(This piece presumes you already have a Twitter account and a basic idea of how likes, retweets, and hashtags work. If you don’t, this Wired article will help you get up to speed. It also presumes you’re a writer interested in getting an agent and/or a publisher for your work.)
I know, I know: Social media is a pox on humanity, and Twitter is a big part of why. Yes, it can be messy as hell. It can be shamelessly abused. It’s got problems.
But Twitter has been invaluable to my writing career so far. I truly don’t know where I’d be right now without it.
I got an account early on in Twitter’s existence, but didn’t quite embrace it at first. But when I started actively pursuing publication, I gave it a second look. A lot of writers I like—Neil Gaiman and Cherie Priest, for example—hang out there and post regularly, and not just about their upcoming works. (Cherie Priest has some seriously cute pets.)
As I met more fellow writers on Twitter, I learned about mentoring programs like Pitch Madness and Pitch Wars and applied to them. When I was accepted to both, they became crucial to honing my writing and pitching skills.
Know what else happens on Twitter? Twitter pitch parties.
Huh? What’s a pitch party?
Glad you asked! If you have a manuscript ready to put in front of agents and editors and can sum it up effectively in 280 characters or less, pitch parties can be an excellent way to hop over the slush pile and have an agent and/or editor ask you for your query and sample pages. Anyone whose work (or identity) fits the criteria for a given event can participate.
During a pitch party, agents and editors check out the event’s designated hashtag and “like” any pitches that intrigue them. If you get a like from an agent or publisher, congratulations—you’ve been invited to send them your query and whatever else they request. Even better, some agents and editors who are closed to queries will still participate in pitch parties and make requests.
So, do these actually work for anyone?
Oh yes. I’ve had several agent and editor requests for different manuscripts over the years. And during #SFFPit in the summer of 2019, I connected with Parliament House Press; they ultimately made an offer of publication on my novel Tidepool. I don’t know the exact stats, but plenty of writers have landed agents and publishers this way.
There’s no guarantee of success, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.
Sounds great! Soooo…what’s a pitch?
Think of the book jacket blurbs meant to entice readers, only pared way down to fit Twitter’s 280-character limit.
Here’s the Tweet that got me the request from Parliament House for Tidepool:
Gender-flipped Lovecraftian dark fantasy meets American Horror Story: Sorrow Hamilton’s search for her brother leads her to an ocean town and a deadly discovery. And the town’s denizens—human and otherwise—are hellbent on making sure Sorrow never leaves. #SFFPit #A #DF
Namechecking Lovecraft and AHS gave agents and editors an idea about what to expect. Many participants work at least one author, book, TV show, or movie into their pitches.
Although you don’t have to do this, I put my MC’s name in there because—if I do say so myself—it’s a pretty cool name that tended to make people go Ooooh! when I’d talk about the book. If there’s anything about your book you think is especially unusual or attention-grabbing, try to include it in the pitch. Anything you can do to stand out is helpful.
I also mentioned what’s motivating Sorrow (her beloved brother is missing), and the big conflict she faces in the course of the story. If you can work your MC, their goal, and the story’s stakes (what will happen if they don’t achieve their goal) into 280 characters, you’re well on your way to an effective pitch.
Because this was #SFFPit, which is for science fiction and fantasy, I added the following hashtags: #SFFPit #A #DF. #SFFPit was the pitch party itself, #A stands for adult genre (as opposed to middle grade or young adult), and #DF stands for dark fantasy, Tidepool’s particular flavor of fantasy. Those hashtags are critical; without them, agents and editors won’t see your pitch at all or know your genre or subcategory.
And yes, the required hashtags will cut even further into your already dinky 280-character limit. Sorry.
(Don’t worry: you don’t have to memorize all those letters. Pitch party homepages will list all the pertinent hashtags.)
No, crafting a Twitter pitch is not easy. Like, at all. But being able to sum up your work concisely is a skill you’re going to have to call on again and again as you look for representation and publication, and pitch parties are good practice for this.
And hey, it could be harder; the very first pitches I crafted had to fit Twitter’s old 140-character limit. Oy.
Some of the larger pitch parties offer practice days to post pitches and get feedback from other writers before the big day itself. If you are new to pitching, I strongly suggest you try these out if they’re available.
Twitter Pitch Party DOs and DON’Ts.
First and foremost, DO have a manuscript that’s revised, polished, and ready to send to an agent or an editor, and have your query and synopsis ready too. You never know what someone will want to see.
DO check out a pitch party’s homepage to see what types of works qualify and what their specific rules are.
DO create a few different pitches. Aside from the fact that Twitter won’t let you post identical Tweets, it’s a good idea to vary your pitches and note which ones get the most retweets and/or likes.
DO look at an agent or editor’s Twitter feed if they like your pitch. They’ll tell you how to submit your query and whatever other material they want to see.
(And you might even get a surprise. I was baffled when an agent who only repped MG and YA kept liking one of my adult horror pitches during #PitDark; when I checked her Twitter feed, she mentioned she was branching out into some adult genres. Glad I looked!)
DO research any agent or editor you’re considering. Nobody can control who shows up to these events, and unfortunately there’s no way to stop unscrupulous agents or editors from liking pitches. Do your due diligence, people.
DO send any agents or editors you want to work with the requested materials ASAP.
Now for the DON’Ts:
DON’T pitch agents or editors directly. They will not appreciate it.
DON’T “like” other people’s pitches; that’s for agents and editors, and it can be a letdown for writers to see that none of the likes they got were from publishing professionals. Retweeting is generally considered the best way to show support. (Personally, I’m not terribly bothered by non-agent likes. But others are, so be careful with that heart button.)
DON’T feed the trolls. Because this is the Internet and some people can’t help but suck out loud, someone might show up and snark about your pitch or use the event hashtag to Tweet verbal vomit about agents and writers in general. This doesn’t happen a lot, but if it does, block these idiots and move on.
DON’T submit to any agent or editor you don’t want to work with, whether they’re legit or not.
DON’T despair if your pitch gets no likes. Twitter pitch parties are extremely popular—and busy. Agents and editors can’t possibly see all the pitches that go flying by, and a lack of likes doesn’t mean your novel is hopeless.
And that leads me to my final point:
DON’T substitute Twitter pitch parties for cold querying. Some agents and editors don’t participate in pitch parties at all, and even the ones who do are never going to be able to catch everything they might be interested in.
I’ve been bad about that in the last couple of years, and in 2020 I’ve resolved to get better. I’ll still be a pitch party animal as I search for an agent, but I’ll supplement it with plenty of traditional querying.
OK, I’m sold. What pitch parties are out there?
The following is a by-no-means-exhaustive list of Twitter pitch parties throughout the year; some take place several times a year. New ones crop up all the time, and defunct ones are sometimes resurrected. Hope you find at least one that suits your work.
#PitMad: For all writers and genres. I don’t know if this was the first pitch party, but it’s definitely one of the biggest.
#DVPit: For self-identifying, historically marginalized and underrepresented authors & illustrators.
#PitDark: For literature with a dark bent. (Not surprisingly, I really like this one.)
#SFFPit: For works of science fiction and fantasy.
#KissPitch: For works of romance or women’s fiction.
#IWSGPit: Hosted by the Insecure Writers Support Group; I don’t believe there are any genre limitations.
#FaithPitch: For works of Christian fiction and nonfiction.
#PBPit: For picture books.
Good luck! If you have any questions or something to add, please let me know in the comments or visit me on Twitter, where I go by @insomnicole. If you want to read more writing from me, please sign up for my mailing list. I won’t spam you, but you will get a short story of mine just for signing up!
Thanks, and happy pitching.