“Pitch your book? On Twitter?” I said aghast. “How would you even do that?”
The much more successful (and social media savvy) author sitting across from me, sipping her coffee, smiled warmly and said, “That’s how I got my first book published!”
I left that meeting with my mind atwitter with suggestions on how to promote and pitch books. For my newly minted author mind, it was a lot of information to absorb. Having only recently entered the world of social media at all, I didn’t think I could successfully woo an agent in 280 characters or less. Lucky for me, I also like a challenge.
I’ve now participated in multiple Twitter pitches and after failing miserably on my first attempt, I learned a lot. Since that first dip of my toe into the twittersphere of pitches, I learned a lot and now get interest in my book pitches every time I participate in a twitter pitch. (NOTE: Twitter pitching is just step one. Then you have to query. I won’t even get into that part!)
If you’re a writer who is interested in pitching agents and publishers through Twitter, perhaps some of what I learned might help you.
What is a Twitter pitch party?
Not every writer might be familiar with twitter pitches. (I know I wasn’t!) For writers, the twitter events allow you to pitch your book to publishers and agents (depending on the type of pitch) via Twitter. It typically takes place on a set day for a set amount of time. Each pitch has different rules. But for most, you can post one pitch per project per hour of the event. (Watch out for time zones!)
Therefore, if the pitch event lasts from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm ET, you can tweet 12 pitches. During that time, you post a pitch using the designated hashtag for the event. Agents and publishers scroll through the feed and read the pitches. If an agent or publisher “hearts” your pitch, you can click on the person’s name and typically he or she will have posted instructions on how to submit a query.
Important Note: You need a complete, ready to go manuscript. Don’t pitch a concept. Twitter pitch parties are the “foot in the door” to a query and for a query you really should have a manuscript that is ready to go.
What does a twitter pitch look like?
Twitter pitches can be tricky and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are very straightforward and others like to employ quirky plays on language. The important thing to remember is that you want to describe your book as best you can in the characters allotted, not impress people with your puns.
Below are examples of my Twitter pitches that have generated interest.
A bullied kid. A disabled sister. A lonely genius. A burned girl. 12 yo Oliver wanders NYC re-imagining the lives of these troubled kids. But when he finds a magical black unicorn keychain, he learns he can do more than just re-imagine, he can change their fates. #KidPit #MG #SFF
When shy 17yo Foni goes in search of the truth about a mysterious bus crash no one remembers but her, she gets more than expected. Deadly corporate conspiracies & multidimensional travel are just the start. She also has to finish a term paper. #PitMad #SFF #YA
It’s not easy dying & coming back to life. For 18 yo Foni that’s just the beginning. 6 yrs after a mysterious bus crash, Foni finds out her non-death is at the center of a strange multidimensional conspiracy. Oh & she has to finish a term paper. Fringe+Fangirl. #Pit2Pub #SFF #YA
Tips for writing Twitter pitches
My first attempt at Twitter pitches received ZERO hearts, which was disheartening. 🙂 But I didn’t give up. Instead, I did something I should have done from the start, I read other people’s pitches and I realized I’d been approaching it all wrong. Here are some tips that helped me.
- The pitch is not a tagline or a teaser. It’s a pitch. Give as much information as you can in the small amount of space you have.
- Don’t try to be perfect. (I mean spell everything right.) But if you need to leave out a word or use a sentence that feels dry but says more, that’s better than using pretty language that says less.
- Use COMMONLY known abbreviations, such as “yo” for “year old” and feel free to employ judicious use of “w/” and ampersands. But, don’t use them so much that people can’t make sense of your pitch.
- Use the “this plus that” method to describe your book. For example, “Harry Potter + One of Us is Lying” or “The Little Mermaid meets GOT.”
- Use buzzwords and descriptors, but make sure they’re appropriate for your story.
- Create more than one pitch for an event (i.e., don’t just Tweet the same pitch over and over.)
Know your hashtags!
Use hashtags, but don’t go overboard. Here’s a brief list of often used hashtags to help agents and publishers find your work.
(NOTE: Always check the twitter pitch party page as many provide guidance on the best hashtags).
#A – adult
#C – children’s
#MG = middle grade
#NA = new adult
#YA = young adult
#AD – adventure
#CF – christian fiction
#CO – contemporary
#CON = contemporary
#DIV = diverse characters
#E = erotica
#ER = erotic romance
#ES = erotica suspense
#F – fantasy
#H – horror
#HI – historical
#HF = historical fiction
#HR = historical romance
#INSPY = inspirational
#LF = literary fiction
#LGBT = lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender
#M = mystery
#MC = multicultural
#MCT = mystery/crime/thriller
#ME = memoir
#Mem = memoir
#MR = magical realism
#NF = non-fiction
#PB = picture book
#PN = paranormal
#PNR = paranormal romance
#R = romance
#RS = romantic suspense
#S = suspense
#SP = Steampunk
#SF = sci-fi
#SFF = sci-fi/fantasy
#T = thriller
#UF = urban fantasy
#W = westerns
#WF = women’s fiction
Just because you have all these hashtags doesn’t mean you need to use them. You may be ceding critical character counts to unnecessary and unhelpful hashtags. That was one of the first mistakes I made.
There are 3 critical hashtags
- The hashtag for the contest
- The hashtag for the audience age (e.g., YA, MG)
- The hashtag for the genre (e.g., #SF, #W)
Number 3 is where you can start to go overboard because your book may fit into many genres. Pick the ones most likely to be used to search the feed and use your pitch to do the rest.
What happens after you post your pitch on Twitter?
After you post your pitch, you basically wait and wait and refresh your page and wait. You post another pitch an hour later. Then you scroll up and down and see if anyone else is getting interest. And then you notice you have a notification and squeal. But it’s just someone who re-tweeted your pitch, which is totally allowed most of the time and you feel grateful, but they aren’t an agent or a publisher so you also feel disappointed. (Clearly, this part can be a bit stressful, especially the first time!)
It’s basically a lot of waiting. Make sure you have something else to do.
Also, watch out, not everyone knows the rules and some people will heart your pitch who aren’t agents or publishers.
How many Twitter pitch parties are there?
There are many twitter pitch events throughout the year and they span a variety of genres. There are events specific to just adult reader level books, kids’ books, nonfiction books, science fiction/fantasy, horror. And each individual event typically happens more than once throughout the year.
The biggest event by far is likely #PitMad, which is a come one, come all event for just about every book type. #Pit2Pub is an interesting one because that is only publishers, usually smaller indie ones. It can be a good place to start if you’ve struggled to find a way to break through to agents or big publishers.
Here are the current pitches I am aware of for the rest of 2018 and 2019. But search constantly, there are always more out there.
12/06/2018: #PitMad (most genres)
12/15/2019: #IWSGPit (most genres)
1/2019 (specific date not set yet): #SFFPit (science fiction/fantasy)
2/21/2019: #PBPitch (picture books)
Popular Pitch Parties not yet announced for 2019
#DVPit – contest for marginalized authors and voices
#Pit2pub (usually in February and July) – publishers review this only (no agents)
#Pitdark (usually in May and October) – pitches for “darker” material, horror and the like
#kidpit & #adpit (usually April and November – children/middle grade/YA and adult-age pitch parties, respectively
This website also has a very exhaustive list of pitch parties and generally when they occur throughout the year. But note that pitch parties come and go. New ones crop up and others die out all the time. So just keep checking!
Best lessons I learned about Twitter pitches
1. Before you start, read other people’s pitches, particularly pitches that got a lot of hearts in your genre. You’ll begin to notice themes and styles that get noticed pretty quickly and you can tailor your pitch in a similar fashion.
2. Just because you get a “heart” doesn’t mean you have to send a query. Make sure to research the person or group who hearted your work and see if they fit well with you and your story.
3. Re-tweet other people’s pitches you like! All of us writers are in this together. It’s not a competition, be supportive. (But DON’T HEART PITCHES. That’s a no-no.)
4. Make a list of pitches before you start the pitch, at least 12 and ask friends and family for feedback – which ones resonate/make them interested.
5. Keep track of the pitches you post that are and aren’t successful or if you find different pitches successful in different contests. It can help better tailor your pitch for the next contest.
6. Don’t expect lightning to strike. Twitter pitch parties are only the beginning. You still have to query and then have a polished enough query and book to get through the next phases. But they’re a great place to start!
6. Have fun, learn, make some writer friends!