If you have pitched a novel in the last few years, chances are you have at least considered using a Twitter event. Pitching a manuscript to agents and editors this way is not without tribulations, and frankly it’s a bit like fishing. You’re casting your best tweet into the teeming waters of the hashtag feed and hoping an agent will drift by and take a bite.
A bite, in this case, means an agent will hit the heart, signifying they have an interest in reading your query letter and sample pages.
As with any pitching experience, you risk the sting of going home empty handed, but with Twitter your rejection is a public experience. It’s the ultimate pitching plunge; an intimidating shock, followed by hours of waiting around to see if anyone noticed your pretty little word lures.
I’m going to assume you’ve already weighed the pros and cons, and decided this is the right approach for you and your manuscript.
That means you have:
1) A finished and edited project.
2) A manuscript that is not already self-published.
3) A manuscript that is not under contact with another agent or publisher.
4) Read the pitch event rules carefully. Even if you have been in this contest before, read the rules, because rules change. Be prepared to obey the rules to the letter.
5) A query letter and a synopsis ready to accompany your sample pages should your tweet earn any favorites. You don’t want to keep an excited agent waiting.
Even with all these preparations, you still need the best tweets and just describing your book (the main character, the conflict and the stakes) may not be enough to hook an agent.
Here are a 4 more ways to help your tweets float to the top and get noticed.
1. Snag More Views with Keywords:
During these events, thousands of tweets are flooding the same stream. And few agents will even see most of them; it’s just impossible for someone to read that many pitches. Using keywords is like fishing with the right bait. Agents make use of hashtags, abbreviated genre codes, keywords and qualifiers (YA, MA, etc) to search the feed. Insuring your tweet has the proper descriptive terms won’t guarantee an agent favorite, but it might lead to an agent noticing your tweet and that’s a start. Get comfortable with hashtags, know your genre codes, and figure out what publishing terms might help distinguish your work before the contest starts.
2. Lure Readers with Your Unique Voice:
You will often hear agents say that a writer’s voice is their first clue they might be interested in the author’s work. That’s because agents and editors can help a writer fix a plot flaw, but voice is something a writer has (or doesn’t have) instinctively. Agents love finding a fresh voice and they fight to sign those with truly special voices. Pick words and phrases that give your tweets the flavor of your writing style. Whether your style features lyrical prose or lots of gore, including these aspects will help make your tweets shine. It also wouldn’t hurt to update your Twitter profile to reflect your voice, especially since that’s the first thing an agent will notice when they hover over your Twitter handle.
3. Hunt for the Quietest Pools:
There is a clear pack mentality at Twitter pitch events. Many people set their tweets up in advance and have them posted on the hour and/or on the half hour. Using an app makes sense; it’s the best way to get the largest number of allowable tweets posted during the pitch window. And it lets the writer go about daily duties uninterrupted. It also helps with all those pesky time zone issues, a common problem for many of us. However, if you can arrange your schedule to manually add your prewritten tweets, that’s the best approach. Not only can you time your tweets to appear during any natural lulls in the posting feed, but you can respond to comments in real time and up your feed ranking. This also gives you the chance to drop a tweet when agents specifically say they’re online reading pitches.
4. Pull Up Anchor and Change Tactics:
There is an accepted tweet formula for pitching (Protagonist + Conflict + Goal/Stakes) but if you have already spent a contest (or two) pitching this formula without any success, you might want to consider shifting to your antagonist’s goal for a tweet. Maybe bring in the love interest and their problems and concerns. Or include a tweet about some aspects of your subplot. Try including your comparable titles in a tweet. Never stick to the same formula if it’s not working. Including different aspects of your story in each tweet broadens your chances of making a connection with someone ready to love and champion your story.
Twitter pitching is not for everyone, but it has opened doors for many writers who have met and signed with their dream agent, or publisher as a result of the experience. Remember to do your research. There are people who use Twitter pitch events for predatory practices. No reputable agent or publisher should ever ask you to pay a reading fee. Protect yourself and your work, don’t send pages to just anyone. When in doubt, ask other writers and check websites like Predators and Editors.
There are Twitter pitches running all year long, including one of the biggest #PitMad which will take place again on September 8th.
Good luck and happy fishing.
8 thoughts on “Pitching 101: Twitter Fishing for Agents”
How did you know I’m getting ready to try my first Twitter pitch event? Perfect timing on this post. Thanks!
I love it when of our posts lands at just the right to help someone. Good luck! Let me know how the pitching goes.
Ah, if only we could all crack this mysterious formula to getting our work noticed! I have participated in just 1 Twitter pitch party to date, and that was something I stumbled on quite by chance. I hadn’t even known they were such a big thing! I think perhaps I will use some of your top tips from this post, and maybe try a few more pitch parties. Like you say, at the very least we can make new friends and learn more about our industry 🙂
With Twitter pitching I suspect part of the “mysterious formula” for getting noticed is timing and a healthy dose of luck. However, as with all pitching, at least it gets easier with practice. Good luck, and let me know how things work out for you.
These are some great tips! I’ve tried Twitter pitching a long time ago with no luck lol. A good post idea would be a list of Twitter pitch events. I’d like to try it, but I don’t know where to start. XD
There are pitch contests going on all the time. If you’re not seeing them come up in your Twitter feed, try joining some writer groups on Facebook. I’m getting updates for pitch contests all the time on Facebook. You can also check out Carissa Taylor’s blog. She runs an frequently updated list of Twitter pitch events.
Good luck! Let me know if you reel in an agent. : )
Great article, Robin 🙂
I discovered the twitter pitch party practice a couple of years ago and for about a year, I took part in many of them. I really enjoyed the experience in the begining. Now… I don’t know. I don’t really like the idea that they choose me and not the contrary. I mean, you just put your work out there, on less than 140 characters and see who bites. I just don’t like the idea that I don’t know who I’m pitching to and if that’s the right agent. It’s been more than a year since I last partecipated in a pitch party.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t disappointment. I actually had at least one request every party I took part too. This is what made me think: the requests I received, in most cases, ended up being from agent who clearly had no business with the kidn of story I write. In a cople of cases, I dind’t even send in the query.
But hey, this is my experience 😉
This said, it is an experience to do, at least once.
Trying to figure out my pitch killed me, but it also taught me how to look at my story in order to write a very short presentation. Believe me, once you’ve condenced your story in 130 characters, having 50 words to do that seems like loads 😉
It also allowe you to come in contact with many other writers who write in your same genre. Reading other writers’ pitches and getting to know them is one of the things I enjoyed the most.
I would add to your advice that following the formula isn’t very effective, though it may be easier. There are literally thousends of tweets coming up during the party window and a lot of them use the formula. It becomes repetitve after a while, so the tweets that don’t use it stand out even more.
Personally, I didn’t particularly like tweets using comp titles, because they don’t say much about the story, but they seemed to be very very popular with agents, so do use them 😉
I normally fascioned a tweet for every main character, trying to put down their arc. It helps coming up with different tweets (and normally you need at least 20), but it may lead to strange occurances. For example, one of my most appreciated tweets for my novel “Ghostly Smell Around” ended up being about a character that only appears in the backstory (though she’s a very important character nontheless).
Hey, Robi, I suppose I should shut up now. I almost writing another article.
I share many of your views on this issue. And I don’t envy the agents either, as you are so right about all the pitches starting to sound alike. As pitching methods go Twitter seems rather haphazard. However, it’s hard to argue with the successes. There are so many people who made this method work for them. I think you have a great attitude about it. Enjoy the day, make some friends, and use the experience as a learning tool. Once you figure out how to make your novel fit a tweet writing a query letter seems so easy.