Happy almost end of January! It may be a new year, but in many ways, it feels like we’re still stuck in the Covid version of the movie, Groundhog Day. If you’ve managed to maintain a positive outlook on life throughout the last nine months or so, I want to commend you on that. To be honest, I’ve struggled some–however, keeping busy helps, and one thing I decided to do recently was volunteer as a mentor in a contest called Author Mentor Match. Though I never personally entered this contest when I was unagented, Lord knows I entered my fair share of other contests, and now that I’m on the flip side of this whole querying thing, I decided I wanted to give back to the writing community by being a mentor.
So let me tell you about the experience thus far: Once my application to be a mentor was approved, I began by providing lots of information about myself, my likes and dislikes when it comes to books, my mentoring process, etc. so this could go up on the AMM website. This allows hopefuls to browse all the mentors and select four who might be a good fit.
Then, a couple weeks ago, the submission window opened and in came the entries! I received 80 submissions in all–all YA, but including contemporary, romance, sci-fi, and historical. I then began the exciting task of reading through all the queries, examining first pages, and sorting submissions into three folders: Contenders, Not for Me, and Maybe.
When all was said and done in this initial phase, I was left with 18 subs in my contender folder! So next, came the daunting task of narrowing that down to just one. While every sub in my contender folder had a great query and great writing in the introductory pages, I now needed to find something I really connected with since I will be likely helping the author with this book for some time to come. This is where good old subjectivity, a term we writers are all too familiar with, comes into play.
I won’t lie and say this final part of the process was easy; it was not. There were many books I loved. At one point, I thought I’d decided on a particular sub, only to change my mind and decide on another. Then, there was one sub that had really tugged on my heartstrings from the get go, and though I had my doubts that the author needed my help, I knew I needed to dig in deeper.
In the end, I requested six complete manuscripts. Now, that doesn’t mean I read all six manuscripts–that would have been a near impossible feat for me in the span of a few weeks, but I did read enough of each one to get a good idea of whether or not I could help the author, and also whether or not it was a book I really wanted to take on. I will say that the one I ended up choosing was the only one I read all the way through. It’s such a great story!
In all my years of entering contests (with four different books), I would always hear mentors say how difficult it is to choose just one mentee. I can now testify to this. Mentoring isn’t something I take lightly, and I truly wanted to give every submission a fair shot. However, in the end, I had to go with my gut and pick a story I really loved and one which I also thought I could help. As I write this blog post, it’s the week before AMM mentee selections will be announced, so I can’t give anything away just yet. However, I’m so, so excited to work with my mentee soon!
I liked the idea of mentoring in AMM, as opposed to other contests, because there is no time constraint on helping my mentee with revisions. Whether they need one or five more revision passes through their book, a month or a year to complete them, it doesn’t matter. We can work at our own pace. And I’ll also be there to help my mentee with the querying process. I see it as a long-term partnership, which is super exciting!
After the mentee selection list is announced next week, I will be sending an edit letter to my mentee, along with some in-document notes, not unlike I would for an editing client. I will send feedback to the other five authors whom I requested fulls from, along with several other authors whose books I wanted to comment on. I wish I had time to send feedback to everyone–I know how desperate writers are to get that– but it’s just not a possibility. However, I hope everyone who submitted to me will continue to write, dream, revise, and query. As I’ve always preached, perseverance is key in publishing!