Category: Contests

The Tw(itter P)itch is just the beginning

I’ve received some lovely emails these last few days from writers whose pitches I reviewed and workshopped until I thought they were strong and unique enough to catch an agent’s or editor’s attention in the mad #PitchMAS feed last week. I noticed with undeniably smug satisfaction that some of the pitches I said were winners received requests. Not all of the pitches I critiqued got starred, which made me a bit sad, but out of twenty-something writers, it looked like about 14 received requests.

Those aren’t bad odds. It kind of makes me feel like a fairy godmother, except I know I’m not.

Disney’s Fairy Godmother, circa 1950 Yeah, this is so not me.

Now that the #PitchMAS Twitter party is over, it’s really just the start for these authors. A request from a pitch party is nothing more than an opportunity to move your query to the top of the pile. It’s not a guarantee of an offer of representation or publication. Yes, agents and editors have shown interest in the general concept, but you can only get so much across in 140 characters. A pitch is like a teaser promise: It’s supposed to hook the reader into the story. So now that an agent or editor is intrigued, it’s time for the writer to deliver on that promise.

To carry the Cinderella metaphor further, the pitch gets you to the ball. Whether or not Prince Charming falls in love with you is entirely on you.

I lucked out with my first Twitter pitch party event. My pitch not only caught an agent’s eye—it caught the agent’s eye, the agent I knew I wanted to represent me while I was still researching her. But here’s the thing: Not every story lends itself to 140 characters. Some stories require that full three- to five-paragraph query letter to grab an agent’s attention. And all stories require a well-written text.

So I hope each of the writers whose pitches I reviewed finds a good home for their manuscripts. I hope they find agents—and ultimately editors—who love their novels and are as passionate about them as their respective authors are.

And when the next pitch party rolls around, I’ll show up beforehand to offer help to anyone who asks.

Let’s (Twitter pitch) party!

Those following me on Twitter (or stumbled upon my blog or this post via Twitter), know I’ve extended an offer to review people’s Twitter pitches (which I prefer calling “Twitches”) before Twitter pitch parties. The fabulous ladies behind #PitchMAS, a contest in which unagented writers are invited to pitch finished and polished manuscripts, have organized a Twitter pitch party for Friday, December 20, and I’m eager to help others hone their Twitches.

But why me? What makes me so qualified to critique pitches and tell people how to make their Twitches stand out?

Well, that’s kind of a fun(ny) story.

At the end of January, I stumbled upon #PitMad, a Twitter pitch party organized by author Brenda Drake to coincide with her Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness competitions.

Keep in mind, I was still new to the whole book scene. (Who am I kidding? I still am.) I had just finished writing my first novel at the end of November. I painstakingly revised it, carefully listening to feedback from friends and early readers, but I knew very little about querying and even less about pitch contests. I was still honing my elevator pitch and was proud of myself for managing to condense my concept into a 140-character tweet.

Twitter, by the way, is not the place to pitch to agents or editors. Unless there is a specific call for it or a Twitter Pitch Party (like #PitchMAS or #PitMad), it is not the way to present your idea to agents and editors. Twitter is for engaging, for getting to know people, for demonstrating that you’re an interesting person. It’s not for pitching (or, later, for constantly advertising your book).

Anyway, back to #PitMad. As I mentioned, I stumbled upon it. I had no idea it was happening or what it was. I just saw a number of agents I followed were tweeting about it, and when I checked it out, I realized it was something I could do. I had a completed manuscript. I had a query letter written. (It wasn’t very good and my writing group hadn’t had a chance to look at it, but it was done.) And just the night before, I squeezed my pitch into 140 characters.

So I bit the metaphorical bullet and tweeted it.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

To pay it forward, I’m reviewing Twitches for anyone who emails me (emcaines {at} outlook {dot} com) for Friday’s upcoming #PitchMAS Twitter Pitch Party. I’ll review them for other pitch parties, too, for as long as they’re in vogue because it’s a simple way to help my fellow writers stand out a bit.

The irony, of course, is my own pitch above doesn’t exactly follow the advice I’m dispensing to help others’ pitches stand out. My pitch was for a fairy tale retelling with almost universally familiar characters; I merely had to explain how mine was different. Most of the pitches I’ve seen so far don’t have that same luxury.

So I suggest treating pitches as news headlines to help determine the most important facets of the story. What’s the absolute most important thing you want a prospective agent or editor to know about your story? If you only had 10 seconds to talk to Agent Extraordinaire, what would you say to her? If you were in an elevator with Editor Awesome for one floor, how would you pitch your story?

I was thinking about other books I like and how I’d pitch them on Twitter if I had to. Let me know your thoughts.

Geneticist manages to breed dinosaurs for an island tourist spot, but dinos aren’t easy to manage when natural instincts take over. A/SF (136 characters)

Awkward & bullied telekinetic teen girl w ultraconservative mom has enough & wreaks havoc on Prom Night. YA/Thrill (114 characters)

Trojans v Spartans on the football field in a YA contemporary retelling of THE ILIAD. (85 characters)

As you can see, less is often more when you’re just trying to grab someone’s attention. If you have comp titles or if it’s a retelling of something, use that. Grab attention any way you can.

Oh, and while you strategize your Twitter pitch party appearances, take heed of agent extraordinaire Julia A. Weber’s fantastic Dos and Don’ts for pitch contests.

Best of luck!