twitter and how I scaled the formidable wall of publishing so fast.

With the manuscript completed and the query letter polished, I faced an arduous task: getting noticed among thousands of writers who, just like I, were ready for the next step in their writing career. Researching my options, I read an agent’s bio and was struck by the list of her favorite classic writers. It was surprisingly similar to mine. At that moment I knew I wanted to be her client. There was one problem: the agent didn’t consider “cold queries.” She accepted submissions from the writers she met at conferences and from the participants of #PitMad. That was the first time I had heard of Twitter Pitch Contests.

I put a search engine to work, and minutes later I knew I needed to create a Twitter account and figure out how it worked right away, because, by a lucky coincidence, the next #PitMad was coming up in three days.

What is #PitMad?

Four times a year, participants get a 12-hour window to pitch their manuscript in 140 characters or less. Agents and acquiring editors are monitoring the feed. If they favor your pitch, you follow their submission guidance and send them your query letter and sample pages.

My pitches were noticed, but not by the agent I wanted. I queried her anyway, explaining how her love for certain books inspired me to enter the contest. She requested my pages. While waiting for her decision, I participated in another Twitter contest, #PitSlam. The rules are different: in the course of a few days, you have a chance to submit your 35-word logline and the first 250 words via email, and get critiqued by a team of judges.

Then everything happened at once. A feedback from a small publisher convinced me that Chapter 8, a dialogue between two characters, had to go. A series of blog posts, echoed by the advice from #PitSlam judges and a guest critiquer for PPW’s Open Critique, made me ponder whether I started my novel at the right spot.

Most importantly, while exploring Twitter, I came across Fantasy Works Publishing. I read the words of Jen Leigh, FWB’s acquiring editor: “We are aware that some publishing houses will alter your story by requesting additional plot lines or removing existing subplots. I dislike the practice. Our goal is to publish your story, not our vision of it.” That’s when I knew I wanted to work with the FWB team.

But what could I do to ensure my submission succeeded?

The decision was agonizing. My prologue and the first two chapters made the manuscript a finalist and winner in several writing contests.

I deleted all three.

Surprisingly, only a few paragraphs needed to be saved for clarity. After an hour of revisions, I hit the “send” button. A week later, I received a contract offer.

And the agent whose blog post started my Twitter odyssey? Two days after I signed the contract, she advised that I should revise my second chapter and resubmit. That was one of the deleted scenes — I had made the right decision! When I explained that the manuscript was already under contract, the agent kindly wished me luck. The prologue that was so painful for me to cut? At the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, I attended a workshop which made me certain the prologue was important for the story. I sent it to my editor, and her decision was to keep it.

Finding a home for my manuscript could have become a long, nerve-racking process, but I discovered the right path in the realm of Twitter. Since March, my account has gained over 500 followers. Various pitch contests take place several times a year. The next #PitMad is scheduled for September 10. Would you like to give it a try?


Born in Moscow, Ataska grew up with the romance and magic of Russian fairy tales. She never imagined that one day she’d be swept off her feet by an American Marine. An engineer-physicist-chemist, Ataska realized that the powder metallurgy might not be her true calling when on a moonless summer night she was spooked by cries of a loon in a fog-wrapped meadow. What if, a writer’s unrelenting muse, took hold of her. Two of her passions define her being. Ataska is an orchid expert and she writes dark fantasy.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Ataska joins the Writing from the Peak blog as one of its columnists effective this month.