SFFpit pitching contest

Images courtesy hqwide.com

Writing a fantasy or science fiction novel is hard enough. Now, try pitching it in 140 characters or less. 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 next #SFFpit will take place in December 2016.

The Basics
New Pitch Rules
When to Pitch
What to Pitch
How to Pitch
Hashtags for Age Category
Hashtags for Genre
Pitching Guidelines
Tips & Advice
Do’s and Don’ts
Want to Say Thanks?
What to Expect from #SFFpit

The First #SFFpit (June 11, 2014)
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 Basics

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.

New Pitch Rules

Some agents and editors who participate in #SFFpit, #PitMad, and other events have reported that the feed gets overwhelming. Thus, starting in December 2015, a few rules have changed:

  • Shorter window. #SFFpit will run for 10 hours (not 12), from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time.
  • Pitch limit. Participating authors get 10 pitches total. Use them wisely.
  • No retweeting. We used to encourage you to RT fellow authors’ pitches to show support. I’m sorry to say that it clogs up the feed (and probably annoys your followers, by the way).

Please follow these guidelines to keep this event fair to everyone involved!

When to Pitch

This event happens twice per year: once in June, and once in December (the actual dates are chosen based on agent availability, and announced a few months 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. This is a new rule, and designed to help reduce the flood of pitches for agents and editors.

What to Pitch

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.

How to Pitch

Your pitch should contain four elements:

  1. First and foremost, the hashtag for the contest, #SFFpit.
  2. An indication of the book’s age category. If you don’t provide it, we’ll assume adult.
  3. An indication of the books’s genre in existing terms. See below for hashtags.
  4. 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.

Hashtags for Age Category

Please use these hashtags to indicate the target age group for your book:

  • #PB – Picture book
  • #MG – Middle grade
  • #YA – Young adult
  • #NA – New adult
  • #A – Adult

Hashtags for Genre/Subgenre

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
  • #PN – paranormal
  • #UF – urban fantasy
  • #MR – magical realism
  • #SF – science fiction
  • #AF – apocalypse fiction
  • #ML – military science fiction
  • #PA – post-apocalyptic SF
  • #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!

Pitching Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines to ensure fairness and respect during the contest.

Please DO:

  • 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.

Please DON’T

  • Pitch more than 10 times. 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.
  • 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.

Pitching Tips & Advice

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:

The Rogue Retrieval by Dan KoboldtWant to Say Thanks?

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 my book The Rogue Retrieval which was published by Harper Voyager in March 2016. If a Vegas magician infiltrating a medieval world sounds like it’s up your alley, you can add it on Goodreads.

What to Expect from #SFFpit

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.

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