I always get so so excited when I receive a success story from my querypalooza (as we're calling it now, instead of the too-harsh word of 'contest'), "Become an Agent." Since BanA doesn't involve agents (it's all about critiques and revising), it's harder to receive success stories from it since there isn't a direct "this contest got me this request which got me this off" relationship. And yet, BanA is one of my favorite events that I host on this blog :)
Thank you SO MUCH E.B. Wheeler for sending me this! The post is all yours. Take it away!
My Become an Agent success story with The Haunting of Springett Hall started when I realized I needed a break from the YA fantasy I'd been tinkering with for years. I decided to try something different and do NaNoWriMo in 2013. I wrote a Victorian ghost story—from the ghost's point of view—on a dare. After November, I added about 20,000 words to the manuscript and polished it up to enter Pitch Slam: Battle of the Bands. I was so excited when it got picked for Team Magenta, and even more thrilled when an agent requested the manuscript.
The agent ultimately said no, but I felt like the story had promise. I went back to work on it, taking it to critique groups and beta readers and strengthening the plot and characters. I decided I'd try another pitch contest with it—this time Pitch Wars. I liked the pitch that got me into Pitch Slam, but I wanted it to be as strong as possible, so I entered Become an Agent to get feedback from fellow writers.
The comments were very constructive, and I learned my pitch was giving the wrong impression of the book. It turned some people off and set up false expectations for others. With the advice I got in Become an Agent, I crafted a much stronger pitch that better reflected my story. That pitch got me into Pitch Wars as an alternate with Molly Lee as my mentor.
Since I was an alternate, I was still allowed to pitch my manuscript, and I had a mentor to coach me. With a refined version of the pitch I created through Become an Agent, I presented my book to an editor from Cedar Fort Publishing at the League of Utah Writers' annual conference, and she requested the full manuscript. A few weeks later she called to offer me a contract!
I've been on a high since I got over the shock. I'm so grateful to the people who host and participate in all these pitch contests (thank you, thank you, thank you!), because they helped make my pitch and my manuscript strong enough to get the attention of the editor.
There's no one path to getting published—and I think luck and timing play their roles along with talent, hard work, and persistence—but I would tell anyone who's on the journey to keep going. Keep entering contests and considering feedback to decide what will make your story stronger, and keep writing and keep trying. Even if you don't get the results you want this time, you never know what doors will open for you at each new turn.
I'm an historian and writer, wife, mom, gardener, knitter, and enthusiastic amateur folk musician. I currently write historical fiction and historical fantasy. My debut novel, The Haunting of Springett Hall, a YA Victorian paranormal mystery, will be available in print and ebook from Cedar Fort Publishing July 14, 2015.
CONGRATS!!!! Good luck with all your future successes :)