This past April, I was in the middle of work when I got The Request from my dream agent, the incredibly talented and handsome Paul Rudd lookalike, Brooks Sherman.
I’d been praying for his request all day, and Love, Simon was still fresh on my mind from just weeks earlier. By that point, plenty of big name agents had already requested my work, but it was his that sent me collapsing onto the floor from shock and melodrama.
Brooks represents the likes of Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli, among many other incredible writers.
Now, how did I turn my Twitter pitch into one that was a success story?
Well, my friends, this is where it gets fun. I actually didn’t participate in another Pitmad contest. A month-and-a-half later, I tried again with another contest, #DVPit, and ended up surprising myself.
There are, of course, going to be plenty of ways to skin a cat but the following things are what I would recommend to anybody looking to repeat my success. Perhaps I just got lucky. Let’s take a look.
Twitter Pitching is the Tinder of The Writing World–It’s Purely for Fun.
Much like the infamous dating app, pitch parties are just for fun, but in their best scenario, it can lead to representation between a writer and an author…which may lead to a book deal.
At worst, you’re going to be left right where you started. I feel this is important to point out, because you can’t go into this thinking that it’s going to change your life, because the disappointment otherwise just might break you, and that’s something that us writers don’t need anymore of.
All it takes is the agent to “like” your tweet and you’ve just skipped their slush pile. You’re also not wasting time by sending your work out to an agent who isn’t going to be interested.
In this case, any agent you send sample pages to is, at the very least, going to get beyond your query letter.
Keep Your Pitch Down to One Sentence.
Hear me out on this one. In a face-to-face interaction with somebody, you have mere seconds to make a first impression. When you’re pitching online, you have even less time. Agents aren’t dedicating great amounts of time to looking through the hashtag feed–they’re working on their current clients’ needs.
If you don’t hook them in one sentence, they’re not going to dwell on whether or not to request. They either will or they won’t.
Sometimes, if your tweet is somewhat vague, you’ll entice them to request sample pages. Less can be more!
Be Strategic About What Time You Tweet.
Agents work all over the world, however, publishing is heavily concentrated in New York City, which follows EST–or, Eastern Standard Time. If the pitch contest starts at 08:00 a.m. and you’re located on the west coast, you’d better get that tweet out at 05:00 a.m. in order to be one of the first out of the gate.
Agents are also humans, and I’d venture to say that some of them might even check their Twitter feeds before they get out of bed in the morning. Or while they’re in the back of a taxi. Or during their lunch breaks.
Many of them aren’t going to be thumbing through all day, so keep in mind that there are going to be “hot spots” throughout the day–morning, lunch time, and late afternoon–times when they’re going through to see if there’s any hidden talent amongst the hashtag.
Only Send Out One Tweet With Your Pitch.
“Oh good,” you’ve thought to yourself. “The contest allows me to send out three pitches per manuscript.”
This is a mistake that I made with my first pitch contest that I didn’t repeat the second time.
So basically, most of the agents will be on their phones checking Twitter. Which means they will be on the mobile app, not their desktops. Which means that for every hashtag, there will be two separate tabs at the top–“Latest” and “Top.”
It’s very important that you are easily findable in the “Top” tag, because that’s one sure-fire way that more agents will find you if they decide to see who’s making waves.
By only pitching with one tweet, you’re racking up and consolidating your tweet activity to one pitch, which moves you higher up the tab. If sort of compounds, giving you more and more visibility to be found, and to get more likes and retweets.
What do you think sounds better, three tweets with so-so numbers, or one tweet with all the likes and retweets altogether?
You want the latter. The latter will get you noticed faster.
Use Comps, But Be Smart About Which Ones You Choose.
It’s not unusual that an agent will be on the fence about a pitch until they read the comps. Comps are a good way to help tell somebody that if they liked two books, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t like yours, too.
A lot of writers seem to get caught up on the how-to of picking comps, and I’m here to inform you that the rules are very simple.
- You will never be able to use Harry Potter as a comp.
- Choose comps published within the past two years. That means no Harry Potter.
- If a book has already been turned into a movie/television show, it’s already too mainstream for you to use. So no Harry Potter.
- This might seem to contradict the previous rule, but try to follow along. Try to use at least two comps, but make sure that one is at least a book. If you use a comp that is a film, show, or play, make sure it isn’t based off of literature. You’re really trying to create a feeling for the agent. Two non-book related comps are also a no-no.
- The comps don’t have to necessarily have the same story as yours. It’s more a case of “You liked this book, so I think you’ll like mine, too.”
- There are no real rules for comps.
- No Harry Potter.
What’s At Stake For Your Main Character?
This is a simple point that plenty of my writer friends seem to struggle with. It boils down to this:
- Who is the story about?
- What are they trying to achieve?
- What do they stand to lose?
- Who or what is stopping them from achieving that goal?
In one or two sentences, you should be able to answer those three questions, and make it so devastating that the agents just have to find out how it ends.
You Can Also Cheat.
Here is where I get frustrated with some writers who are participating in pitch contests. I see that not all of them follow the rules, or have found some sort of shortcut that help them get all Rosie Ruiz in the Twitterverse.
As I mentioned, it’s in your best interest to get to the top of the “Top” tab on Twitter’s mobile app. Believe me, I think everybody else participating knows it, too.
That I know of, there are two solutions to get there via some luck of your own making.
- Buy “likes” and “retweets” from a computer farm in somewhere like India, or China. Many times, these are superficial likes that can be outrageously cheap to buy, like $5 USD for 50 likes, etc. They don’t actually mean anything, but they’ll move your tweet up the hashtag, where agents will be more apt to find it. It’s all about standing out.
- Have your writer friends “like” and “retweet” your pitch to achieve the same effect. If you go to any of the top tweets on the day of the contest, you’ll find that many of them have legitimate requests from agents, but not all of them. It’s very easy to find that many have been boosted by their own writer friends. You could assume that they were simply unaware of the rules, but if you’re participating in the contest in the first place, it’s quite literally one of the most well-known rules.
Pray To The Writing Gods
Not really. But just understand that–much of what happens during the contest is similar to what happens when you’re at a basketball game in a massive arena and they starting firing t-shirts out of a t-shirt cannon.
The arena in this scenario is Twitter. The twenty-thousand people in the stands are the hopeful writers. The t-shirts being fired out of the cannon are the agent requests.
It all comes down to luck.
There are only so many t-shirts that they can hand out, and lord knows the majority of writers won’t get even one. This is normal. But, one day you might flail your arms out at the person firing that cannon, and they just might see you.
I want to really reiterate that Twitter pitch contests are just for fun. It takes a great deal of arduousness out of the act of traditional querying. Requests also do not guarantee representation with the requesting agent, although it’s just nice to have some hope that the person you’re sending stuff out to just might one day work with you (Tinder does sometimes work, just so you know).
Bombing a pitch contest doesn’t mean that you suck, either. It just means that today wasn’t your day. And if it it isn’t your day, open up that manuscript and get back to writing and revising, because the next one is in three months–or sooner, if you choose a different contest. Writers who give up are the one’s who never get published.
You’re better than that.
Just incase anybody reading this is curious–I actually haven’t submitted anything to any of my requesting agents, even though it’s been about three months. Mostly because my hard drive died and I had to save up to get it fixed, and I lost all my data.
But that’s a sob-story for a different day.
Do requests “expire?” That’s my next post. Stay tuned.
You’re doing amazing, sweeties!