Thursday, December 26, 2013

#Pitchwars Stats

I have been promising these for a while - but between Christmas and moving (who, exactly, decided that was a good idea, hm Sarah?), it got a little delayed. But I promise it was worth the wait! Before we get to the pretty, pretty graphs, a few important caveats:

  • If you have no idea what Pitch Wars is, you may want to start here.
  • There were 679 unique entries. 617 authors filled out the survey (which you can see here if you're interested in how the questions were asked).
  • For the 68 entries without a completed survey, the only data collected (manually, by me) was: category, word count, genre, personalization of queries (y/n), how many mentors were submitted to, how many mentors requested pages, and query faux pas.
  • I did my very best to make sure the data I collected and present below was accurate. Of course, I'm human, and I may have made a few mistakes here and there. If you see something that looks off, please let me know gently.
  • Please note when units are in numbers and percentages. All comparisons are made in percentages of known data (i.e. excluding entries where the value for that particular question is unknown.)
  • When I say "picks," this includes all picks and alternates.
  • Please also note that anytime a number is given for all applicants (including in comparisons), these results include the picks.
  • If you haven't already, you should probably read the stats post I did for only the queries I received. It included some discussion on genre and comp titles that isn't possible for a data pool of this size.
  • I've been asked how much of my time was put into these stats. I would guess somewhere around 30-35 hours. With that in mind, I hope you'll allow me one teensy shameless self-promo: my Olympic Games sexy romance collection Love and Other Games is only 99 cents for a limited time. Link in the sidebar, if you're interested.

Overall Entries

No big surprises there, I think? One gentlemen wanted to know how outnumbered were the men, exactly?

That's 85% female and 14% male. Later, you will see how this was distributed in each category. Care to guess which category had the most male authors?

Since it's not obvious by looking at it, the next graph shows how many applicants submitted to 4 mentors, 3 mentors, and so on.

I thought it might be interesting to see how many of our applicants have been published before - and how.

Now the question (which I will answer later) becomes: were previously-published applicants more likely to snag a mentor?

There were many applicants who have been published in short fiction and short non-fiction, and those will be included in the "published" slice of the "Submissions by Publishing History" chart.

My friend asked to know the locations of the applicants.

The most-represented states were California (57), New York (43), and Texas (26). No surprises there, as well. What is surprising, however, is how many people who live in Minneapolis insisted on saying that instead of Minnesota, when I specified to put your state if you lived in the US! I'm chalking it up to some extreme city pride. (Please note: UK includes those who indicated they lived in the UK, England and Ireland)

Later, we'll find out which category's authors were more likely to interact on twitter!

Middle Grade

Most of the category-specific stats will be presented without commentary.

"male & female" indicates an alternating POV between 1 male narrator and 1 female narrator. 

Young Adult

It was at this point I realized it'd be interested to see how the categories compare in terms of tense, first vs third, and POV genders. Those comparisons are presented later.

New Adult

Adult Submissions

Category Comparisons

It's said that YA books are more likely to be in 1st person present tense than most other categories. Is that true?

First person? Check! And Adult entries are more likely to be told in third person.


Present tense? Well, kinda. While they're much more likely to be told in present tense than the other categories, a YA entry was still more likely to be in past tense than present.

Let's take a look at the number of POVs by category.

It seems one POV is pretty dominant in Middle Grade, but makes up less than half of our adult submissions.

How about POV character genders?

 Nearly 60% of the YA entries were told in a single female POV. 

Middle Grade entries had the highest percentage of stories told from a single male POV, at 33%. Not surprising, considering...

Update: The above key is incorrect. Female authors are represented by the red color.

There were many more male authors, percentage wise, submitting Middle Grade. And very few submitting New Adult.


Now I know many of you are just dying to see where the categories stack up in terms of genre. Let me first say, that genre is a hard segment of data to collect. Unlike the stats with my previous post, I simply took the word of the author on their genre, which can be a bit dodgy, as I explained in my previous post. I am also very upset with myself for not including a selection for "paranormal romance." A few people wrote it in, but I'm sure many more checked the "Urban/Contemporary Fantasy" box instead.

With all that said... here you go :-)

If you're interested in a specific genre, please let me know in the comments. I couldn't make this information very visual if I included all genres. I will add, since it's useless in all categories except for "adult" that 23 or 14% of the adult entries were Women's Fiction. 

The below chart includes all genres, divided into those that have speculative elements (fantastical or science-fictional) and those that don't.

It seems speculative fiction is strong in YA and MG, but peters out in NA and Adult.

I asked the authors to identify if their manuscript was any number of things on a long list. These were the most frequently selected.

Here's a question that could start a twitter gang war. Are the authors in one category more or less likely to commit two Query Faux Pas in their submission?

It seems NA authors are fonder of the rhetorical questions than the others... The question that will be answered later is: does committing one (or both) of these affect your chances of being picked by a mentor?

Please note: "international" means partially or fully taking place in a country outside of those mentioned. A submission could have (and many did) fall in both the "US" and the "imaginary" category (for example: a faerie-underground of Chicago).

Which category's authors were more likely to chat on twitter about #pitchwars?

It would seem MG authors are more social, but only by a little. 

Presented without comment for any who might be interested:


Alright, let's talk diversity. 

"Caucasian only" indicates that every POV character, whether there was one of them or six of them, were identified as white/caucasian/of European descent by their authors. "POC" means at least one of the POV characters was not white. "Caucasian + another race" means at least one of the POV characters was white and at least one of them was not, so these will be included in the "POC" numbers.

Update: POC stats include characters that were at least half of a non-white ethnicity.

Of those POC POV characters, which ethnicities were represented the most?

It seems the NA submissions have a fondness for Hispanic characters.

Now let's take a look at LBTQ characters in the submissions:

Feel free to discuss in the comments, but keep in mind I have no more information than what is displayed on this chart.

Now on to some of the less-often discussed diversified classes. (Thanks to Marieke Nijkamp for helping me fine-tune some of these questions. All mistakes are mine.)

Please note: I did not attempt to describe "neurodiversity" in my survey, assuming authors would know the term if they were writing a neurodiverse character. Neruodiversity includes: the autism spectrum, ADHD, Dyslexia, Tourette's and more.

I also did not provide guidance on how to determine if a character has a mental illness. I did, however, answer a question on twitter, indicating that normal grief after a loved one's death should not be considered a "mental illness" unless it ventured into clinical depression.

Again, I did not provide guidance on the definition of "disabled."

Now you're thinking, "Yeah, yeah. This is all well and good, Sarah, but what about the winners?" Wonder no more...


As stated above, "picks" include the mentees and the alternates. This includes 151 submissions.

The below graph somehow missed out on getting a title, but it's a simple representation of what percentage of applicants were a certain category versus the percentage of picks in the same category.

A lot of hopefuls on twitter were having near panic attacks about receiving or not receiving requests for extra pages. The mentors were insisting they not panic, that some picks simply didn't need extra pages to determine their value. I even pointed out that last year, I picked my mentee solely based on her query and five pages. So, how many applicants did receive requests for extra pages? 

Twelve picks were not asked for extra pages. Less than half of all applicants were asked for extra pages.

This was just something I was interested in seeing: How many applicants personalized their queries? And how much of an effect did it have on being picked.

It seems there wasn't much of an effect and the difference shown here might actually be a bit misleading. I can speak only of my own inbox, but I received many queries that didn't follow the submission guidelines completely or didn't follow standard query format (e.g. not telling me what the book was about). None of these were personalized, so ... do with that what you will.

We saw above that 37% of applicants had been previously published and wondered if that had an effect on being chosen by a mentor. The answer might surprise you...

However, it seems as if those who mentioned their publishing credits in their query did have a slightly higher chance of being picked.

Finally, we saw how many applicants committed one of two distinct query faux pas and wondered how that might affect their chances...

Thank you

Ok, that's all I have for you now.

Many thanks to the #pitchwars applicants who filled out the survey! 91% is a super-impressive response rate and I couldn't have done it without you. Also, many thanks to Brenda Drake and her team for hosting the contest!

If you have any questions that I may be able to answer, please post them in the comments. I'll answer them if I have the data available.


Monday, December 9, 2013

SLEEPER by S. M. Jonston - Excerpt & Giveaway!

A new heart should mean new life, not a living nightmare.

Mishca Richardson’s life is at an all-time high after her heart transplant. With new boyfriend, Ryder, the two of them have the perfect summer romance. Even the nightmares that have been plaguing her sleep since her operation can’t dull the high she’s on.

Things start to unravel as Mishca develops superhuman abilities. She does her best to hide them so as not to end up a science experiment in a lab. But she can’t ignore the instant attraction she experiences when she meets her university professor, Colin Reed.

Torn between the blossoming love and the obsession, Mishca must decide if she wants Ryder or Colin. But the organization responsible for her changes and her connection to Colin, is moving to secure Mishca for himself so that she can be the weapon he always intended her to be. If Mishca can’t resist her programming she’ll have a lot more to worry about than romance.

Amazon | Goodreads

SLEEPER is a fast-paced adventure filled with mystery, romance, action, and humor. Mishca and Ryder rank up there with my favorite heroines and heroes ever! S.M. Johnston is an author to watch out for.” ~Wendy Higgins, author of Sweet Evil, Sweet Peril, and Sweet Reckoning.

Sharon is a writer from Mackay in Queensland, Australia who has short stories published in anthologies and was also runner-up in the Australian Literary Review's Young Adult short story contest with KARMA. By day she is a public relations executive and by night she writes weird fiction and soulful contemporaries while her husband, two sons and cat are fast asleep.


Someone will die so I can live. I’ve come to terms with that. It used to turn my stomach, how my donor might die, but now I’m used to it. It’ll most likely be a car accident or a drunken fall from a height, especially at this time of year, with all the end-of-school parties. But not from illness or any other “natural” causes. A violent, painful death will be my savior. That’s how I will get my new heart.
I open my eyes and stare upwards, hoping the white, fluffy clouds that splotch against the blue sky will distract me from the images of people dying that flow through my head. I guess I’m not as used to the idea of getting someone else’s heart as I thought. The harsh Australian sun brings beads of sweat to my brow and a squint to my eyes. I swing my legs around and hoist myself upright on the stadium bleacher, looking out over the sports field. I readjust the singlet strap that had slipped off my shoulder and try to think happier thoughts. At least I won’t be responsible for the person who dies so I can get a new heart.
Yeah, happier thoughts.
I let out a sigh. This is not how I expected to be spending my schoolies week, with my dad as he puts hopeful rugby league players through their paces. My friends are all doing the traditional, Aussie, end-of-high-school celebration with a weeklong party, but instead of Airlie or the Gold Coast, they’re all in Bali, where I should be. It’s the big party to start our summer holidays before we find out which university we’ve been accepted into. When Mum and Dad found out I was at the top of the transplant list, they vetoed my November plans in case someone croaks this week. So all my friends left, minus me. I know it’s because Mum and Dad care. They’ve proved time and time again that you don’t need blood ties to be great parents, or overprotective ones.
“All right, boys. That wraps it up for today,” Dad calls out to the pack of sweaty guys. “Hit the showers, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.”
I do my best not to stare as the group heads towards me. Half of them are shirtless, their muscles glistening after the training session. Okay, so I’m staring. A cute, red-haired guy catches me looking and winks. So, I reward him with a smile. A guy from school, who obviously chose a potential sporting career over a party week, nudges Cutie Ginger and then shakes his head. I hold back a huff. I thought with the end of an era, I could have a fresh start, but my reputation looks like it will haunt me beyond high school. Mishca the untouchable.
Dad lingers behind, deep in discussions with the managers and trainers, no doubt discussing the fates of the young men desperate to break into rugby league at a national level. They were all trying so hard to get Coach Tom Richardson’s attention. If only I had that many guys chasing after me. I wipe the sweat that’s formed at the edge of my almost afro, before it trickles down my brow. Yuck. Finally, Dad makes his way towards me, leaving his entourage behind.
“So, any contenders in your latest batch of victims?” I ask, picking up my discarded copy of West Side Story. I’d been rereading my university audition piece, torturing myself on how I could have performed it better. I wish I had tried out for plays at school, but I was a closet actor, only performing in drama class for fear that somehow my weak disposition would get in the way. But next year will be different. A new heart and new hope.
“There may be some. Tomorrow will be the clincher,” Dad replies, humouring me. He knows I’m not that interested in his latest player acquisitions. He puts his hand on my shoulder.. “I’ve got to grab some paperwork from the office before we go.”
“Sure thing,” I say to his back as he retreats up the tunnel under the stadium. I trudge behind him, my book clutched in my hand.
With each step the tips of my curls brush lightly against my bare shoulders. It tickles and I regret agreeing with Mum to grow my hair out. I shove my hands into the pockets of my denim shorts and focus on the cool shade I’ll get once I’m inside.
My nose wrinkles the moment I step in the door. The whole place smells like dude, and not in a good way, but in the male equivalent of a stinky, wet dog way. I walk down the corridor and lean against the cool cement wall outside Dad’s office.
My heart transplant operation is like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, only there’s no countdown to watch. Evil thoughts invade my mind again, only now about my parents. Would they still have wanted to adopt me if they’d have known I had a congenial heart disease, or in simpler terms, a hole in my heart?
“That girl was hot. Who was she? I could love on some brown sugar.”
I squee inside, hoping that’s the Ron Weasley look-a-like voice floating down from the locker room.
“Seriously, don’t go there. Apart from the fact she’s Coach Richardson’s daughter, she’s got a broken heart, and I mean literally. Mishca couldn’t even do sports at school cause it might’ve killed her. There’s no way you can hit that. She might die on you during sex, and then you’d be left fucking a corpse.”
“Thanks, man. Dodged a bullet there.”I suck in a breath and run back down the corridor towards the seating. Anger and sadness fight within me. Part of me wants to breakdown and cry while the other half wants to scream and pummel any guy that comes near me. Instead, I throw my playbook onto a chair and curl my fists in balls of rage and stand rigid and still.