I never paid much attention to Twitter. Because I never really had anything important to say and I didn’t feel like I needed to know the random thoughts of any of my friends. I signed up a few years ago so I could follow NASA during a particular mission hoping for live updates, but it was rather intrusive. Like being constantly tapped on the shoulder and handed notes while you’re in the middle of work, or dinner, or reading a book, or whatever. I turned it off.
However now I am a writer with a finished and polished novel manuscript (mine and my daughter’s), and suddenly I am intensely interested in finding an agent. This turns out to me more work than writing the novel. And the stakes are much higher. Why? If you don’t already now, you’ll find out when it’s time.
So I have been scouring the Interwebs for any and all information/advice/lectures/tips/examples of how to write a successful query and get it into the hands of the best agent. I guess it was inevitable that I would find myself back on Twitter.
The key to making the whole Twitter thing work is hashtags. These “#” things. We used to call them “the pound sign.” You know, back when “.” was called a period, not a “dot.” Hashtags are like keywords for facilitating searches, only the hashtag has been adopted as the key to a universal keyword system — it works for almost all social media (all that I know of) — Twitter, Facebook, LinkeIn, Tumbler, YouTube, WordPress, the list is both endless and daunting. I discovered the power of the hashtag when I started posting these blog posts on my Facebook page and in my LinkedIn groups. You want to hear some advice on how to query your book? Search #QueryTips. This is a big one on Twitter; agents and writers post tidbits of advice and links to their sites with more information. Then I discovered #MSWL, which stands for “Manuscript Wish List” — agents and publishers tweet a brief description of the kind of book they are looking for. Keep an eye out on February 18th, this year.
And that’s when I discovered Pitch Madness. Pitch Madness (#PitMad) is an event held several times a year on Twitter, where on a given day for 12 hours authors post a pitch of their book — 140 characters, including the hashtag #PitMad and one indicating the genre (#YA for young adult, #SFF for science fiction & fantasy, #R for romance, etc.). Then any agent who wishes to participate (a growing number) monitors Twitter through a filter for #PitMad and “favorites” the pitches they want to see. Your tweet get a favorite from an agent, and that’s an invitation to send them your query (still according to their guidelines, but now you can mention that they requested your book during Pitch Madness). The details are here, on Brenda Drake’s website (the agent who invented this contest, I believe). The next #PitMad event is coming up on March 11, from 8am – 8pm New York time.
The advice from past events suggests you don’t post your pitch more than 2 times per hour (or you cross the line into spam territory), and that you craft your 140-word pitch in advance. Some people suggest you put together multiple versions, for variety.
I came up with four, for my daughter’s and my book, The Last Princess:
A homeschooler who sees faeries among us must abandon her dreams to stop a changeling from using his magic to rule both worlds. #PitMad #MG
When a 12yo learns she’s descended from trolls she must choose between saving her friend & using a spell to forget her heritage #PitMad #MG
A 12yo discovers a secret world of faeries among us & may become the last princess, unless a goblin w/sinister powers stops her #PitMad #MG
A girl who dreams of being the Faerie Princess learns she’s a troll. Will she be the Troll Princess or use a spell & be neither? #PitMad #MG
At two tweets per hour and a 12-hour window, that means you can pitch 24 times. And unless you have nothing else to do that day, I recommend finding one of the many websites or mobile apps that will let you pre-schedule your tweets. I found the one I use on this helpful site. My 24 tweets are written and scheduled, just in case I forget to wake up at 5am, here in California.
By the way, in case you are looking for more ways to get your query out there, check out the other pitch contests described on Brenda Drake’s site. There is also a yearly non-twitter version of Pitch Madness:
Pitch Madness is a contest held every March, where writers enter for a chance to win requests from the participating agents. Writers submit a 35-word (max) pitch and the first 250 words of their completed manuscript on submission day. Then a team of readers choose the top sixty (60) entries to go onto the agent round. The agents play a game against the other agents to win requests for more pages of their favorite entries. The best played agent request wins either a partial or full manuscript read of the entry. The game for Pitch Madness changes each event. We’ve played poker, paintball, darts, and Monopoly.
2015 Pitch Madness SORRY! Edition submission window is February 20, 2015 and the agent round is March 3-4, 2015.
There is also a contest called Pitch Wars:
What is Pitch Wars? Is it another contest? Oh, no, it’s so much better. Pitch Wars is a contest where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents. The mentors also critique the writer’s pitch to get it ready for the agent round. Mentors also pick one alternate each in case their writer drops out of the contest. Writers send applications (query and first chapter of manuscript) to the four mentors that best fit their work. The mentors then read all their applications and choose the writer they want to mentor for the next two months. Then we hold an agent round with over a dozen agents making requests. Look for my upcoming blog post for more information coming at the end of July, 2014.
2015 Pitch Wars submission window will open August 17. We’ll announce the mentors’ picks on September 2, and the agent round is November 3-4.
I feel like participation in these contests will give us a much better chance of getting our story in front of agents actively seeking exactly the kind of story we’ve written. So wish us luck. And we hope to see you there!*
*Oh, one important piece of etiquette: if you see a pitch from a friend during #PitMad, DON’T favorite it (unless you are an agent). This will only confuse things and get your friend’s hopes up. You CAN, however, re-tweet it.