Today’s Soundtrack – Favourite Record by Fall Out Boy
Twitter pitch contests are a big deal when you’re searching for an agent. For most of us, querying is an arduous process which involves sending a lotta lotta emails out and hoping to get a response other than a form rejection.
Pitch parties change this game in a vital way: for once, the agents are looking for you, rather than the other way around. On one hand, this is good: you have the opportunity to attract the attention of multiple agents with the power of a single tweet. On the other hand, there are a zillion other writers vying for the attention of the same few agents.
For those who don’t know, a pitch contest involves tweeting an 140 character summary of your book, including the relevant hashtag and genre–be that #PitMAD, #PitchMAS, #PitchCB, whatever. Agents who are taking part in the event then skim the tweets and favourite those which pique their interest. A favourite is akin to a query request–basically, it gives you the green light to flash your query over to that agent with the pitch party hashtag in the subject line. As such, your query will be prioritised by the agent over the rest of those in the slush pile. Winner, no?
This presents two challenges:
- Making your pitch stand out amongst the zillions of others flying in every second. Some pitch contests have instilled rules to try to limit the endless stream of tweets which come in once the flood gates open. To prevent unfair advantage through multiple tweets, the recent Curtis Brown pitch party, which happens on the fourth Friday of each month, mandated a one-tweet rule. And if you can only tweet once, you better make sure it’s a good’un.
- Making it stand out in a very, very limited number of words.
I suppose the argument as far as No. 2 goes is simple–your premise should be snappy and interesting enough that describing it shorthand isn’t a problem. Wishful thinking, right? We all have those crucial plot points we want to get across, and choosing which to prioritise can be a bitch. Once you’ve taken part in a couple of pitch parties, it gets easier. Looking at your tweets which get the best response can give you a good idea of what is better included and what’s better left out.
BUT, if you’re impatient for success (like me), you can do what I did. Having had a fair measure of success with pitch parties, I feel semi-qualified to share some #tips. If anyone better and more experienced has input, I’d love it if you’d share in the comments.
Start playing with pitches a couple of days beforehand
Write, rewrite, reword, ask your CP’s and betas and your Mum to read through and choose the best. Hold polls. Schedule a vote. Give yourself chance to get the bad ones out of your system before you tweet the solid gold that’ll land you an agent on the day of.
Look at what everyone else is doing
If you can resist, wait until a couple of hours into the contest, then check out which tweets are doing the best and which already have favourites. Then emulate. I’m not saying copy someone else’s tweet–that’s a no-no. But recognising commonalities in the winning tweets and employing the same tactics in your own is just good business.
Include the conflict!
I’ve seen a couple of agents cite this one as a biggie. If your tweet doesn’t spell out the conflict, i.e. Why we should give a shit, it’s agent-repellent. Whatever you choose to include in your pitch, make sure you get the key drama in there somewhere. It’s a good jumping off point for the imagination. Who? What? Why? We must know!
Include. Your. Genre.
If you’re pitching a YA, those two letters better be in your tweet. According to the posts I’ve read, some agents will skip right over tweets that don’t state the genre, because they’d rather not waste their time requesting a manuscript which turns out to be in a genre they don’t represent. There’s only so much chasing these agents will do in these contests, guys. You’ve gotta play your advantage. A YA agent skimming through will spot your tweet because of those two little letters–so use them.
Don’t wax lyrical
It uses too many words. Yeah, it sounds pretty and catchy, but in my experience success comes from the tweets which give more juice from the plot and less from the word choice. It can be tempting as a way to stand out from the crowd, but trust me, tweets which sacrifice floral wording to give more meat always do better. Plus, if you have to write a fancy tag line to pitch your book, why are you overcompensating? That’s not to say you shouldn’t write a snappy line if it works–but don’t sacrifice necessary content as a trade-off.
There you have the few things I’ve learned so far. I’ll probably update this at some point in the future, and if anyone has any useful tips, PLEASE comment (I could use them, too!) I’m gonna go bite my nails over the #PitchCB request I sent off. Wish me luck!