Posts Tagged ‘#PitchSlam’

My Annual Pitch Contest Calendar now has a permanent home!
See the menu at the top of the page.


Okay, kids – get your Twitter pitches, 35-word pitches, queries, and first 250 words shined up and ready.  Here’s a breakdown of the pitch contests coming up in 2016.

If you’re new to the concept, these are contests for authors with complete, polished manuscripts who are seeking representation by an agent and/or an editor.  These contests are fierce and popular, and the competition is strong and numerous.  But there are several advantages to entering:

1) Putting yourself out there. If you’re new to querying and not sure how to begin, or nervous about exposing your work to strangers, this is a good way to dip your toe in the raging whitewaters of the publishing world.

2) Getting feedback on your presentation.  Theses contests are all about those fiddly bits you use as bait to lure an agent or editor.  It is assumed your book is already finished, edited, beta’d, revised, and polished. You know – what you thought was the hard part. What you may not have as thoroughly vetted and sparkly are your query (including your all-important 35-word pitch) and the first 250 words (roughly the first page) of your manuscript.  These will make or break your first impression.  Even the perfect agent who was born to fall in love with your manuscript will never read it if you don’t hook her with your query and the first page of your manuscript.  Most of these contests have built-in feedback rounds or swarms of freelance editors offering free advice to contestants.

3) Networking with other writers, agents and editors in your genre.  Even if you don’t “win” (I’ve been doing this for a year, and I never have – and neither have most published authors), you will meet other contestants and judges, as well as participating editors and agents.  Most of these contests exist in the Twittersphere (or at least have a corresponding hashtag where those who have enetered can commiserate while they wait for the results).  Follow these hastags and be part of the running conversations.  You will meet other writers with books similar to yours, querying in the same genres.  You will meet agents looking for books like yours in your genre.  You will meet the judges, who are often fellow writers and past contest winners.  You are bound to make new friends and valuable contacts.

One last thing before I get to the list: In case you don’t know what a Twitter Pitch Party is, it is an event – usually lasting 12 hours – where you are invited to pitch your manuscript right on Twitter using a specific hashtag plus one for your book’s genre. Agents are well aware of these contests, and follow them eagerly. If they like a pitch they will favorite it, and that is your invitation to send them a query.  #PitMad is the most well-known and popular of these (and it happens four times a year).  So, to be clear, you must pitch your book using only a total of 140 characters INCLUDING “#PitMad” (or whatever) and one or more category/genre tags:

#PB = Picture Book

#CB = Chapter Book

#ER = Early Reader

#MG = Middle Grade

#YA = Young Adult

#NA = New Adult

#A = Adult

#SFF = Science Fiction / Fantasy

#UF = Urban Fantasy

#CF = Contemporary Fantasy

#HistFic/#HistFan = Historical Fiction / Historical Fantasy

#R = Romance

#Myst = Mystery

#WF = Women’s Fiction

#NF = Non-fiction

#Mem = Memoir

#LF = Literary Fiction

It is important that you read and follow the rules for these, and practice good contest etiquette: Usually only pitch twice per hour, never favorite another writer’s pitch (that is how agents request queries!), etc.

So, without further ado, here is the 2016 calendar of pitch contests.  Some of these have not been officially announced as of this posting, but I will update this post as more information (and more contests) are announced.  Good luck!

February 1: Sun vs. Snow
Character question + query + first 250 words of your manuscript. Open to the first 200 entries received. 15 entries chosen for each team (Sun and Snow). Teams work with authors to polish their entries before posting for the Agent Round.

February 3: #Pit2Pub
Twitter Pitch Party

February 11: #PitMatch
Twitter Pitch Party WITH A TWIST!  #PitMad + #MSWL = #PitMatch.  Between 1pm and 4pm EST, three teams will scour the #MSWL (Manuscript Wishlist) feed and the #PitMatch twitter pitch party, and make matches between what agents want and what writers pitch.  The teams compete for points to see which team gets the most agent requests. Only ONE pitch per manuscript.

February 11: #PBPitch
Twitter Pitch Party – Picture Books only

February 15 – March 7: #SonofAPitch
Query + first 250 words of your manuscript. Three rounds of comments, ending with 50 being chosen for the Agent/Editor/Publisher round the week of February 29.

February 26 – March 11: Pitch Madness
35-word pitch + first 250 words of your manuscript. Team chooses 60 to move on to the Agent Round, March 9-11.

Early March (TBD): Post-it-Forward
35-word pitch workshop

March 5 – April 22: #P2P16 (Pitch to Publication)
Multiple rounds, beginning with authors sending query + first 5 pages to 4 editors (out of 15 participating). Editors will each pick one author to work with on a full manuscript edit, to get their query and ms ready for the agent round, on April 18.

March 7: #SonofAPitch
Twitter Pitch Party

March 17: #PitMad
Twitter Pitch Party

April 1: #AdPit
Twitter Pitch Party – Adult books only

April 1: #KidPit
Twitter Pitch Party – Children’s books only (Picture Books, Early Readers, Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult)

April 1: #NestPitch Not this year; returning in 2017
35-word pitch + Easter character question + first 300 words of your manuscript. Winners posted for agent review.

April 19: #DVpit
Twitter Pitch Party – created to showcase pitches about and especially by marginalized voices. This includes (but is not limited to): people of color; people living and/or born/raised in underrepresented cultures and countries; disabled persons; people with illness; people on marginalized ends of the socioeconomic, cultural and/or religious spectrum; people identifying as LGBTQIA+; and more.

April 24: #FicFest (Check for details starting March 20)
FicFest is open to all finished manuscripts and all genres for Children’s Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult. In this contest, each category will have three teams. Teams will be made up of a Team Lead and two team members, who will pick three finalists and one alternate per team. This ensures that forty-five manuscripts will move on to the agent round, with fifteen manuscripts being held as alternates in case one of the finalists drops out of the contest. Once the finalists are chosen, they will work with their teams on revisions for 8 weeks before the agent round. During the agent round, participating agents will be able to request partial/fulls from the manuscripts they want to see. There is no bidding, and no competition for agents. They can request whatever intrigues them, giving everyone a huge opportunity to get requests and hopefully an agent for their manuscript. More rules, regulations, and details will be posted via the host and team lead blogs as the contest begins!

Mid-May (TBD): QueryKombat
64 kombatants in a single-elimination tournament style query-off. Entries will go head-to-head in six rounds until only one entry remains. Agents look at winners of each elimination.

June 9: #PitMad
Twitter Pitch Party

June 16: #PBPitch
Twitter Pitch Party for Picture Books ONLY.

June 23: #SFFPit
Twitter Pitch Party for Si-Fi and Fantasy books ONLY, for all age groups.

July 1-3: #70Pit16
Submit the 70th (or 69th) page of your manuscript ONLY.

August 1: #AdPit
Twitter Pitch Party – Adult books only

August 3: Pitch Wars
Published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each, read their entire manuscript, and offer suggestions to shine it up for agents over a 2-month period.

September 7: #PitchSlam
Round One – Entrants submit their 35 word pitch to receive feedback.
Round Two – Entrants submit their first pages (first 250 words) to receive feedback.
Round Three – Entrants submit both their pitches and first pages together. These entries provide the pool for team selections.
Round Four – The selected entries are posted for agents to request materials.

September 8: #PitMad
Twitter Pitch Party

October 22: #P2P16 (Pitch to Publication)
Multiple rounds, beginning with authors sending query + first 5 pages to 4 editors (out of 15-20 participating). Editors will each pick one author to work with on a full manuscript edit, to get their query and ms ready for the agent round.

December 1: #PitMad
Twitter Pitch Party

Early December (TBD): St. Nicholas Day 1st 150 Workshop
Open to Picture Books and Middle Grade

December (TBD): #PitchMAS
Pitch workshop and Twitter Pitch Party

Check out the 2017 Pitch Contest Calendar, now live (this is a link).


Okay, fellow pitchers: if you’re ready to pitch your manuscript (meaning it’s beta-tested and polished, and you’ve got your query letter and synopsis ready), here is a run-down of some contests you can enter in the coming weeks. These are necessarily the best way to get your work in front of an agent (as competition is FIERCE), but many successful writers found their agent match this way. More than anything, these give you an unparalleled opportunity to see your competition, see what’s working and what isn’t, and get some valuable feedback from slush readers and editors currently in the business.


5/22 – QueryKombat 2015
This year’s Kompetition is open to Adult, NA, YA, MG, and Picture Books. Enter your title, genre word kount, query and the first 250+ words of your manuscript. There are over 2 dozen agents participating, as well as many editors and readers. This kompetition is run like a single-elimination, tournament. Entries paired up based on target audience and genre will go head-to-head, round after round, starting with 64 and ultimately ending with just 1. But agents will see all entries after the first elimination – so 32 entries will get seen by agents, then 16 of those in the next round, etc.

5/27 – #KidPit
This is Twitter pitch event, where you pitch your children’s manuscript on Twitter (140 characters or less) using the hashtag #KidPit plus your age group (#BB (Board Book), #PB (Picture Book), #ER (Early Reader), #CB (Chapter Book), #MG (Middle Grade), or #YA (Young Adult) and genre (#SFF (Sci-fi/Fantasy), #ROM (Romance), #FTR (Fairy tale retelling), #MYS (Mystery), #TT (Time Travel) and so on). You can pitch up to 2 times per hour, between 8am and 8pm EST.


6/4 – #PitMad
Like #KidPit, but for all genres and categories, using the hashtag #PitMad. This one also takes place between 8am and 8pm EST, and you can pitch up to twice an hour.

6/18 – #SFFPit
A Twitter pitch event for science fiction and fantasy (including all sub-genres), for Picture Books, Middle Grade, New Adult and Young Adult. Pitch your manuscript up to 2 times per hour (exact start and end times to be announced on Dan Koboldt’s blog).

6/24 – #PBPitch
Another Twitter pitch event, this time only for picture books. Pitch manuscripts only one time before 12 pm and one time after (no time zone specified). Subgenres hashtags can be included: #F=Funny, #CD = Character Driven, #NF = Nonfiction, #C= Concept, #L= Lyrical, #I= Interactive.


7/1 – #70Pit
Despite the name, this is actually NOT a Twitter pitch event. In fact, you do not submit either your 35-word pitch, your query or nor first 250 words. For this event, you submit the 70th page of your novel. This is based on the “Page 69 Test,” which presumes that by page 69 things should really be happening, and this is often a better snapshot of your work that the first page. Different age categories will be submitted on different days over the course of a week, so each category gets equal attention.

7/3 – Pitch to Publication
The submission window is actually June 29 – July 3. Writers choose up to five freelance editors from the 20 or so participating. Each editor will pick three entries and work closely with the writer to polish their manuscript (in various stages) to get them ready for the Agent Round at the end of September. If manuscripts are chosen by agents for representation, there is a further round in October for submissions to publishers. Full details on Samantha Fountain’s blog.


8/17 – Pitch Wars
Writers send in an application (query and first chapter) to the four mentors (published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns) that best fit their work. Each participating mentor will choose one manuscript and work with the writer over the next 2 months to get them ready for the agent round, where agents will make requests from the polished entries.

I recently exposed myself, publicly.

Well, my manuscript, actually. And not precisely “publicly” – it was to a select panel of judges, who kept it among themselves. But I felt just as vulnerable and naked.

The odd thing is, I’ve eagerly pressed this full manuscript into the hands of strangers many times before now, and begged for pages of harsh feedback. And this – this was literally only 285 words. Exactly. So what made this different?

This was for a pitch contest. Two contests, actually, that ran almost simultaneously. In both cases a few dozen entries were selected from among the entrants to be ultimately showcased for a group of agents. These contests historically result in a pretty high percentage of manuscript partial and full requests from those agents. But the selection process is pretty nerve-wracking. For any of these sorts of contests there are several “teams” of editors or authors and their “slushies” or assistant readers, and they all love to tweet hints and clues about what they’re reading and what they like all during the selection process. Sometimes there are several stages of these. And if you’ve sent in your 35-word pitch and fist 250 words of your manuscript, you tend to haunt the Twitter feed, hoping to catch a tweet suggesting someone has read and liked your manuscript. “This MG fantasy has a terrific voice and such an original premise! Love it!” Well, hell, there could be thirty MG fantasies entered in the contest. It doesn’t mean anything.

Except that it totally does. You crave the validation. I mean, look, you already took a huge risk putting your newborn baby out there, exposing it to judgement by strangers and the very real – very likely – possibility of utter rejection. You’re playing the lottery with your manuscript where it seems perfectly reasonable to assume your odds are way better of getting an agent to take an interest than just blindly sending out query letters. But unlike the randomness of a lottery, these contests are won or lost by the judgement of the readers.

In many ways, the selection process is harsher than blind querying. With a query, you get to write a letter where you can craft a sales pitch and talk about the highlights of your story and your writing career. In these contests, you get a pitch and a page. And the majority of entries must be passed over. The judges will tell you over and over again that not getting chosen isn’t necessarily an indication that your pitch and story are bad. There may be three other MG Fantasy entries featuring dragons, and each team is only allowed to pick five total manuscripts. They have to chose their favorites.

The word they use more often than any other to describe this process is “subjective.” The choices are based on the feeling of the judges, not on facts. This is art. You can’t weigh and measure and analyze each entry and rank them according to some formula. They either speak to the judges or they don’t. And some entries speak louder to certain judges than others.

Our manuscript was not chosen for either contest. Lots of other people’s manuscripts were chosen. Lots of other MG Fantasies, in fact. Just not ours. And you have no choice but to accept that outcome – some of these people have been polishing their pitches and manuscripts a lot longer than you have; lots of them have entered many more of these contests than you have. Lots of people are entering their second or third book. Naturally other people are going to have manuscripts with more appeal than yours. It’s all subjective, right?

It still hurts. No point in denying it. You wouldn’t be human – or much of a writer – if you were completely emotionally detached from your creation. You get over it, because you didn’t really get your hopes up, right? You didn’t expect to win, really. So it’s okay. You’ll embrace the feedback and make your 35/250 better for the next contest. Live goes on.

But then you read some of the winning entries, and it hits you: “How did that get chosen? Who thought that was better than mine? That pitch doesn’t even make sense! And the first page – mine has way cleaner dialogue and humor.” You feel betrayed, somehow. “What’s wrong with my manuscript? What’s the fatal flaw? What has this manuscript got that mine hasn’t got?” That lovely concept of “subjectivity” just bit you on your exposed ego. It works both ways.

This is where the gift of objectivity comes in. The fact is, this manuscript appealed to this judge on this day during this particular contest for any number of reasons – maybe they chose it because of one turn of phrase, or the opening line reminded them of their own writing, or they just liked the basic premise a tiny bit more than your premise. The fact is, this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your manuscript. It doesn’t even mean yours isn’t as good. The fact is, yours may have been number six on their list. And so it is with agents and blind queries. There are a hundred reasons why a particular agent might not fall in love with your manuscript, most of them are subjective.

It’s the gift of objectivity that ultimately lets you continue to believe – to know – that your manuscript is worthy and wonderful and destined for greatness. You will continue to tweak it, of course – apply what the winners have in common.  But you will be making a good thing even better, not fixing something that is broken. The contest didn’t change our manuscript from a winner into a loser. It just showed us what one group of judges liked this week.


Around February, when we finally got the last of our beta notes back and made the last of our edits to The Last Princess, I worked up the nerve to start sending out query letters to agents. I invested in one of the online lectures available through the Writer’s Digest website — about writing query letters — and was introduced to the concept of the logline. A logline is a 2-3 sentence thumbnail of your novel which you put in the first paragraph of your query, to entice your agent-of-choice to read on. If distilling your entire novel into a one page synopsis seems daunting, then again even further into a paragraph for the body of the query letter, the logline is ten times as challenging. Because, it turns out, this is probably the single most important tool you have to interest an agent. It has to be perfect.

This was my first attempt:

A homeschooler with the ability to see fairytale creatures living among us must abandon her dreams in order to stop a ruthless changeling from using his magic to rule both worlds.

I quickly discovered the Twitter writing subculture, and immersed myself in twitter pitch contests. I don’t know which came first: the idea of the 35-word pitch or the various pitch contests that use them as your entry, but it seems that 35 words has become the industry standard for the logline, more commonly called the pitch.

Some of the things I learned were that it is important to indicate the age of your character as a way to define your book’s category. In our case, middle grade. Also, you must clearly indicate the stakes – what the main character has to loose if they make the wrong choice or fail. This led to a new version:

A 12yo with the ability to see fairytale creatures living among us must abandon her chance of becoming their princess and embrace her troll heritage to stop a ruthless changeling from dominating both worlds.

Better. But further coaching pointed out that one long sentence is difficult to follow. Better to break it up into two, or even three. And it is good to call your main character by name:

Twelve-year-old Cat sees the descendants of fairy-tale creatures living among us. To stop a ruthless changeling from dominating both worlds Cat must abandon her dream of becoming the fae princess and embrace her trollish qualities.

I got a lot of feedback on this version. Mainly people liked the premise and the set-up of the first sentence, but failed to see the connection between that and the second sentence. Why must Cat abandon her dreams of being a princess? What does “both worlds” mean? Is Cat a changeling too, since she’s both a princess and a troll? Back to the drawing board:

Because twelve-year-old Cat can see the fairy-tale creatures among us she might become their princess. But to defeat a power-hungry goblin and rescue her friend she must acknowledge her trollish heritage, crushing her princess dreams.

Getting closer. We have the MC, her age, the premise, the choice she must make and the stakes if she fails. But what would really push this over the top would be to inject some emotion into the pitch. And icing on the cake, get some “voice” in there – make this match the flavor of the book. In order to fit in the extra words needed to accomplish this I dropped the wordy reference to Cat being able to see the hidden fairy-tale creatures. While I felt this concept was key when I started this process, I now realized it was actually minor to the overall plot. Also, I was beginning to loathe the word “creatures:

Twelve-year-old Cat’s dreams come true when fairy-tale people crown her their princess. But when a power-hungry goblin kidnaps her BFF, she must embrace the anguish of her Trollish heritage and forsake princess-hood to save her.

This is the pitch I entered into #PitchSlam, another Twitter pitch contest with feedback. The coaches quite liked this one; the voice and emotion came through loud and clear. But they all felt there was too much going on. They also wanted to understand more clearly why she needed to give up being a princess. Okay, time to trade in some more words. Another thing I realized was that the bad guy was himself not as important as what he does – kidnaps Cat’s friend. So I made one last tweak:

Twelve-year-old Cat’s dreams come true when faerie folk crown her their princess. But she must embrace the heartbreak of her Trollish heritage to rescue her kidnapped BFF, and nobody wants a troll for a princess.

When I submitted this final version for comment, I was rewarded with universal praise from half a dozen people. And I am very happy with this one. I think I’ll keep it. The thing about this pitch is, when I look at it now, it seems so effortless and obvious. Like how else would I pitch my book? And that’s the reason I think I finally have a winner.

What I’ve learned about the all-important 35-word pitch is that nobody expects you to pop one out at will; they are hard and everybody knows it. That’s part of their value – to demonstrate your commitment to your book and your craft. I came up with this pithy analogy the other day, while haunting the Twitter feeds waiting for feedback: Writing a query synopsis is like building a miniature of your entire novel out of Legos. Writing a pitch is like doing that with only 35 words.

Good luck.