Lessons Learned From RevPit

First, if you’re wondering what the hell a RevPit is, go check out the official website. Go. Now.

If you’re still reading, you either know what RevPit is (go you!), have returned from reading the website (also go you!) or have no idea but decided to continue on (still go you!).

Earlier this month I took the plunge and submitted to RevPit. While I didn’t get any requests from editors, I’m glad I entered. I learned a lot from the process which I hope to share with others who might feel down due to rejection, or future RevPit hopefuls still unsure about entering.

Read the Rules

This might sound obvious, but read the rules. Seriously. Go to the website and read what’s required, in what format, and click on the provided examples.

In the days leading up to and during the submission window, I saw many hopefuls repeating the same questions on Twitter. Questions they would know the answers to if they just spent some time on the actual website. Even during their #10queries, editors were pointing out writers who clearly didn’t read the rules.

It’s one thing if you spot contrary information (which did happen) or if you’re confused and need something clarified. But if you can’t even bother to read how your query and submission should be properly formatted, the editor will wonder what else you haven’t been bothered to do. Don’t let the reason you’re not picked be something as simple as not taking five minutes and reading the rules.

Whether you’re submitting to RevPit or querying an agent, ALWAYS check what format and specifications they want before you click send.

Be Social

As an introvert, this is something I struggle with. I much prefer to be a silent observer in the back watching everybody else interact. I’m so afraid I’ll either say/do the wrong thing or can’t compare to everybody else, I find it easier to not interact at all. I’ve been trying to break this habit, especially when it comes to the awesome RevPit community on Twitter. It can be intimidating watching other writers continually post teasers for their manuscripts, which sound much better than mine.

But it can also be rewarding to chime in from time to time, which I’ve started doing. It was hard at first, but I’ve met some incredible people and learned I don’t have to be alone in my writing journey. The community is so friendly– not just other writers, but the editors as well– and you’re missing out if you don’t join in. Even if it’s just the occasional tweet and liking somebody else’s tweet.

It’s also important to socialize with other hopefuls because…

Your Query and Manuscript Can Always be Improved

Before you submit to RevPit, have somebody else review it, especially if very few people have. If you’re a new writer, the chances are slim you’re that one in a million rare unicorn who can write the perfect query and first five pages. Even if you have had others give comments, it doesn’t hurt to get more.

So how do you do that? By being social. Whether it’s joining a group of RevPit hopefuls and critiquing each other’s subs (which I did, and was extremely helpful!), or taking advantage of the free query critiques and positivity passes that are offered.

By joining a group you’ll also get the chance to critique others, which can be helpful in its own way. Seeing what they did well, or giving you ideas of what to address in your own sub. Sometimes the best way to learn is by looking at other examples– be they good or bad.

However, just remember…

You Need to Step Away

Because I have two MC’s with two timelines set fifty years apart, I struggled with my query. I went from having too much information, to reducing things and therefore making it too vague, then to where it is now. It’s a lot better than when I first started, largely thanks to my writing group and other generous Twitter offers.

While I will always see something else to add or change every time I read my query or pages, there came a point where I had to stop and let it be. Every writer needs to know when to step back from their keyboard. Otherwise we’d never stop editing and would never get anything published.

So how do you know when it’s time? When the suggestions are getting fewer, and you’ve had several people from different backgrounds look at it. While having other hopeful writers look at your work is a good start, you should also have more experienced writers and editors who might catch things those novice writers could miss. Once you’ve had those comments, call it quits for the time being. You can always go back once RevPit is over.

If you do take advantage of the generous offers from others, always…

Be Thankful

Whether it’s towards people in your writing group, the generous critique offers on Twitter, or the editors you’re applying to, be polite and gracious. Remember, nobody owes you anything.

Those people who offer up free query critiques? Those writers in your writing group? The editors who say they’ll give all their subs some basic feedback? They are not required to do those things, but choose to. So be grateful. Make sure to thank them, let them know you appreciate them taking time out of their lives to help you improve your writing. Don’t get angry if you disagree with their points. Don’t pester them endlessly for more advice beyond what they’ve offered. Once they’ve done their part, say thank you and let them go on their way.

Now, I haven’t seen any ungrateful behavior, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. I’m sure there are editors and even other writers have stories of seeing such behavior in action, potentially turning them off from helping others. You don’t want to be the one who ruins another writer’s experience. So be thankful and respectful.

The Early Bird Does Get the Worm

RevPit has two days open for submissions. You can apply anytime during that time period, but I recommend doing it ASAP. This year many editors capped at 100 submissions within the first day. By the second, there were a lot of writers scrambling to find alternates for their alternates, considering anyone open to their genre. I applied as soon as it possible, and while the website did crash, within minutes RevPit tweeted the link to the application form. I got the editors I wanted before they capped.

I realize it’s hard for some. Whether they’re doing last minute edits, just discovered RevPit, or have scheduling conflicts, they might not be able to submit as soon as possible. If that’s the case, then do as much preparation beforehand.

Read the rules to ensure you have everything you need in the correct format. Prepare the answers to your questions– remember, there are questions– ahead of time, and within the allowed characters. Edit them until you’re happy, so you can copy and paste your answers when you do submit. Go through all the editors and pay attention to their Twitter question and answer sessions. Make a list in descending order of your top choices, and make sure you have something written for why you picked them, even for your alternates. Nobody wants to hear they were picked because they were the last choice. Go beyond the required two editors and one alternate, choosing a few more as backups, just in case they’re needed.

By being prepared you limit the time needed to complete your submission, meaning you can move on to…

The Roller-Coaster of Emotions

Be forewarned, RevPit will screw with your emotions. First it’s the hype and expectations. Should I do this? Is my manuscript ready? There’s so many editors! Which do I chose? Oh look, that editor is begging for my manuscript! You participate in the community, the question and answer sessions, getting more and more pumped, inching your way closer to the top and then BAM! You’ve reached the top when it’s finally time to submit.

And then you plummet. Not just plummet, but have ups and downs, fast turns, near misses, and loops on a roller-coaster you can’t wait to exit.

Waiting for word, scouring every #10queries tweet by your editor. Oh my god, is that tweet about my submission? They hate it, I’m horrible, I can’t compare to the others, why’d I ever submit?! No, it’s not mine, can’t be mine, mine has to be the one they loved! Wait, the query didn’t even have the bio or only had one paragraph and it still made their shortlist? I didn’t make those mistakes, and was passed! I deserve better! They just tweeted they sent out requests, but my mailbox is still empty. I’m sure it got lost. They’ll request more. Maybe it’s in spam. Maybe there’s something wrong with my internet. Did I screw up my e-mail address? Maybe I’m a failure and shouldn’t have submitted at all…

When you’re on a high, you’re on a high. But you can plummet so quickly with self-doubt, and have a hard time getting out of it. I’ve seen many writers battle Impostor Syndrome– when you think you’re nothing more than an impostor and can never compete with real writers– and have experienced it myself.

The RevPit roller-coaster of emotions is normal. There will be highs, and there will be lows. Remember you are not the only one riding it, and it will end. Eventually. One possible way to combat it, is…

Don’t Read Your Editor’s #10Queries

Once editors get their subs, they’ll start doing #10queries where they review queries and pages of their subs in sets of ten. Not all do it, some only do a few, and there are some real overachievers who will do their maximum amount of 100 submissions.

It can be tempting to read their tweets, but can easily lead to the roller-coaster of emotions or Imposter Syndrome mentioned above. However, their tweets can also be helpful by pointing out what queries should and shouldn’t do, or what they’re looking for in pages. Remember, sometimes the best way to learn is through examples, and #10queries is a great way to do so.

Which is why you should only read the tweets of the editors you didn’t submit too. That way you can learn, but also not stress out over wondering what tweet does and doesn’t apply to your submission. I really wish I would have known this beforehand, for it would have saved me a lot of unneeded stress and worry, but learn from my mistake.

You should also keep in mind…

The Editors are Human

When you have no professional writing experience or credentials, it can be easy to put anyone with said experience– such as the editors– on a high pedestal. They have made it. They know the industry. They’re all-knowing powerful writing gods who get in GIF wars and have deemed one novice’s manuscript worthy of their attention and expertise.

They’re also human beings with families and lives. They only have one week to first slog through 160,000 words (100 submissions * approx. 1600 words for query and first five pages), and then make requests based off those 160,000 words. Depending on genre and audience they then have an additional 250,000 words (5 requests *50,000 words) to 1,000,000 words (10 requests *100,000 words) to get through. All while balancing their families, personal life, actual job, and important things like sleeping, eating, and basic hygiene.

That’s an insane amount of words and pages to get through in just a week. I know from personal experience, my comprehension and retention are different when I speed read vs. take my time. The same goes for them. They’re not just reading for pleasure, they’re reading while scanning for half a dozen things– voice, character, plot, whether they can offer the manuscript anything in under five weeks, etc. Reading is a subjective experience anyway, but adding in a time crunch? Even more so.

The editors aren’t perfect, and their opinion is just their opinion based on a very short amount of time reading your submission. If they pass or give feedback you disagree with, remember that is their right and just their opinion. It doesn’t mean that your manuscript is terrible, just that they’re not the right editor for you at that moment.

Also…

Failure is an Option

Assuming your editor caps at 100 submissions, you only have a 1% chance of being picked by that editor. 1%. It’s minuscule. Not as small as winning the lotto odds (though it does feel like it), but still small odds.

And that’s okay. I got zero requests from RevPit and I’m not bothered by it. Why? Because I already won in other ways. When I was first considering RevPit, my query was a mess, my total word count was over 118,000 words, and don’t even get my started on my synopsis. By being active, I met other RevPit hopefuls. I improved my query, got my word count to under 105,000 words, made some hopefully lifelong writing friends, and a potential critique partner. I came into RevPit with the ultimate goal of improving my manuscript, which I did– just not in the way I initially hoped.

Rejection can hurt whether it’s the first time or the hundredth. Life is full of rejection and failures, not just writing. But rejection can make you stronger. Without rejection, you’ll never be thankful for success. Being handed everything without trying or working for it, isn’t as satisfying as knowing how far you’ve come, and that you’ve earned that success.

Failure can also be a great learning experience. You’ve failed, but what have you learned? What can you do to improve yourself and your writing? What will you do differently next time? There’s a saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Don’t do that. Learn from your failure, and do something different, for the next time might be the time you succeed.

Editors can pass on a manuscript for any number of reasons, not necessarily because it was bad. It may have been there wasn’t enough time to address the issues with a manuscript, or there were hardly any issues to address. Maybe it was too close to another project the editor’s working on, or they just weren’t clicking with it. Maybe they just liked another submission better, or a combination of the above.

There can only be one winner and one finalist for each editor. That means there are also 97 other rejected hopefuls like you. Reach out. Make friends. Comfort one another. If you do, you might just find you don’t mind failing so much either.

However….

Not Every Book Should be Published

I know a lot of writers and editors are constantly offering words of encouragement about how every book is awesome and deserves to be published.

They’re lies. They’re nice, comforting words, but still lies. My current manuscript is not my first complete manuscript. I have a few others, but I’ll never publish them, assuming anybody would want to publish them.

The thing about being a writer is that you’re writing should always be evolving, improving for the better. I know my writing has improved over the years– I can see it in the difference between my current manuscript and previous works. I can see it in those previous works compared to what I wrote in high school. Every new project I learn something new, and try to incorporate it for my next one.

The same should be happening for your writing. You should always be learning and improving. There’s a lot of published authors who don’t get published until their third, fourth, fifth, manuscript. It took them a while, but they’re writing finally improved to the point where their manuscript was good enough to be published in the current market.

The trick is to recognize when your manuscript should be published. At the time I wrote my first ones, I was convinced they were the best thing ever, and would revolutionize the industry. Now I know better. They were good for the time, but I can do better, and have done better.

I still have doubts on my current one, but I’m going to keep moving forward, because…

There is No Right Path to Publishing

It can be easy to get so wrapped up in RevPit you forget being picked by an editor does not equate to a publishing deal. There are those who were rejected, but get published while winners and finalists are still waiting. There are plenty of writers who never do RevPit or writing contests, but get agents and publishing contracts anyway.

There are many paths to publishing. Some are straight and narrow highways. Others are curvy, long and windy one lane wide roads, full of pot holes, speed bumps, traffic jams, and work zones. But what all those paths have in common is that they only lead to publishing if you’re willing to travel down them.

It’s okay to be hesitant about submitting to RevPit. It’s okay to wallow in rejection. It’s okay to doubt whether or not you’ll ever be published. But you have to be willing to move on. Learn from your mistakes. Join writing groups and make new writing friends. Keep entering contests and improving your writing. Take some of the lessons I’ve learned and applied them to your own writing journey.

Because it is a journey, and most likely a long journey. But it’s one you don’t have to travel alone, and will lead to publishing– as long as you keep trying.

That’s all for now and thanks for reading. Are you a RevPit hopeful? Still riding that RevPit roller-coaster? Have something you’ve learned? Let me know in a comment below.

— Kay S. Beckett

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