Writing a fantasy or science fiction novel is hard enough. Now, try pitching it in a single tweet. That’s the challenge set forth by #SFFpit, a twice-annual Twitter pitching contest.
Unlike Brenda Drake’s #PitMad, this contest is only for works of fantasy or science fiction. All age categories (PB, MG, YA, NA, and adult) are welcome. The last #SFFpit was February 24th, 2022. The next event has not yet been scheduled, but would likely be in August 2022.
• For Agents & Editors
• Pitch Rules for Authors
• When to Pitch
• What to Pitch
How to Pitch
• Hashtags for Age Category
• Hashtags for Genre
• Other Hashtags
• Pitching Guidelines
Tips & Advice
• Do’s and Don’ts
Want to Say Thanks?
What to Expect from #SFFpit
So You Got A Request. Now What?
• How to Vet Agents and Editors
Past #SFFpit Events
Statement Regarding the 16th #SFFpit
Statement from Dan Koboldt and Mike Mammay, co-hosts of #SFFpit
Today (February 24th, 2022) we hosted the 16th #SFFpit Twitter pitching event for SF/F authors, agents, and editors. We began planning this event weeks ago, and had no way to know that it would occur in the wake of multiple distressing developments here in the US and in Ukraine.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine and their families.
When the news broke, we considered trying to cancel, but ultimately decided that it was too late, as people participate from multiple time zones and often schedule pitches ahead of time, making it almost impossible to stop on short notice. Some have asked if we will extend the event. We do not think that benefits anyone; the news tomorrow is unlikely to create a better environment for a pitch event.
We will discuss the possibility of adding a duplicate event in a couple of months, but we don’t want to rush into that until we have time to reflect.
We applaud authors and agents who participated anyway, just as we empathize with those who were not able to under the circumstances. Be good to one another.
-Dan and Mike
The contest will happen on Twitter under a common hashtag (#SFFpit). During a 10-hour window on the chosen day, authors with completed manuscripts who are seeking representation or publication can tweet a pitch for their books (at most, once per hour).
Agents and editors will make requests by marking pitches as a favorite on Twitter. If your tweet is favorited, please follow the agent or editor’s submission guidelines. Throughout the day, we will have authors, agents, editors, and other folks stopping by on the hashtag to say hello. To make sure you know what’s happening, please sign up for my mailing list or follow me on Twitter.
Thank you for your interest in #SFFpit! All literary agents and acquiring editors of science fiction / fantasy are welcome to participate. Here’s a quick cheat-sheet for how to participate:
- Read pitches by searching for #SFFpit on Twitter. You can also include age category or genre hashtags in your search to narrow it down. To exclude a hashtag, put a minus (-) in front of it. So “#SFFpit #A #SF” would return adult sci-fi pitches, and “#SFFpit #FA -#MG” would return non-MG fantasy pitches.
- Be sure to click the “Latest” tab if you’re searching on Twitter, to see all tweets in real-time instead of “top” tweets. A Twitter client like HootSuite or Tweetdeck is recommended.
- Please tweet your submission guidelines on the #SFFpit hashtag when you arrive, so authors know how to respond to your request.
- Make requests by hitting the Like button (A.K.A. favorite) on pitches where you’d like to see a query/partial.
Please feel free to make requests after the event ends, or even the next day. Authors love getting late requests. Thank you for participating!
Last year, in response to agent feedback, we made some changes to the guidelines for this contest, like a shorter window and discouraging retweets by participants. That seemed to hurt the contest, so we’re going to compromise. These guidelines are current for 2020 event:
Please follow these guidelines to keep this event fair to everyone involved!
This event happens twice per year. The actual dates are chosen based on agent availability, and announced a weeks in advance. On pitch day, we usually go from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern. That’s a shorter window than usual, for the following reason.
Participants get 10 tweets total for the event. That’s one tweet per hour. This is a new rule, and designed to help reduce the flood of pitches for agents and editors.
This contest is for completed, unpublished novels of fantasy or science fiction. Complete means that it’s proofed, polished, and ready for submission. Unpublished means you haven’t self-published it online, on Amazon, or in print. Fantasy or science fiction means speculative fiction: epic fantasy, urban fantasy, post-apocalyptic, space opera.
Genre mashups, such as sci-fi romance, are welcome, as long as you’re not just trying to pass off your non-SFF book as something that it’s not. The agents and editors we’ve invited are primarily interested in fantasy and/or science fiction.
Your pitch should contain four elements:
- First and foremost, the hashtag for the contest, #SFFpit.
- An indication of the book’s age category. If you don’t provide it, we’ll assume adult.
- An indication of the books’s genre in existing terms. See below for hashtags.
- A pitch for your book. Ideally, it should tell us character, desire, obstacle(s), and stakes.
You should tweet your pitch no more than 10 times throughout the day. Make sure each tweet is slightly different, as tweeting identical text is a violation of Twitter’s guidelines.
Please use these hashtags to indicate the target age group for your book:
- #PB – Picture book
- #CB – Chapter book
- #MG – Middle grade
- #YA – Young adult
- #NA – New adult
- #A – Adult
Please use a hashtag to indicate the genre of your book. Because everything’s going to be fantasy or science fiction, I’d like to allow some subgenre tags as well:
- #FA – fantasy
- #CF – contemporary fantasy
- #DF – dark fantasy
- #EF – epic or high fantasy
- #FR – fantasy romance
- #HF – historical fantasy
- #LF – literary fantasy
- #AH – alternate history
- #MYF – mythic fantasy
- #SNS – sword & sorcery
- #PN – paranormal
- #UF – urban fantasy
- #MR – magical realism
- #SFY – science fantasy
- #SF – science fiction
- #AF – apocalypse fiction
- #CliFi – climate / climate change fiction
- #CP – cyberpunk
- #LSF – literary science fiction
- #ML – military science fiction
- #PA – post-apocalyptic SF
- #PNR – paranormal romance
- #SFR – sci-fi romance
- #SFT – sci-fi thriller
- #SH – superhero / superhuman
- #SO – space opera
- #DS – dystopian
- #SP – steampunk
- #TT – time travel
- #WW – weird west
Feel free to use two genre tags, as long as they’re compatible (e.g. #FA #DF), but there’s no pressing need to have more than one. For a description and some examples of these subgenres, see the SF/F Subcategories post by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary. Please let me know — by e-mail or Twitter — if I haven’t specified your subgenre!
We have followed #PitMad’s lead in detailing additional hashtags that authors may wish to use:
- #BVM = Black Voices Matter (to be used by black creators)
- #POC = Author is a Person of Color
- #OWN = Own Voices
- #IMM = Immigrant
- #LGBT = LGBTQIA+ subject matter
- #IRMC = Interracial/Multicultural subject matter
- #MH = Mental Health subject matter
- #DIS = Disability subject matter
- #ND = Neurodiverse subject matter
Here are some general guidelines to ensure fairness and respect during the contest.
- Pitch completed, unpublished novels that represent your best work.
- Include the contest hashtag, #SFFpit.
- Use appropriate hashtags for age category and genre/subgenre.
- Pitch your book at least once an hour to give everyone a chance to see it.
- Make sure that your tweets are not identical. Twitter will block multiple instances of the same tweet, to be sure to move the hashtags around or change a character each time.
- Follow submission guidelines. Scroll up in an agent or editor’s tweets to see what they are, and be sure to follow them.
- Research before submitting. We have no control over who shows up to make requests. Twitter pitching events often attract new, inexperienced agents and publishers. Before you submit materials to anyone, do some digging on places like the Absolute Write forums and SFWA’s Writer Beware. Check agent/agency sales on Publisher’s Marketplace. Do your frickin’ homework, please!
- Pitch more than the limit. This ensures that no one spams the hashtag, and gives everyone a fair shake.
- Pitch directly to agents or editors. In other words, don’t use @ at the beginning of your pitch.
- Use weird formatting or images to get attention. No ALL CAPS or multiple lines. These are annoying.
- Use the hashtag to self-promote. This is not the place to hock your e-book, editorial services, etc.
- Like/favorite other pitches, unless you’re an agent or editor. There’s nothing more disappointing than getting notification that your tweet was favorited, only to find out it was just another author.
I am not an expert on Twitter pitching, but I can pass along some good advice from past contests:
- The best pitches tell us about the character, desire, obstacles, and the stakes.
- Start working on your pitches ahead of time. Get some feedback.
- Try at least a few different wordings or versions of your pitch during the contest. We like variety!
- Specific consequences or stakes (“Or his little brother will be executed”) are better than vague ones (“Or things will never be the same”).
- Show off your writing ability. Saving a few characters with “texting” abbreviations (gr8, 4ever, 2 instead of “to”) is probably a bad idea.
I’d also recommend you check out these places for Twitter pitching advice:
- My brief guide to Twitter pitching
- How to PitMad by Heather Burnell on Sub It Club.
- My podcast appearance with Dan Bensen on pitching contests.
- How #PitMad Helped Me Get A Literary Agent and tips for the next one, by Diana Urban.
- My article on 9 ways to get ready for #SFFpit.
I do this to give back to the author community, so no thanks are necessary. Still, I wouldn’t mind if you decided to check out the book based on my blog series that was published by Writers Digest. Putting the Science in Fiction contains 59 chapters — plus a foreword by NYT bestselling author Chuck Wendig — written by a range of experts. Or you can pre-order the companion volume, Putting the Fact in Fantasy, which comes out May 3rd, 2022.
Both of these reference books have the same goal: to help you write more realistic and compelling stories.
Unfortunately, I can’t promise much to the authors, agents, and editors who participate in #SFFpit. I can tell you that it’ll be fun, and that participating might help authors improve their craft and query. Nevertheless, Twitter pitching contests are not a secret entrance to literary representation. In my guest post on #PitMad numbers for Brenda Drake, I estimated that the odds of success (having your pitch favorited by an agent or editor) were around 6%.
Pitching contests do work. So if you’re looking for representation or publication, please join us… you have nothing to lose, except for a few hours on Twitter. Let’s be honest, you were probably going to be on Twitter anyway.
So you got a request in #SFFpit or some other pitching contest. Congratulations! Now what?
Step 1: Celebrate!
Your pitch resonated for someone, and in a contest that routinely draws thousands of hopeful authors, this is something to take pride in. We rarely take time to enjoy the little successes in the author journey.
Step 2: Take a breath.
There is no time limit on responding to a request in pitching contests. You don’t need to send materials right away. If it were me, I’d wait at least a day. Better yet, a few days so that you can do some research.
Step 3: Decide how to proceed.
Remember that a request during #SFFpit is simply that: a request. You’re not obligated to respond to it unless doing so makes sense to you. In fact, there are a number of reasons why you might not want to respond. For example:
- You’ve already queried the agent. With most agents, you get one shot and a pitch request does not change this.
- You queried a different agent at the same agency. Many agencies have a policy that you may only query one agent. Check their submissions policies before proceeding.
- The request is from a publisher, but you want a literary agent. Generally speaking, these represent two different paths to publication. The publishers who come to #SFFpit tend to be small presses. You won’t need an agent, nor are you likely to get one to represent such a deal. If you want a major publisher for your book, you have to get an agent first.
- The request is from an unknown or problematic party. Anyone can claim to be a literary agent or acquiring editor. Verify these claims before submitting.
Step 4: If you decide to submit, follow the instructions and mention #SFFpit.
Most agents and editors will tweet their submission guidelines on the hashtag, or link to them in their profile. Follow those instructions precisely. Be sure to mention somewhere that you’re responding to a request from #SFFpit, and include the pitch that got the request.
Always do your homework before sending materials to someone. The first thing you should do is check Writer Beware, a list of predatory agents/editors/small presses maintained by SFWA.
For agents, use resources like QueryTracker and AgentQuery to collect information about their category/genre preferences, query response time, current clients, etc. You might also peruse Publishers Marketplace or the agency website to learn if the agent has sold any books like yours, and to whom.
For editors/publishers, start at the publisher’s website to learn about their history, the type of books they publish, how they publish, and (if disclosed) the terms they offer. Use Amazon’s Advanced Book Search to find books from the publisher. Compare these to website claims. Personally, I also check the number of reviews for titles that have been out more than a few months. Books with only a few reviews are not reaching a wide audience.
Last but not least, I’d recommend you peruse the Absolute Write forums which will probably have an entry for the agent/agency or publisher. It’s a good way to learn what other authors have experienced with them.
• Who Came to #SFFpit
• The Winners of #SFFpit
The Second #SFFpit (December 9, 2014)
• Aftermath of the Second #SFFpit
The Third #SFFpit (June 18, 2015)
• Do’s and Don’ts of #SFFpit
The Fourth #SFFpit (December 10, 2015)
The Fifth #SFFpit (June 2016)
The Sixth #SFFpit (December 8, 2016)
• The Sixth #SFFpit Report at Mike Mammay’s blog
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