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.

45 responses to “The Ultimate Writers’ Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests”

  1. gpeynon says:

    I'll be there on the 9th. Thanks for the heads-up.

  2. Great opportunity. Wish these had been around when I was seeking an agent!

  3. jazzfeathers says:

    Oh, I just see one on Twitter, but I didn't understand this is for finding an agent NOW. I've just completed the last deep revision of my novel, but I know I need at least another revison, plus a polishing at the very least. So I'm not ready, right?
    Ah, well, I'll wait for the next opportunity. Thanks so much for the post. I didnt' even know something like this existed.

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      These twitter pitch opportunities come up often. I've also seen individual agents announce that they'll be taking twitter pitches at a set time. Follow the agents you're targeting - you never know when an opportunity will pop up. 🙂

  4. A helpful prep tool: online character counter: http://www.lettercount.com/

  5. karenlopp says:

    All great points and a contest will tell you if your pitch is getting noticed or if you need to go back and redo it. Thanks for tips.

  6. Holly Robinson says:

    Carly, I'd never even heard of Twitter pitches before reading this--what a useful guide you've given us! I have a contract for the next book (whew), but I'll definitely try this if I need to pitch a book next time! You sound like an amazing agent, btw.

    • Orly Konig-Lopez says:

      It's an interesting exercise even if you're not necessarily pitching. Nothing like really drilling down to identify the hook for a plot reality check.
      And I agree with your last comment. 🙂

  7. Orly Konig-Lopez says:

    Thanks for blogging with us, Carly!
    These are great tips. I'm not eyeballing any twitter pitch contests, but I always go through the exercise of writing a pitch.

  8. C. M. Keller says:

    Great! Writing my tweets now.

  9. Barb DeLong says:

    My book is still a WIP, but love the concept of writing its essence in 140 characters. Thanks for this post.

  10. Thank you for bringing me back to Earth! I was getting my pitches ready for tomorrow and then read this post and realized that: a. yes, I do feel rushed and b. my novel needs another revision and I freakin' know that. I'll breathe for a while and then be extra prepared for the next one.

  11. Jenny Hansen says:

    This is fantastic. What a great post you've given us, Carly!

  12. littlemissw says:

    I'd never heard of these before. Thanks for taking the time to explain them.

  13. authorgina says:

    I will be attending! Super excited. See you all on the 9th.

  14. […] Ultimate Writers’ Guide To Twitter Pitch Contests via literary agent Carly Watters  […]

  15. […] And read my Ultimate Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests. […]

  16. […] Apparently, there are quite a lot of authors who have found representation this way, and literary agents are all for it too. […]

  17. […] ask). I particularly like Dan Koboldt’s guide to Twitter pitching and Carly Watter’s guide to Twitter pitch contests for help with Twitter pitches. For loglines, check out this article on Writing a Killer […]

  18. […] twice a hour, but Twitter may not allow you to post the same twit twice in that time. Here’s a very interesting article on how to craft interesting and different twits for your […]

  19. This looks fabulous. Can't wait for the December one. What are the #'s for literary fiction and historical fiction? Many Thanks.

  20. […] news; The next Pitmad, a twitter pitch party is Dec. 4 and agent Carly Watters has great advice and tips on how to tweet your COMPLETED […]

  21. […] are two great posts about twitter pitches: one by Diana Urban, another by agent Carly Watters. Those and Brenda Drake’s page should give you an idea of what you should be aiming towards. […]

  22. […] Literary agent Carly Watters shares tips for success with twitter pitch contests.+ Here are the dates for our upcoming #PitMad events:December 4, 2014March 11, 2015June 4, 2015September 10, 2015December 4, 2015  […]

  23. […] Literary agent Carly Watters shares tips for success with twitter pitch contests. + Here are the dates for our upcoming #PitMad events:December 4, 2014March 11, 2015June 4, 2015September 10, 2015December 4, 2015  […]

  24. Janelle says:

    So excited to participate. Thanks for the great advice!

  25. […] The Ultimate Writers’ Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests by literary agent Carly Watters is a good read, and offers some advice from the agent’s perspective. […]

  26. […] the rules here: http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitmad/ and see Literary Agent Carly Watters’ blog (https://writersinthestormblog.com/2014/09/the-ultimate-writers-guide-to-twitter-pitch-contests/ ) for some helpful hints to create your perfect pitch tweet.  Also, check out the comments section […]

  27. […] “The Ultimate Writers’ Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests” by Carly Watters […]

  28. Emily Shore says:

    Getting ready for pitmad in a week! So I've got two quick questions:
    How do you know if an agent has requested material after you've pitched a tweet?
    And what if you have more than one book to pitch? Can you pitch more than once an hour in that case? Or would a good idea be to pitch the five books you have once an hour and then pitch them again the next hour etc? Yes, I do have five plus books to pitch...

  29. […] more information about Twitter Pitching visit this post by agent @carlywatters here and this post by #PitMad alum @DianaUrban here. And here find a post from Diana on how to filter […]

  30. […] this has been a thing for quite some time but I just discovered it recently – several times a year, writers from all genres use Twitter to […]

  31. […] be. Sure the pitches sound pretty good as I read them aloud.  And I know my way around a log line (twitter pitch), but to put them out there where agents and publisher pick over […]

  32. […] more information, visit Diana Urban, Carly Watters […]

  33. […] more information about Twitter Pitching visit this post by agent @carlywatters here and this post by #PitMad alum @DianaUrban here. And here find a post from Diana on how to filter […]

  34. […] The Ultimate Writers Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests […]


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