06 February 2019

Participating in Twitter Pitch Contests

I participated in #SFFpit (a pitch contest for science fiction and fantasy books) on January 30th. Twitter pitch contests happen on certain dates during a specified time window and allow for tweets every hour or two. For a list of upcoming Twitter pitch contests, check this great calendar out:

All of the pitch contests allow for only specific genres of manuscripts. #PitMad is one that’s open to all types of books. For all of the contests you must have an unpublished, complete, full-length book to pitch. You’ll want to have a query letter template and synopsis ready to go.

January 30th’s #SFFpit allowed authors to use all 280 characters for crafting their pitches. Some contests still allow for only 140 characters, Twitter’s old character limit. It’s important to check out the complete contest rules before participating in any pitch contest. You’ll be able to find those using the hashtags when it gets closer to time for the contests. #SFFpit is hosted by Dan Koboldt, and #PitMad is hosted by Brenda Drake, so check out their profiles and follow them. They are super helpful!

You’ve got 140 or 280 characters for your pitch, and it has to include a lot of information. You need to introduce your main character. Using a description is better than using a name, as the name doesn’t give the agent/editor much to go on, but a description, such as “bipolar ninja,” paints a picture. Include the character’s goal or conflict. Also, tell the agents/editors what the obstacles are to the character achieving the goal or overcoming the conflict. Finally, what are the stakes if the character fails? Be specific about the stakes. “Or the world will never be the same” doesn’t tell an agent/editor as much as “or her family will die.”

Be sure to use active verbs and show off your writing skills as best you can within your pitch. Pitching is not the time for emojis, Twitter abbreviations, or ALL CAPS. Avoid using questions. Asking questions in your pitch weakens it since the answer is always “yes.”

In addition to your pitch, you have to include the hashtag, a genre tag, and an age group tag. This last #SFFpit also allowed us to include a subgenre tag and the following additional tags:
My tags for this #SFFpit were: #SFFpit #DS #SFT #A (Adult Dystopian Sci-fi Thriller)

  • #POC = People of Color
  • #OWN = OwnVoices
  • #LGBT
  • #IRMC = Interracial/Multicultural

But all of your tags have to fit in your tweet, plus your pitch, so you have to choose your words carefully. In addition, Twitter doesn’t let you post identical pitches, so you need to prepare a few, and then you can vary them by moving the tags around. For #SFFpit I did 5 different pitches and did 2 different variables of each pitch, for a total of 10 tweets - one per hour. I set my tweets up on Hootsuite so I didn’t have to manually send a tweet out every hour. There are other social media scheduling tools out there too:

Prior to the contest, agents and editors will usually send out a tweet using the contest’s hashtag telling you what they want you to send them if they “favorite” your tweet. If not, check out their website and follow the submissions guidelines you find there. Favorites, likes, hearts - whatever you choose to call them - should come only from participating agents and editors. If you would like to support an author or really like someone’s pitch, you can retweet that pitch so it has a better chance of being seen.

Agents and editors may “like” your pitch late that evening or the next day, so it’s not necessarily over when the contest ends. If you receive a “heart” on one of your pitches, be sure and research the agent/editor. You’re not obligated to send your materials to them; it’s merely an invitation to do so.

On January 30th I had several of my pitches retweeted by supportive tweeps, and I had one “favorite” by an editor. I consider both to be signs of success. I thanked my supporters and the host of the contest. I researched the editor and felt good about what I found, so I sent VIVOS and the other requested materials off the next day. The editor very kindly sent an email acknowledging that he’d received my submittal. I love it when they do that!

If you have an unpublished, complete manuscript I encourage you to participate in an upcoming Twitter pitch contest. It’s good practice for creating short pitches. You get to interact with other authors. You may have the opportunity to send your work off to an agent or editor, and it’s not unsolicited - you’ve been invited to send it in. It’s one more avenue on the journey to publication. There have been some Twitter pitch contest success stories, authors who have become published because they put in the time and effort to enter a Twitter pitch contest. You could be next!