In anticipation of tomorrow’s #AdPit contest on Twitter, I thought it might be useful to assemble some tips about Twitter pitching contests. In case you weren’t aware, the basic premise of such contests is this:
- Authors tweet a brief (140 characters or less) teaser “pitch” for their completed manuscripts, using a common hashtag
- Agents and editors monitor the feed, and “favorite” any pitches for which they’d like to see more
- If an author’s pitch is favorited, that represents an invitation to submit according to the agent/editor’s guidelines
Here’s a step-by-step guide to preparing for, participating in, and getting the most out of a Twitter pitching contest.
Step 1: Craft Your Pitch
If you though writing a 1-2 page synopsis of your novel was difficult, wait until you try to capture its essence in 140 characters. This is not something to throw together at the last minute, but it shouldn’t require hour of practice, either. In essence, the Twitter pitch should contain the same basic elements of your query letter:
- The main character, by name or vivid description.
- The central conflict around which the plot is based.
- The stakes of success or failure by the main character.
- The age level and genre. More on that in a minute.
Also, don’t forget to add the appropriate hashtag for your contest, or those monitoring the feed won’t see your pitch.
Abbreviations for Age and Genre
Your pitch should also contain a brief tag or abbreviation indicating the reading level (age group) and genre of your novel. Depending on the type of pitching contest, these may or may not be necessary (i.e. there’s no need to specify that it’s a mystery if you’re participating in a mystery-only contest). For more general contests, such as #PitMad and #AdPit, I might suggest these abbreviations:
Step 2. Follow Contest Rules
Whoever has put in the hard work to plan, promote, and run the pitching contest will probably have laid out some ground rules. Generally, these will fall into some broad categories, such as:
- Completed manuscripts only. This is perhaps the most important rule. Please don’t use contests to “test the waters” for a new book concept; it’s a waste of everyone’s time.
- Allowed genres or age levels. Some contests are aimed at a specific reading level (e.g. #AdPit is for adult). Honor that. Likewise, don’t pitch your science fiction novel in a mystery contest.
- Pitch times and frequency. If a limit (usually 1-2 pitches per hour) is specified, please follow it. Otherwise, you’ll clog the feed. People will know, and it will hurt your chances. In the same vein, don’t start early or keep pitching past the contest’s end.
Step 3. Practice Good Contest Etiquette
Because agents, editors, and your writing peers will be watching the feed, it’s important to practice correct etiquette. Be professional, and remember that everything an agent or editor sees from you is a writing sample.
Don’t spam the feed, or use it to self-promote (your blog or your forthcoming book). Unless you are an agent or editor, don’t favorite anyone’s pitch. Few things are more disappointing than seeing an e-mail with the subject “JohnSmith favorited one of your tweets!” and getting excited before realizing that JohnSmith is just another writer who liked your pitch. Use the Retweet function instead; the meaning of that function is clear.
During #PitMad, the hashtag started trending in North America, which drew the attention of the bot-spammers. These programs issue tweets loaded with the trending hashtags to get free advertising for a link or product. If you see such activity, report it through Twitter (it’s under the “more” option).
Step 4. Connect, Encourage, and Have Fun
These contests are meant to be fun, crazy, interactive social events. You should read the feed, regardless of whether you’re participating or not. Like someone’s pitch or comment? Follow them on Twitter, or retweet their pitch. It’s an excellent (and free) opportunity to connect and make friends in the publishing community.
You can and should consider multiple versions of your pitch. Try them out (one at a time), and see if one grabs attention better than the rest. This might be a useful sign of the best pitch to use in elevators or a query letter.
Last but not least: have fun! If a Twitter pitching contest begins to feel like work, or leaves you stressed/depressed, it may not be for you.
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