Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pitch Madness - When Stats Attack

What is Pitch Madness?
Each year the fabulous Brenda Drake hosts a pitch contest called Pitch Madness that helps un-agented authors get their work in front of a bevy of literary agents. In addition to providing the chance for agents to request their work, Pitch Madness also helps writers connect with one another on social media, improve their pitches and share in the fun community that grows up around the contest.

In order to enter, writers submit a brief 35-word pitch and the first 250 words of their completed manuscript, along with information about the title, category and genre of their novel. A team of talented slush readers and team captains, most of them agented and/or published authors, then comb through the submissions and pick 60+ entries to be placed in front of agents. There's a playful element to the contest for the participating agents because they are engaged in a virtual game, this year Sorry!, and compete to get partials or fulls of the various entries. It's a fun way for agents to discover new talent and a great opportunity for un-agented writers.

A Deluge of Entries
Pitch Madness began in 2012 and at first was held twice a year and then later, annually. The 2015 contest was the sixth time the competition has been run and each year more and more entries pour in.

There were 915 entries in this year's contest, nearly double last year's already impressive 500 entries.

Last year, Dan Koboldt ran summary numbers for Pitch Madness to give writers a look inside the competition. He did a fantastic job, and you can read his post here. This time around, I volunteered to rustle up some summary stats and I may have gone a bit overboard. There are a lot of charts below.

Raw Numbers
Of the 915 entries, I was able to pull full or partial information on 866. The numbers below are based on that. Writers submitted novels in four different categories: Adult, New Adult, Young Adult and Middle Grade. The majority of entries, 44% were classified as Young Adult. Adult novels weren't far behind, however, comprising 31%.

Click on any of the charts to view larger.

While authors used a dropdown box to indicate which category their novel falls into, they were able to enter whatever text they liked for genre. That led to some interesting genre designations but also made reporting on genre a little challenging. If, for example, an author marked their novel as Contemporary Fantasy, it would have been tagged as both Contemporary and Fantasy when I extracted the data. Therefor the genre numbers are a little less reliable, though still broadly applicable.

At first glance, based on the chart above, it looks like Fantasy kicked every other genre's butt. This is mainly because there were a huge number of Young Adult Fantasy novels submitted. However, if you look at the individual categories, the story is a little different.

For Adult novels, Women's Fiction dominated with Suspense/Thriller & Fantasy both trailing a very close second. For New Adult submissions, Romance was the genre of choice with Fantasy nipping close at its heels. Inside the huge YA category, Fantasy was the clear winner, representing nearly twice the number of entries as next most popular genre, Contemporary. Surprisingly, Middle Grade was an exact mirror of YA with Fantasy dominating and Contemporary representing half as many submissions.

Inside The Teams
Four teams, each led by two captains, selected entries for the agent round of the competition. To learn more about the teams & their members, you can read Brenda's original team post. Each team selected 17 entries for a total of 68 selections. Unlike the general entry portion of the competition, I was able to individually verify each piece of data for the team picks so the numbers below are quite accurate.

The team selections mimicked the overall entries as far as category and genre were concerned. Although YA novels gained a slight advantage.

The Fantasy and Contemporary genres also had a slight advantage, representing 35% and 19% of the overall picks respectively.

What An Agent WantsThe four teams for the agent round were the Red Team, the Blue Team, the Yellow Team and the Green Team. In the past, Brenda's team (this year designated Red) has dominated the agent round. There was an upset this year, however, and the Blue Team, led by Rebecca Coffindaffer & Marieke Nijkamp, narrowly edged ahead of the Red Team with an impressive 78 agents requests overall! The Red team pulled in 76 requests and was the only team where all 17 entries received at least one agent request.

So what exactly were all those agents requesting? Quite a lot as it turns out. There were 231 unique agent requests made during Pitch Madness! The top three most-requested entries are a perfect mirror of what had the agents ready to read more as far as genre and category. The most requested entry, Decoy Royale, a Young Adult Fantasy, gathered up an impressive 12 separate agent requests. Anabel Mist Does Not Exist, a Contemporary Middle Grade novel, and United We Fall, a Young Adult Suspense/Thriller, both tied for second place with 11 requests each.

Below is a chart showing all of the agent requests by genre and category.

Keep in mind, those category and genre trends for the agents are a close reflection of the the genres and categories of the entries chosen by the teams. Don't read more into it than there is, but it's enough to say, on this day, in this competition, YA Fantasy was kicking butt and taking names.

A Cloud of Words
In case your brain isn't spasaming from the sheer number of charts I've just thrown at you, here's one more picture to add to the mix. This one, however, is just for fun. No numbers needed. I took the 68 selected entries and created a word cloud from their 35 word pitches. It's quite an intriguing mix.

A Word About Word Counts
As you may have guessed from the myriad charts already in this blog post, I also ran numbers about the average word counts of the various entries. However, I think there's much more interesting information to share. Suffice to say, the majority of entries fell within normal limits as far as word counts go for their given categories and genres. If anyone is absolutely dying to know specifics, however, feel free to leave a comment and I'll toss up a graph or two for you.
Many, many thanks to Brenda for allowing me to crunch the numbers for Pitch Madness. It was a lot of fun! Much like the competition.


  1. And then I post and throw a screw into your chart. This is AWESOME btw! I had thought MG was the majority, but I was way wrong. My thing/question/comment is: My novel was Urban Fantasy/LGBQTIA, and was picked for the finale, but the LGBQTIA genre isn't repp'd in the finalists charts. I just wanted to let you know, in case it has any bearing on your charts and stats! Again, awesome job!

    1. I did see that. Because your entry was split between two genres I chose to go with the Fantasy genre when entering the data for genre into my spreadsheets. I figured that is where it would be shelved in the book store. If I run stats again I may include additional info about whether the entries specifically include or feature diverse characters.

  2. That makes perfect sense! It's where I see it shelved as well, haha. I just wasn't sure if you may have missed it, and would want to know about it.

    Again, I applaud you patience in doing this. My wife loves this statistical things, but I go nuts.

  3. Holy crap, I really need to read over my posts before I hit submit.

  4. Wow! You did an amazing job with your stats/comps. I've read quite a few blog posts explaining the breakdown of PitchMadness, PitchWars and other Twitter Pitch contest and I've still never fully comprehended it all. You broke it down so even someone who hates math and numbers (me) can easily follow. I appreciate the time and work you put into this. I've been interested in entering, but haven't quite gotten my nerve up or always had something else going on (a little of both), and I feel much more comfortable with the entire process now. Thanks for your explanations and stats.

  5. Oh ... and I love your word cloud.