It’s important to have a thick skin in this business because you’ll receive TONS of rejection from contests, agents, publishers, and readers. It’s simply impossible to please everyone. But, maybe you think you have a thick skin and don’t realize the vibe you’re putting out to others is that you don’t.
With the #pitchwars contest, mentors, mentees, contestants, and the general public have seen a few examples of writers who need to develop a thicker skin. Here are a couple of examples I’ve seen:
-Some writers mentioned mentors shouldn’t be allowed to “follow” potential mentees until after the contest is over because it gets the entrants’ hopes up. First of all, everyone should be ALLOWED to follow anyone as long as they aren’t harassing anybody. Secondly, we announced over and over again that following doesn’t have anything to do with the contest. If you follow me, I’ll follow you. Period. Well, unless your tweets are offensive or you’re a bot. And Pitch Wars isn’t just about mentoring someone or the agent round. It’s about networking and building a writing community. Why shouldn’t the mentors, who are donating a lot of their time, be able to network or build their community? Not to mention, we can’t tell if the person who followed us is going to enter or has entered the contest or if this is a writer who’s following us. In fact, I had many writers follow me during the contest who didn’t submit their work to me, so this would have been hard to track. Plus, when you query agents, you will sometimes see the agent or the agency will follow you. This could mean the agent is watching you on social media. Sometimes, it means an intern working for the agency followed you in hopes of you following the agency so you can read all their great tweets about their authors’ books. And sometimes, an agent will follow you on social media, but he/she won’t actually read your tweets. He/she is just being polite and following you back. Don’t read much into someone following you on social media.
-Others complained that mentors shouldn’t be ALLOWED to request more pages because that sets up false expectations. Are you seeing the trend here? Some writers are entering contests with the idea that contests are fair. How could they possibly be fair? Two hundred writers subbed to me. I could only pick ONE. I had to pass on 199 entries. I hated doing it, and it wasn’t fair that I had to, because some of these entries were fantabulous. But, I only have so much time on my hands, and the contest is set up for mentors to take on one mentee. However, I would never have felt comfortable donating two months of my time (and one of my editorial slots over that time period) to mentor someone if I didn’t know what I was getting into. Some mentors might be able to judge an entry based off the query and first chapter alone, but I’m not one of them. As a freelance editor, I’ve seen too many saggy middles and unsatisfying endings, so I wanted to know what kind of issues were or weren’t present before I chose my mentee. Does that mean I read all of the fulls I requested from beginning to end? Nope. I requested twenty fulls, but I didn’t have time to read them all. I peeked at them, but I didn’t read to “THE END” with the exception of the manuscript my mentee wrote.
Bottom line: If you’re afraid of having getting your hopes up, this might not be the right industry for you. Otherwise, every time you enter a contest, query an agent, or pitch to a publisher, you might have false expectations, and how will you handle it if you get rejected? Instead, look at contests and querying as opportunities. You might get feedback, and you might not. You might get rejected, but you might get a personalized rejection or a revise-and-resubmit letter. Or, you might get an offer of representation. You won’t know unless you try, but that means you have to put yourself and your work out there and you might get your hopes up. Who doesn’t want to hope, dream, or wish the agent they queried will love their work and publishers will line up to sign them? But, if that doesn’t happen, make sure you handle yourself professionally when on social media. Anything on the Internet is there forever, and you don’t want an agent to pass on your work because he/she read something you had on social media that made you appear unprofessional, unthankful, or hard to please.