This post is for those in the query trenches, and those about to jump in.
First, fist-bump. You finished and polished a manuscript, wrote a kick-ass query letter, and a meh synopsis (because let’s be honest—there’s only so much you can do to jazz up a synopsis).
Now that you’re all set up with a submission packet, there are a ton of options for querying your darling, depending on whether you’re looking for an agent, going directly to one of the few Big 5 imprints that still take unsolicited ms, or targeting small press. The only thing they all have in common is the slog. They call it query trenches for a reason. Hooking an agent or publisher tends to be a long, wearying battle. Most people sign from the slush pile, and sadly, it is wide and deep.
Fortunately, there are a couple of stepladders available to get a submission up out of the muck faster. One of my favorites is Twitter pitch parties. A well-crafted pitch can propel a writer closer to the top of that steep pile.
In a nutshell, during a (previously announced and promoted) pitch party, pitch a tweet about your project during a set time, with the event and genre hashtags, and interested agents/publishers participating in the event (or snooping through unofficially) will hopefully favorite your tweet, asking for anything from a couple of chapters up to the full ms.
There are dozens of pitch events every year—both general events and genre specific events.
Some of the best are:
#PitMad ,hosted by the PitchWars crew, coming up March 8th
#KissPit for romance
#AdPit for adult genre reads
#PBPitch for picture books
#KidPit for kids’ books, from picture books all the way through Young Adult
#SFFPit hosted by Dan Koboldt for science fiction and fantasy across all age groups and sub-genres
A quick search will show more being added every month.
Most run from 8 -8 EST. Rules differ from two-three pitches total over the course of the day, to allowing a pitch every hour. Some allow re-tweets, some allow quoting tweets in order to boost visibility in the timeline.
Hashtags on the front/end of your tweet like #YA for young adult, and #F for fantasy allows agents and publishers to quickly sort and search their particular wish list. Each event usually supplies a list of common tags.
The basic idea is to give a glimpse into your story, while keeping it hooky and concise. The general formula is goals + stakes—what your character needs and what will happen if they don’t get it/accomplish their impossible task. Fair warning—it’s easy to slip into grand, vague stakes, i.e. “the world at risk/only person who can save the galaxy” sorta thing. Honestly though, making stakes personal, and being specific are key to garnering any requests. Repeat after me—specific and concise. That’s what sets one coming-of-age story or space opera apart from another.
As an example, one of our group did well pitching what at it’s heart was a YA dystopian about a rebel infiltrating a city, then being forced to choose between her mission and her new friends.
Ehh, okay. Been there, read that.
Now change that to a young surf-monk infiltrating a floating ship-city… that fresh twist equaled an avalanche of requests. Same story premise, but focusing on the things that make your story unique.
Adding voice is a great way to hook a reader, too. Some people swap between pitching one stakes-heavy tweet, then pitching a voice-y, hookier tweet.
Comps are another way to catch a reader’s eye. These comps all do an excellent job of telling an agent about the tone of a story or letting a publisher know where to shelve it.
CINDER+COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO in Imperial Bijing
Filipina TO ALL THE BOYS X RENT
High School set ONE OF US IS LYING meets FIGHT CLUB
LA LA LAND + UNREAL + Sophie Kinsella
A few events also allow a graphic attachment, something referencing the story asthetic, although many industry professionals aren’t crazy about them, and some events do prohibit them. Always read the rules, guys.
So. Easy-peasy, right? Cram 100K you’ve sweated over for months into 240 snappy characters.
Not gonna lie, there is an art to writing a successful Tweet. I’d highly advise starting a couple of weeks before the event, as opposed to the night before, or creating on the fly day-of. If you follow the pitch party hashtag on Twitter, there are always other writers willing to swap and do a critique, hosts doing critiques, as well as query and first page crit giveaways. Take. Advantage. Of. These. They can be invaluable at honing your eye and evaluating what catches attention versus what confuses a reader who has never laid eyes on your story. Some pitch hosts also do a similar critique session on their blogs, or have Facebook groups where everyone swaps and practices. Again, connections and community are one of the most important parts of this writing gig, so take advantage.
Once you have your Tweets, you can either schedule them via something like TweetDeck, or wait and manually pitch. First thing in the morning and lunch are safe times to schedule for, since the feed is still uncluttered early on, and agents often browse during their lunch breaks.
Scheduling works if day job commitments are an issue or if the fast pace of contests elicits more anxiety than anticipation. Pitching in real time has the advantage of being able to stalk watch preferred agents/publishers and see when they are actively searching the feed and pitch accordingly. Real time also lets you tweak a pitch, if you can isolate what’s catching attention that day.
And, there you have the Twitter pitch event basics.
Now, go forth and pitch away.
If anyone wants to try out next Thursdays #PitMad and would like feedback, drop your pitch in the comments and I’ll give you my as-always questionable .02 worth.