Some Thoughts on Twitter Pitch Contests
Hey Twitter pitch folks (#PitMad, #DVpit, #PitDark, etc.), I want to pass on some of the things I learned from my time in the Twitter pitch contest trenches. When I first started, I had no idea how to pitch my book in just 280 characters, but with a lot of hard work and practice I figured it out. The good news is that you can, too.
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Your pitch needs to address four things:
Who is the main character and what do they want (goal),
Why do they want it (motivation),
What stands in their way (conflict), and
What happens if they don’t get it (stakes).
And yes, it seems like a lot, but it will all fit in a twitter-length pitch if edited well. Here’s mine with the parts noted:
Haunted by memories of her dead sister (motivation), 13yo scullery maid Flora sets out to slay the Kelpie (goal), a spirit horse that wants to lure the children of her new southern manor home (conflict) to a watery grave (stakes).
Here’s a breakdown that may be easier to follow:
Who is the main character and what do they want (goal): Flora wants to slay the Kelpie.
Why do they want it (motivation): Flora is haunted by her sister’s death and doesn’t want anyone else to die.
What stands in their way (conflict): the Kelpie is the bad guy/antagonist, and he wants to keep drowning children.
What happens if they don’t get it (stakes): more children will die.
I think including at the front of your pitch a comp or two in ALL CAPS can really help the agent grasp your story/world without using up a lot of words. For example, I used DOWNTON ABBEY + FOLKLORE.
Include the right hashtags:
The rules differ a bit for each contest, so check the rules, but typically you need three hashtags, sometimes more.
The genre (This indicates if your book is fantasy, women’s fiction, historical, etc. Some agents may narrow their search to just the genres they are looking for, so if you leave this off you may miss an opportunity to be seen.).
Any other applicable tags. For example, there may be a tag to indicate you’re an own voices writer. Again, check the contest’s rules for which hashtags are available.
Support your fellow pitchers:
If you retweet their pitches, they’ll (more likely) retweet yours, and the more RTs you have the more the Twitter algorithm will boost your tweet which will help agents see it (and getting them to see your pitch is half the battle).
Pin your pitch:
Be sure to pin your pitch to your profile so others can easily find it and re-tweet it.
What to do if you get an agent “like.”
Congrats, you got a “like,” now what?
First, check out the agent/publisher. You are NOT obligated to query every person that gives you a like. Do your research. I know it’s hard, but it’s better to skip any shady agents/publishers than waste your time.
Second, check what the agent wants you to do. Most post this in their Twitter feed. Some may have a special way they want you to query them. For example, they may want you to note the contest in the subject line of an email, or use a particular query manager page.
For every query I sent in response to a “like,” I included the pitch. Here’s how I worded the beginning of my query:
Dear [Agent Name],
Thank you for liking my #PitMad pitch!
DOWNTON ABBEY + FOLKLORE. Haunted by memories of her dead sister, 13yo scullery maid Flora sets out to slay the Kelpie, a spirit horse that wants to lure the children of her new southern manor home to a watery grave. #PitMad #MG #HF #F
I’m excited to tell you more about THE SPIRIT OF ROSE HILL ISLAND, a Middle Grade Historical Fantasy complete at 49,000 words.
[Then I launched into my query.]
Don’t sweat it:
Twitter pitch contests are amazing. They helped me connect with other writers, learn about agents, and refine my pitch. In the end, however, I found my agent through traditional querying. So don’t sweat it–contests aren’t the only way. The slush pile is a great place to be.
Also, if an agent that is participating in your contest doesn’t “like” your pitch, that doesn’t mean it’s a pass. It may just mean they didn’t see it. If the agent is open to queries, and you think they’d be a good fit, you are still welcome to query them.