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The One Where You Can Work With Me!

Hello out there! Calling all aspiring authors!!! I have awesome news!

So you guys might not know this, but before I started writing full time, I had my hand in few projects with books. I was a YA book blogger, an MFA in Creative Writing Student, and I worked remotely for a small indie publisher and a literary agency.

I always wanted to be an author, but I also loved everything about books and knew the best way to give myself a step up into this career was to learn as much as I could about every facet of the business. Now, these days I only write. Between deadlines and signings, there just isn’t time to do anything else but be an author. And though being an author is a dream come true, I can’t deny that I sometimes miss other aspects of my previous jobs.

One of the best feelings in the world was to be able to find an unpublished manuscript that I loved and do my best to take it from manuscript to published book. By nature, I am a book pusher. I love recommending books to friends and family (and complete strangers).

And now I have an opportunity to do that one more time! If you’re an aspiring writer, you might be aware of the incomparable Brenda Drake. An author and a blogger, Brenda also goes out of her way several times a year to run contests to help connect writers to potential agents and publishers. One such contest is known as Pitch Wars.

Here’s the low down on how it works: Brenda has assembled a team of published and soon-to-be published authors along with industry professionals to act as mentors (and yes, I am one of them)! If you have a finished manuscript, you can submit your pitches to up to FOUR mentors for consideration. Each mentor will choose one manuscript (along with two alternates) that they believe in to take on to the next stage of the competition. As mentor, I’ll work with my chosen author on both their manuscript and their pitch to help them get ready for the Agent round where esteemed literary agents will request the work that interests them. Alternates will be advised just on their pitch and first page.

This contest has the potential to propel you from aspiring writer to agented writer and then to published author, should your work be chosen. More than that, it’s a chance to have someone like me, who’s already on this path, guide and advise you on the next steps to take. Writing can be a lonely business. I cannot overemphasize how awesome this contest is! There are tons of fantastic mentors to choose from, so you’ll definitely want to visit all of their blogs to find out which mentor is the best for you!

Here’s what you need to know about me:


Cora Carmack is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Losing It series, and one of the early pioneers of the New Adult category.  She’s a twenty-something author who likes to write about twenty-something characters finding their way through this wacky and wonderful thing we call life. She’s also a giant nerd. Fair warning.


  • My primary category is New Adult, since that’s what I do, but I’m also an avid YA reader. I’m open to both for the purposes of this contest. 
  • For YA: I read all subgenres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Historical, etc. In particular, I’d love to see unique YA High fantasy, magical realism, and/or contemporary with a literary or humorous bent. I tend to prefer stories with a romantic element, though it doesn’t have to be the primary plot of the story. Some favorite YA books of mine in various subgenres are: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson, anything by Jennifer L. Armentrout, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, anything by Ally Carter, and Grave Mercy by RL LaFevers. Character is the most important thing for me when reading. I want to know who your character is, what drives them, and what sets them apart from everyone else. And the name of the game in YA these days is UNIQUE. It’s a crowded market, and to make me pay attention, I have to feel like your story is something I’ve never seen before. 
  • For NA: I write NA contemporary romance, so that’s obviously something I’m open to. Character and voice are absolutely key in New Adult. Dialogue needs to feel realistic to the age of the characters. It’s not enough for the characters to be college-aged, they need to be dealing with issues that are prominent for people transitioning from their teenage years to adulthood. I love humorous NA because there’s just not enough of it out there. I’m also a sucker for a book with artistic/creative elements (Theatre, film, music, dance, art, etc). Like YA, NA contemporary romance is a saturated market, so I’m not likely to request anything that sounds like a recycled version of something that’s already out there. It would take a really unique premise to make me choose something in the whole bad boy/broken girl healed by a relationship cliche. I’m looking for something with strong romantic elements, but also an interesting premise outside the romance. This does NOT have to translate to sex. I could care less how much or how little sex there is in your NA. Not to be a broken record but I just care about your story being UNIQUE. I’m totally up for non-contemporary NA– paranormal, scifi, etc– though I’d be most interested in NA speculative fiction with a prominent romance and fantasy grounded in reality. Some of my favorite NA is by authors like J. Lynn, K.A. Tucker, Colleen Hoover, Lisa Desrochers,  and Jeaniene Frost.

What I’m NOT looking for:

  • BABIES. I love those cute, cuddly little buggers as much as the next person who gets to play with the adorable thing and then send it home to it’s mommy. But I am not the right person for books with pregnancies or happily ever after baby-filled epilogues.
  • Books where someone cheats and it’s totally okay. I can’t say I will NEVER enjoy a book that has cheating in it, but I’ve yet to find one that didn’t make me want to tear out my hair, so there’s that.
  • Heroines with no backbone. I’m not saying your heroine can’t have insecurities or weaknesses or make mistakes. But they need to have a backbone about something. If they suck at love, fine. But make them passionate and hardcore about a job or a hobby or whatever.
  • Ironic as it is, I’m a romance writer who’s not much of a romantic. I’m cynical and independent. So, I’m not likely to connect with characters whose only want in life is to fall in love.
  • I’m a character-driven author and reader, so I tend to prefer books with one POV where I can really delve into that character, though I can handle two POVs in a romance. But if you’ve got more than two POVs, each of those characters better be A-MAZING, or you’ll lose my interest fast.

Now, if you made it through those massive descriptions, here are some other things you can expect from me as a mentor:

  • Harry potter references. Possibly sprinkled with the occasional mention of Doctor Who, The Vampire Diaries, Hunger Games, Battlestar Galactica, and/or Game of Thrones. 
  • Gushy fangirling over everything I love in your manuscript. Probably with a whole bunch of these !!!!!!!!
  • Honest and realistic advice on your manuscript and your career. This is a tough business, and plenty of fantastic writers never see their work published. I’m not going to tiptoe around issues or challenges in your manuscript. This is a business, and we will definitely treat it as such. As your mentor, I’ll be thinking like an agent, an editor, a publicist, and a reader, and we’ll aim to make your book as successful as possible in each of those areas. 
  • If I like your work, I can promise I’ll be an advocate of your work long after this contest ends. Sorry. You’ll be stuck with me. 🙂
  • On the flip side, I’m a working author. I write 4-6 books a year and travel extensively for signings, events, and conferences. I sought out Brenda for this contest because I want to help the next class of emerging authors. And I’m SO excited to get started. BUT… I don’t have the time to hold your hand every step of the way. So, if you feel like your manuscript still needs a lot of work (or you just know you’re a needy person), you might be better off with another mentor. 
  • I’ll also be tweeting under the #Pitchwars hashtag on twitter some more likes, dislikes, and insight in the days leading up to submission day. So make sure you’re following me!
If I haven’t scared you away yet… AWESOMEPANTS. Here’s the schedule for the contest: 
  • 11/20 Mentor’s post bios and wishlists
  • 12/2: Submission Window
  • 12/3 -12/10: Mentors read their applications
  • 12/11: Mentor’s announce their picks
  • 12/11 -1/17: Mentors work with their writers
  • 1/22-1/23 Agent Round


NOTE: Pay attention to that submission window up there. It’s one day only! So, you’ll definitely want to be following Brenda’s blog to make sure you read all the submission guidelines and don’t miss any pertinent information leading up to submission day. 

And now, for the SUPER exciting part… the agents! I can attest to the awesomeness of several of these agents personally, including my own SuperNinjaAgentofAwesome, Suzie Townsend. 


1.       LouiseFury – Bent Agency









9.       QuinlanLee - Adams Literary



14.   LanaPopovic and Natasha Alexis - Zachary Shuster Harmsworth
And last, but certainly not least, check out the list of mentors! You only get to pick FOUR mentors to submit your work to. So, choose carefully. Pay attention to their likes and dislikes. Give yourself the best possible shot of getting chosen by choosing the mentors who seem most compatible with your work!


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And now… go forth and prepare! I wish you all the luck!! Can’t wait to hear all about your work!


  • Kandi Steiner

    November 20, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    This is so amazing! I have a question. I recently self published my debut novel last month, but I would really like to enter this contest. I’m currently working on a second book, but it’s not finished. I’m sure the answer is no, but can I submit a book already published if it was self published? If not, good luck to all those who enter and I’ll continue battling in this self publishing world. 🙂

  • Cora Carmack

    November 20, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    Hey Kandi!

    That’s a great question. Brenda, the contest organizer, will have to be the final word on that, but I can give you my thoughts.

    I am very pro-indie, but for this contest I don’t think I would pick an already pubbed book to mentor. The reasoning behind that is that the purpose of this contest is to help a writer get an agent. And because agents typically won’t take on previously published work unless it’s selling EXTREMELY well, it would sort of be defeating the purpose. And if a self-pub book was already selling well, the author wouldn’t really need this contest to get an agent.

    So if you’re really set on entering, your best best would be to rush and finish that second book. 🙂

  • Kate Bucklein

    November 20, 2013 at 7:39 PM

    Oh, yay! I’m so glad you’re a mentor! And, based on your wishlist, I just might have a book you like. (Shameless self-promo complete.)

    It’s neat you’re doing this even though, as you said, you’re extremely busy. This sounds like a fantastically fun opportunity.

  • Marie Meyer

    November 21, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    I’m so excited to see your name on the list of mentors! One lucky author will get to work with a phenomenal author! I did have a question regarding your “What I’m NOT Looking For” section. The cheating issue…can the MS have a cheating character that does NOT get away with it? Is that okay? Or are you anti-cheating period?
    Thank you for volunteering your time and talents to this contest!

  • Cora Carmack

    November 21, 2013 at 5:04 AM

    Oh yeah, that’s totally fine. I’m just not too keen on romances where the hero or heroine cheats, and they still end up happily ever after. Even if it’s a long road back to be okay, I still am never able to quite get behind the relationship again.

  • Marie Meyer

    November 22, 2013 at 1:49 AM

    Thanks for clarifying, Cora!

  • -Amber N.

    November 27, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    I wish I could write. Le sigh.

  • Desiree Perry

    November 29, 2013 at 4:49 PM



    God. . .

    I MUST have you! You are fabulously funny! Lol I would love to join your Qudditch team. Make sure the KEEPER spot is open. Sorry, probably a poor joke, but I just want to say that I’m looking forward to the contest

  • Shannon

    December 10, 2013 at 12:05 AM

    So sad that I’m not finished!!! I’m only at about 44,000 ish words. I would love to have you for a mentor!!!! I read your blog and say to myself, “We could totally hang out!”

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