Pitch contests can be scary! Writers putting their concepts out into the wild ether of the internet, the possibility your pitch might be liked by a dream agent, the possibility no one will like it… pitch contests can move really fast and feel impossible.
But they’re nothing to be afraid of! In fact, the worst case scenario is no agent sees your pitch. And this happens a lot, because more and more writers pitch during every event. However, pitch contests are a great way to find writers who are writing similar manuscripts that you might be able to add to your bevy of critique partners and beta readers. Or just new writer friends!
Pitching your entire book in less than three hundred characters can be incredibly daunting— it’s so little space! Before you get to full freak-out mode, take a breath. There are a few main components most successful pitches have. Identify them in your manuscript, and you’re golden. (Hint: if you have Netflix, check out the tiny blurbs that they display at the top when you click through all the options. That’s what you’re aiming for.)
Comps, in my very humble opinion, are the easiest way to get across the flavor of your book. This is your heavy hitting attention grabber. You’ll use them in your queries to agents, when you go on sub, AND, for the purposes of this post, at the very tippity-top of your pitch. If you don’t know, comps are comparable titles to what you’ve written. Typically, in queries, I’d suggest comping to recent novels and authors, but for pitching, you can be more creative in your comp titles. The tone of Netflix’s LOST IN SPACE? The feeling you get when listening to FOLKLORE? Perfect. This is where you are going to VIBE with your audience.
BUT!! Beware, dear writer, the space is SO limited on a pitch, you need to really be careful and conscientious of what you pick. I’d suggest against abbreviating a super long title, because it just gets too darn confusing.
With this pitch, I wanted to hint at both the content of the book and the overall feel. Usually, comps are written in all caps, like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Your comps are the red attention grabbing flag in this metaphor. GILMORE GIRLS + HILL HOUSE would absolutely not make sense for this book, because the book is adult and has nothing to do with mothers and daughters. But my main character’s vibe is very much in tune with Lorelei Gilmore, an iconic character most agents will be familiar with. So instead of comping books, I comped a character archetype and paired it with a well-known haunted house. Check and check.
I would also caution against comping more than 2, for the sake of space. Really try to hone in on what intersection of culture your book sits at and get creative with it. But not so creative no one will know what you’re talking about.
Creative, but mercenary.
Keep it SIMPLE! Try to keep it down to one or two main characters on the pitch. But Brittany!!! You scream, I have six POV characters!
Calm down, George R.R. Martin, that’s fine. Pick your favorite, the most compelling, and pitch the book based on their arc. If it’s a heist book with a found family, try and hit at the essence of what this single-minded group wants.
Trust me. You do not want to muddy the pitch. The key is to be clear and concise and hook an agent or thirty.
Okay. You’ve got your character(s) picked. Now, write a short, clear sentence or two and tell me what they want or what their issue is. If you can add voice to this first sentence, you’re gold. Punchy verbs.
Make your word choice do the work.
Now that we, the reader, knows who were rooting for and why, twist the screws. What’s at stake if they mess it up? Try to avoid THE WORLD WILL END! Maybe that IS what at’s stake. But why does that character care? The more personal you can make HUGE stakes, the hookier your pitch will be. Is hookier a word? It is now.
Despite the fact typing out the word hashtags makes me feel a hundred years old, doing research on how to best utilized your remaining characters is important. I suggest combing through old contest tweets and looking at what hashtags did well. Definitely make sure you tag your book’s age group (aka #a #ya #mg #pb) and the overall genre (aka #r #cr #sff etc.) If you need more hashtags//the pitch wars sanctioned ones, check out their list on their site.
Let your Twitter community know you’re going to be pitching! Tweet leading up to the contest that you plan on pitching to let people know to look out for your stuff. Contests that allow retweets from friends are great, because the more people that comment and retweet, the greater your reach within the Twitter algorithm. Don’t ask me to go into more detail because, y’all, I cannot. Day of, send your tweets to your friends (who you feel comfy doing this with!) in their dms, politely ask for a boost! There is nothing wrong with this. When your book sells, you’re going to have to ask for blurbs, do self promotion, so this is a great opportunity to get used to advocating for yourself. Retweet and comment on theirs! It’s such a fun way to support other writers.
That said, please don’t dm random people you’ve never interacted with to boost. Don’t do that.
There are no guarantees during Twitter pitch parties. You could have a killer pitch and a killer book and get no likes. It happens ALL the time. Twitter contests are great, but there is a massive amount of luck involved. You’ve got three shots at pitching a book throughout one day, and there are thousands of writers doing the same thing.
It is VERY MUCH LUCK.
And y’all, COLD QUERYING WORKS. I got super lucky during the last pitmad contest and my pitches did really well. But the agent I signed with? She didn’t participate. I had already been querying for two weeks before pitmad! But it’s a great way to tailor a list of people you plan to query, as well as gin up interest in your writing and find more writer friends.
Plus, it’s really fun.
If you’re planing to pitch soon or working towards it, I wish you the best of luck!
(And if this advice doesn’t work for you and you disagree with it completely, AMAZING. Do your own thing!)