Hey there- whether you’re here for #Pitmad, #DVPit, or any of the Twitter pitching contests- congratulations! You wrote a book! And you already have a leg up by looking for help.
First things first- vet the contest. Have good agents signed on? There’s no reason to throw out your idea to get one like from a schmagent.
Next, your pitch has impact in about 2 events- choose wisely and make sure you’re ready (your book is complete, revised, & polished).
Now, check the rules for the contest you’re interest in- number of pitches, ability to retweet. Don’t spam. Some are open to all works, others limit participants. But they all make you squeeze your 80,000 word book into 280 characters or less.*
**Even though you can go to 280, doesn’t mean you have to, or should. Less is more!**
Good pitches are based on a simple formula of expressing: character, conflict, and stakes. This is the same whether it’s for querying or Twitter. So let’s break this down:
Your MC. If you have more than one narrator, focus on the main MC or list out something like- four friends, a vampire motorcycle gang, whatever binds your characters together. Try to use your MC’s name. What makes them special? Be as specific as possible. Compare which one has more interest: a girl vs. 16yo acrobat Lila.
This is why you wrote the story- the plot, the overarching concept distilled into a few words. What does your MC have to do? What’s wrong in their world? It can be phrased as a choice, a problem, or an action.
So: 16yo acrobat Lila must choose between…
16yo acrobat Lila’s has a problem…
16yo acrobat Lila’s world is turned upside down when…
Try to simplify down to a logline. Too many plot points wind up confusing.
This is why the MC can’t just walk away and make a sandwich. What binds the character to the issue? What happens if she fails? Be as specific as possible. Sometimes this is implied with a genre like romance- in romance focus on what keeps the two people apart. How does the hero complicate the heroine’s life? Sometimes with thrillers/suspense/horror it’s as simple as- or she’ll be next.
Compare: she’ll lose everything vs. her family will lose their traveling circus. Save the world vs. Rescue her boyfriend
Use Comp Titles when appropriate
I’m a big fan of comps. The right ones can hook an agent quickly and it shows you’re well-read in your genre.
First the basics: make sure you have READ THE COMP. It is very obvious when your pitch doesn’t match the comp.
Second: make sure your comp titles are in ALL CAPS at the beginning of the tweet. Reasonable abbreviations are fine. Don’t put your own title in your pitch- it’s a waste of space.
I strongly recommend at least one if your work is SFF. It’s really difficult to squeeze a whole world into a tweet. I think it’s best to go with a comp that is similar to your setting + one similar to your overall characters or conflict.
So putting it all together: THE NIGHT CIRCUS + THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS (world, then plot) To save her magical traveling circus, 16yo acrobat Lila must sabotage DeBerry’s carnival (character and conflict). But as she works for her family’s rival she falls for Hal DeBerry. Lila will have to choose between losing her circus or her heart (stakes) #Dvpit
Stay away from mega-international hits that define genres. Do you realllllly want to comp to HARRY POTTER or TWILIGHT? Keep in mind, HARRY POTTER is 20 years old. A book that was popular but not THE HUNGER GAMES is a good bet. Ideally within the last 3 years.
*Also, agents have noted fatigue with both SIX OF CROWS and EMBER. The most eye-catching pitches lately have used books that didn’t make the NYT but sold well and are well respected.
Movies or TV series or plays are fine, but it’s weird when neither is a book. One comp works is just fine if it’s a spin on a classic. Ex: a gay Romeo & Juliet or a neurodiverse Pride & Prejudice.
Dual Narrator Templates
MC1 wants/is. MC 2 wants/is. But when [incident happens] they must [action] or [stakes]
When [incident that brings your narrators together] happens, MC1 and MC2 must [action] or [stakes]. [Note conflict between MC1 and MC2].
If it’s allowed- utilize the multiple pitches allowed to highlight different aspects of your story- so maybe two with comps and one without.
Ask someone familiar with your book if the pitch captures the essence of your story. Yes? Great. Now ask someone else who’s never read it to see if it hooks them.
In pitches without comps, try to match the tone of your work. A humorous light book’s pitch should be funny. A dark thriller should leave chills.
Lists, checklists, and voting CAN work, but it should be specific to your story. If your book is about an election, a voting template is genius. A romance? Probably not. Make sure your list builds in complexity and you’re just not typing out features of your world.
Pin your most favorited pitch and leave it up for a few days. Some agents roll through late. Some like to look once the feed stops.
Make friends. If Retweets or QTs are allowed, boost your fellow authors whose pitches you like. If not, reply. It costs you nothing and I’ve met some of my dearest writing partners through pitch events.
That’s it! Remember to go for a walk and try to keep your eyes off Twitter for a bit. Don’t forget to drink some water and relax- some books are just best as queries and that’s okay.