September 3rd, 2014

The Ultimate Writers’ Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests

Literary Agent Carly Watters

Carly WattersIn the past year Twitter pitch contests are everywhere. There’s #PitchMas and #PitMad (which is next Tuesday: Sept 9th!) and many others for specific genres. I’ve done one with the Women’s Fiction Writing Association with the hashtag #WFpitch. Some writers are seasoned at it and it comes naturally. Others think: “140 characters? How could I possibly pitch my book in that little space?”

The good news is you can do it with a little help.

Here’s a guide to answer your burning questions about Twitter pitch contests.

Should you enter?

This is the big question! Ask yourself these questions below:

  • Is your novel complete?
  • Are you done with revisions?
  • Are you querying it anyway?

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re in!

But…

  • Do you have an exclusive with a specific agent?
  • Do you already have an agent?
  • Are you feeling rushed?

If you answer yes to these questions, you’re out.

My big advice is that if your book isn’t done, don’t jump in. There are many Twitter Pitch Contests every year so don’t feel like you have to be involved in every one. Wait until your book is ready. You only have one chance to impress an agent.

How do I craft my Tweets?

  • In advance! Don’t stress yourself out on the day of the contest. Make sure you’re practicing and even show a friend to see if they get the gist without the context like an agent would.
  • Use the hashtag or else the agents or editors won’t see it
  • Use a qualifier: i.e. #WF = women’s fiction, #YA = Young Adult, #A = Adult, #MG = Middle Grade, #SFF = Sci Fi and Fantasy
  • Make sure you tell us enough, vague tweets are seldom helpful
  • Don’t use character or place names, they take up too much space
  • Every word counts, you can omit articles (the, a, an) to make your point and get in under 140 characters
  • A trick that works wonders is varying your tweets about the same book. Have 3 different pitch options and vary them throughout the day. Don’t repeat the same pitch 8x—we’ve read it already.
  • Here’s a top tip: A Twitter Pitch is just the hook so be sure to include the motivation, crisis and the secret.

Samples: How to pitch in 140 characters

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

When escaping WWII 4 children go to magical, tyrannical land through wardrobe to fulfill prophecy & save both worlds. #PitMad #SFF

The Three Little Pigs

Brothers devoured by a killer known as Big Bad Wolf, third pig fights for his life with a pile of bricks between him & death #PitMad #A

Alice in Wonderland

Girl abducted by rabbit from family picnic to fight war in magical dimension. When put on trial for her life, will she wake up? #PitMad #YA

How do I send my material to those who requested?

Agents will be looking at these Twitter feeds all day. Some early in the day and some later in the day. Patience is key. Once they star your tweet here’s what to do.

  • Agents will use their Twitter feed to explain how they want their material (which email address to send to and what format)
  • If an agent forgets to state this in their feed (and please look first) then you can tweet them to ask how they would like it sent
  • Use the subject heading to explain the contest and your book title: #PitMad Request: MY BOOK TITLE
  • Follow the agent’s guidelines
  • If you have submitted to them in the past still send your material, but let them know in the body of the new email

Twitter Pitch Contest Etiquette

  • Leave the starring of the Tweets to the agents and editors—don’t get someone’s hopes up or confuse them
  • It’s okay to Retweet your friends (but not star!)
  • Only post once per hour or 6 times per day. Agents trolling the feed all day will get annoyed if it’s more than that.
  • You can be sneaky and see when your favorite agents are going on via their Twitter feed and plan your tweets accordingly.

How do agents feel about Twitter Pitch Contests?

Rest assured, some agents definitely make time for these contests. But not all agents. And remember, we end up seeing a lot of the books that were pitched to us in the slush pile too. Twitter pitch contests are a great way to get your project in front of people’s eyes who you’re not aware of. But if you have a specific agent you want to target make sure you query them.

Personally, I haven’t signed a client from a #PitMad or #PitchMas, but I have signed clients from #MSWL and Brenda Drake’s Pitch Madness.

That said, I still keep an eye out and star Tweets whenever there is a Twitter pitch contest. I’m always looking for great new talent.

It’s not a deal breaker if you can’t write a 140 character pitch, but it sure does impress agents that you can boil your hook down like that.

Remember: A Twitter Pitch Contest is not a substitute for a query.

Now, are you ready for a contest? What’s your experience been with twitter pitch parties? What advice can you share with those jumping in for the first time?

Here are the dates for our upcoming #PitMad events:

  •  September 9, 2014
  • December 4, 2014
  • March 11, 2015
  • June 4, 2015
  • September 10, 2015
  • December 4, 2015

#PitMad starts at 8AM and ends at 8PM EST

About Carly

Carly Watters began her publishing career in London, England at the Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency and Bloomsbury. She completed her MA in Publishing Studies at City University London with a thesis on the social, political and economic impact of literary prizes on trade publishing. Now a VP and Senior Literary Agent at the P.S. Literary Agency she is actively building her list and looking for new writers. Never without a book on hand, she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents: women’s fiction, upmarket fiction, YA, literary thrillers and select non fiction. She has placed books at Penguin Group, Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Adams Media and more for her growing list of authors. Find her online at www.carlywatters.com and on Twitter @carlywatters.

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