Editor’s note: Whoops, the first version of this post incorrectly stated 240 characters per tweet, but that should be 280. Apologies!
Hello, friends! How did we get to the last day of February already? Since #PitMad is coming up next week on Twitter (March 4, find the deets here), I thought it was time to talk about Twitter pitch parties. I’m going to shoot straight with you–I am not a pitch party expert. I was never that person who had 900 retweets and 200 likes by the end of the day at a major pitching event. A “winner,” as I like to think of them. However, I have gotten likes from both agents and editors, and I’ve had a pitch make the Top Tweets page in one of the smaller events. Plus, I’m pretty familiar with how Twitter works, so hopefully you’ll find some seeds of wisdom to help you out.
What’s a pitch party?
First up, if you’re totally new to Twitter and the writing world, a pitch party is a designated one-day event where writers tweet a 280-character pitch of their completed manuscript (yes, it should be ready for querying, because you want to send it out as soon as possible). By including the pitch party hashtag, as well as genre and age hashtags, agents and editors can search the pitches to find ones they’d like to read. If they “like” your pitch, you’ve got an open invitation to send your query or partial (the agent will tweet instructions).
Not only do pitch parties give you a possible “in” with industry professionals, they’re a great way to practice your elevator pitch, get to know and support other writers, and have a crazy, fun day glued to Twitter (unless you have better self-control than me, lol).
Building your best pitch
To me, putting together the pitches is the hardest part. When you only have 280 characters to make your work shine, each letter counts. So what can you do to create the best pitch possible? Here are the key elements you want to include in your pitch:
1. GMC (Goal, motivation, conflict)
Your main character might have several goals, or more than one underlying motivation, or face multiple conflicts. You might be trying to pitch a sweeping epic with more than one main character. But for the sake of brevity, you need to frame your pitch around one main character (go for two if romance is a big element), and then include the following:
Goal: What does your MC want? What are they trying to get/ accomplish/ deal with/ prevent in the book?
Motivation: Why does this matter to the MC? Why do they care so much they’re willing to die (at least on an emotional level) to reach this goal? Motivation ties in with the stakes, which I’ll mention again below.
Conflict: What is preventing the MC from reaching this goal? What are they fighting against or working to overcome in pursuit of the thing they need or want so badly?
Here’s the tricky party–you’ve got to be as specific as possible. I see so many vague pitches, which kind of don’t mean anything because they could apply to half the novels ever written. Use your pitch to showcase what makes your story unique.
What happens if the MC fails? What will he/ she lose? What about the world around them? Again, be specific here. Vague doom and gloom won’t resonate in the same way specific, unique details do. Often it helps to frame the stakes in terms of a choice facing the MC.
“…she’ll have to choose between love or giving up her family’s resort…”
“…failure means death, but if he succeeds, he’ll be cast out from his people forever…”
“…but if she wins, she’ll lose the boy she loves…”
You get the idea. People love impossible choices, so if you can work one into your pitch, it’s a great way to make it compelling.
3. The twist
Really what I’m getting at here is: what makes your book unique? Why should an agent or editor take the time to read it? I’m not suggesting you reveal a big plot twist, but rather emphasize what makes your story stand out. Is it the setting? Maybe the story happens in space or in an underwater habitat? Be sure to include that detail.
Is it the magic system? I remember one pitch that went viral at several pitch parties a while back. The MC had uncontrolled magic that “grew flowers in her father’s lungs,” among other things. Now that is unique, and worth the word count to include it.
Maybe it’s you, as the author. Are you an author of color or writing from an ownvoices perspective? Be sure to include those hashtags!
Including comp titles isn’t a requirement, but it can give agents/ editors a feel for the flavor of your story. You don’t have to limit yourself to books. You can comp movies, authors, fairy tales, and even historical events or decades. Anything that helps show the tone, voice, or elements in your story. This can be a good way to work in your twist too. People typically put their comps in all-caps on a separate line to draw attention.
For example, here are I few I made up for actual books…
CINDERELLA x BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles)
CASTAWAY on Mars (The Martian)
PRIDE & PREJUDICE x MISS CONGENIALITY (The Accidental Beauty Queen)
YA GAME OF THRONES x HUNGER GAMES (Throne of Glass)
If you’ve read these books, you’ll recognize that my comps aren’t perfect. You’re not going to find an exact match, which is good–because why write the book if it already exists? Instead, you want to highlight key elements or the tone or mood of your story, and comps give you an easy way to do that in only a few characters.
I already mentioned hashtags above, but I’ll add it here again. DON’T FORGET YOUR HASHTAGS. Both for the pitch party itself, and for your genre, age range, and subgenre if available. Also include specialty hashtags (only if they apply – DO NOT CHEAT), such as #ownvoices or #BVM. Check the pitch party’s website or ask the coordinator ahead of time if you aren’t sure. And remember, these count as part of your 280-character limit.
Pulling it all together
Now that you have all your pieces, it’s time to play around with assembling them in the best order. I suggest using Word or some other software that allows you to check your character length per pitch. A good format is to list comps, then two sentences (1st intros MC and their GMC, 2nd presents the stakes/ impossible choice), and end with your hashtags. If you can look at other successful pitches (try searching the hashtag and scrolling back to the last event), that will help.
I’d recommend writing several, then choosing your top three or four. Before the big day, run at least one of them (if not all) by a critique partner for suggestions. Many generous folks on Twitter offer free or low-cost pitch critiques too. Having your top pitches nailed down ahead of time will help alleviate stress on the big day.
You’ve got your pitches all lined up, but now what? If you have to work and won’t have access to Twitter, you can set your pitches up on TweetDeck to post at the times you designate. Check the event rules to see how many pitches you get and try to space them out during the day.
If you can avoid using TweetDeck, though, I highly recommend live tweeting if possible. See, the thing about Twitter is that it’s run by algorithms based on early interactions with a tweet. If you post at a time when a lot of people are active on the hashtag, and you’ve got writer friends ready to boost with a retweet, your tweet has a much better chance of making it onto that coveted Top Tweets page and getting noticed. Also, be sure to respond ASAP to any comments, as every interaction helps boost your tweet in the algorithm.
Post your favorite pitch first, right near the beginning of the event, and then pin it to your profile to make it easy to find. As you support others with retweets during the day (you’re going to do that, right?), they’ll be able to easily return the favor by checking your profile. One of the best parts of the day is meeting other writers and seeing the cool stuff they’re working on.
Remember that there will be an avalanche of tweets, so no matter how amazing your pitch is, it still could get lost in the shuffle. Especially with the larger events like #PitMad, there are so many participants, it’s really tough to stand out. The one time I “won” and got a pitch onto the Top Tweets page was during #FaithPitch, a smaller event for the Christian fiction industry. Other smaller pitch parties to check out include #KissPit (romance), #DVPit (diverse authors), #SFFpit (sci-fi/ fantasy), #PBpitch (picture books), #PitDark (horror, dark SFF, mysteries), and more.
The After-party – wrapping up
If you do get some likes or “hearts” from agents and editors (awesome! bonus!), it’s best to send them the requested materials ASAP while the pitching event is fresh in their minds. Most agents will tweet instructions sometime during the day. Be sure to reference their request in your letter and the subject line of your email. AND, super important – be sure to vet all agents and editors prior to submitting. Sad as it is, there are plenty of schmagents and vanity publishers looking to lure in the unwary writer.
If you don’t end up with a stand-out tweet, it can be hard to watch your pitch get some RTs and comments and still vanish into Twitter oblivion. You might even be tempted to feel like the event was a waste or your writing isn’t good enough. Resist that urge! Agents can still find your tweet by searching the hashtags, but even if you don’t get any industry attention, that doesn’t mean your work isn’t something they might love.
There are only a limited number of agents who participate, and remember, they don’t get paid to look at Twitter pitches or read queries. They only get paid when a book sells. Their first obligation is to current clients, and depending on workload, they might not have time to watch #PitMad all day. All this is to say, most agents are looking for new clients and they want to fall in love with a new manuscript, but they might just need you to query the old-fashioned way to get their attention. Personally, I had limited success with pitch parties but found my first publisher and my agent through regular querying.
Most important of all, have fun and don’t give up!
Do you have any questions, suggestions, or tips to add? A success story to share? Drop a comment below!
Header image credit: pexels.com, CC0 license.