If you’re new to PitchWars, you might be wondering how to choose your prospective mentors. The contest lets you submit your work to four mentors, six if you make a $20 donation or win one of the extra mentor giveaways that take place in the lead-up to the competition.
The PitchWars mentors are all generous volunteers and awesome writers, so chances are that narrowing your list to four (or six) won’t be easy.
There are several ways to make sure you pick the mentors you’d most like to work with if you’re chosen, and who’d be most interested in helping you improve your manuscript.
1. Mentor Wish Lists
The mentor blog hop has been open for several days now. In the blog hop, all mentors posts information about themselves, including the kinds of books they like and dislike. The blog posts also help you get an idea of their personalities.
If you use no other resource, use this one. You want to make sure you submit to the people who are most likely to be interested in your work. Choosing a mentor who doesn’t like SciFi for your space opera is a wasted opportunity. Although they might make an exception, they are highly unlikely to do so.
When I first participated in PitchWars, I only heard about it a few days before the contest began, and was unaware that the blog hop was out. I ended up scrambling to choose mentors while filling out the entry form, which didn’t give me much time.
Spend as much time as you can with the blog posts and make a list of all who are looking for what you have to offer. Eliminate any who don’t like your genre. If nobody specifically lists something like your work on their wishlists, don’t assume they’re not interested. Unlike with most agents, you’ll have the opportunity to ask around to find out who is most interested. (See below.)
Just as you would take the time to research agents before you send your queries to make sure your work is right for them, research your potential mentors. One of the things they’re looking for is professionalism, and the pros do their homework.
2. Interact on Twitter
Stalking is an important element of PitchWars. Not the creepy, personal kind, but the kind that happens online within the parameters of the contest. Most mentors are open and responsive when people ask them questions.
Proper PitchWars etiquette is to @ the mentor or ask questions in the #askmentors feed. Don’t DM (direct message) or email potential mentors unless they expressly tell you to in their bio blog.
Even if you don’t ask questions, you can watch feeds like #PitchWars, #askmentors, and #mentorhints–as well as category-specific feeds like #PitchWarsMG and #PitchWarsYASFF–to get a feel for what mentors like and what they are like.
Of course, it’s best not to ask questions that can easily be answered by reading the blogs. While they’re likely not going to remember you did it, they might not be as responsive. But if you want to know which mentors are most likely to be interested in your YA SciFi retelling of The Frog Prince set in the 90th Century after the Great Reptile Revolt, ask.
Keep in mind that many excellent mentors aren’t as active on Twitter as others. Although they’ll probably answer your questions, they might not post a bunch of stuff on their own. So, choosing a mentor solely on their Twitter activity might mean that you ignore the mentor who’d be perfect for you.
It is, however, fair to make choices based on responsiveness. If you repeatedly ask a mentor questions and never get an answer (just don’t be obnoxious about it), it’s understandable if you quietly move that mentor down your list behind the people who do respond.
One note about Twitter: Some mentors have a policy of not following back if potential mentees follow them, until after PitchWars is over. There are many reasons for this, but one is that hopefuls sometimes take being followed by a mentor as a sign that they are going to get picked, which can increase disappointment if they aren’t. So if you follow and are not immediately followed back, don’t take that to mean anything about your chances, good or bad.
3. Use the Forum
Beginning this year (2017), PitchWars offers a forum where hopefuls can receive input on their queries and pages from other hopefuls and sometimes from mentors. Many mentors have opened discussions where hopefuls can ask them questions directly.
Especially if you’re not a Twitter fan, this gives you another place to find out more about the mentors on your list. Whether you ask questions yourself or just read their answers to others, these discussions can help you narrow your list.
4. Check Out Their Books
You can learn a lot about any potential mentors by looking at their books. You don’t have to buy and read their books (although you are welcome to do that, even encouraged). Titles and genre info will tell you a lot about their interests. Sites like Amazon also offer samples of many books, so you can get a sense of their style.
Several of the mentors are waiting for their first books to come out, so this won’t work for every mentor.
Sometimes, a mentor’s previous mentees post information about how the mentor was to work with. The recommendations are always positive and might not provide a lot of information. But, you can ask those former mentees questions about their experience, and the mentor’s style.
Use as many methods as you can. The better informed you are, the better your chances of not wasting those precious mentor spots by choosing somebody who is not looking for what you have to offer. You can go into the submission form with confidence, ready to pick the mentors you believe are your best choices.
As always, the primary rules of PitchWars apply: be kind and respectful in all your PitchWars interactions, whether with mentors or other hopefuls. The mentors are watching, and although their main interest is in the pages submitted to them, they also want to choose a mentee who is easy to work with, so negativity and meanness could help them make their choice.