First, I want to thank everyone so much for trusting me with their words. I received 174 submissions from 174 very brave writers, which gave me a lot of amazing options, and a lot of hours fretting over my final pick. It's like being told to pick one cookie from a giant box of new flavors.
Due to some pretty intensive changes happening in my personal life right now, as well as sheer volume of submissions, I regret to say I'll be unable to reply to everyone as I have in prior years. I am truly sorry for this. Instead, I'll be drawing 50 random names from those who signed up, and these subs will receive feedback from me on either their query, if I had questions for the pitch, or my reaction to the opening page, if I found the pitch to be solid.
Remember that this business is highly subjective. That sucks, but it also doesn't, because many of you just need to find the right person—you're doing everything right. There were a lot of solid submissions that I could see someone falling in love with, but that weren't quite a match for me. Heck, I'll admit right now that I could never get into Hunger Games. Should Ms. Collins have stopped writing because I passed on it? I think you know the answer to that.
I also want to impress on you how quickly things can change, and how this contest is a stepping stone, not a barrier. Three years ago, I was sitting exactly where you were, chewing-my-sleeves-off anxious to hear back from the mentors I'd so carefully selected. I'd been polishing my manuscript for months. I had a query that was getting a thumbs up from everyone who critiqued it. A freelance editor had raved about my latest revision, and I had a few contests under my belt, so I knew how to prepare. I was so ready for it to be "my time."
I was about to find out I didn't make it. It stung, yes. Rejection always does. But I had some positive feedback from the mentors I'd subbed to and a growing feeling in my gut that this story, as much as I loved it, wasn't "the one."
I shelved the manuscript. I went back to an idea I'd played around with the year before. I finished it. I entered another contest. I ... well, I lost that contest. But I went back and ripped my first chapter to shreds, and the next contest I entered, I won not only a place among the finalists, but my amazing agent who sold me to a Big Five dream house.
This could be your story next year.
Don't give up.