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. Does it have a history of success? Have good agents signed on? There’s no reason to throw out your idea to get one like from a schmagent. And contest fatigue is real. Your pitch has impact in about 2 events- choose wisely.
Next, make sure to check the rules for the specific contest you’re interest in. Some allow retweets, some don’t. All have a limit on number of pitches. Don’t spam. Some are open to all works, others limit participants. They do all have one thing in common: you have to 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!
It may seem daunting, but good pitches are actually 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:
This is 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…
Given the limited characters, try to simplify as much as possible. 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- then focus on what keeps the two people apart. Sometimes with thrillers 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.
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. Never put your own title in your pitch.
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 + SIX OF CROWS (world, then plot) To save her magical traveling circus, 16yo acrobat Lila must steal a cursed gem from the rival DeBerry’s (character and conflict). But Hal DeBerry is the love of her life. Lila will have to choose steal her future or lose 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 19 years old, & you want to show you read in your genre. A book that spent a couple of weeks on the NYT but wasn’t THE HUNGER GAMES is a good bet. Ideally within the last 3 years.
Movies or TV series or plays are fine, but it’s a little weird when neither is a book. One comp works just fine if it’s a gay Romeo & Juliet or a diverse Pride & Prejudice.
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.
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.