The Art of #PitMad

What’s #PitMad you ask? If you’re a Twitter regular, and a writer or agent, you probably already know, but for those not yet inducted into the craziness here’s the scoop: It’s a Twitter event that brings together unagented writers with agents in a big ol’ pitching frenzy. In addition to #PitMad, there’s also #Pitchmas, #KidPit, #PitchSlam and most importantly if you’re an SFF writer like me, #SFFPit.

Each of these events have their own guidelines and specifics, but they share a core concept: Pitch your completed work to agents via Twitter with the appropriate hashtag(s) during the event’s time frame in the hopes that an agent will “favorite” your pitch. A favorite is considered an invitation to query that agent (even if they are otherwise closed to queries.) In other words, they are requesting your query, and that puts your query higher up on their to-read list than an unsolicited one. This is Good.

So, does it really work? You betcha’. There are a lot of agents who follow these events, and not just newbs. Established agents are watching too. Here’s the thing– even if you have a great pitch, you have to follow through with a great query, and then a great manuscript. A favorite doesn’t guarantee representation.

That said, it has happened:

Pitmad Success Stories
How #PitMad Helped Me Get a Literary Agent (with tips!)
Twitter Pitching: Hard Nubers (with pie charts!)

The next question you must be thinking is when do these things happen? Quite frequently, actually, so don’t get all frantic if you’re not quite ready for the next one. #PitMad goes down four times a year (March, June, September, December) #Pitchmas in December, #SFFPit is twice a year (June, December.) So, don’t rush to get in on the very next one. Polish that manuscript first, then take a few days at least to write your pitches. Trust me on this, distilling your epic fantasy down to a 140 character pitch (which is really less, because you need to give up some of those to the hashtags) is super hard. In fact, spend more than a couple of days on it. Research how to write good twitter pitches, get some critiques, revise, revise, revise.

And speaking of research, here’s some Tips and Tricks:

  1. Stick to proper English grammar– I know 140 characters is a bitch, but you’re trying to impress and crafting a proper pitch that doesn’t resort to such shenanigans as U=You will make you look better.
  2. Schedule your tweets. When I used the word “frenzy” up there in the description, I meant it. You will be much less stressed if you write and schedule your tweets ahead of time.
  3. Don’t tweet the same pitch over and over. For one thing, if it’s exactly the same and you’re scheduling, Twitter will kill the duplicate. More important, different approaches in the way you craft your pitch will give you greater opportunity to grab the attention of an agent.
  4. Maximize your exposure. Use every tweet that your event allows. #PitMad and #SFFPit both allow 24 tweets, 2 per hour during the course of the 12 hour event. You may want to avoid tweeting on the hour/half-hour as they can be the busiest times.
  5. Save room for extra hashtags. Use them to further refine your genre, indicate age-range, or highlight other important info that might not be obvious in the pitch itself. For instance #SFF #alienfairytale  or #UF #Egypt. While we’re at it, make sure you know the accepted genre abbreviations for your event. During Pitmad #SFF is the only listed genre hashtag for both Sci-fi and Fantasy. You will definitely want to include additional hashtags in that case. For #SFFPit you’ll have dozens of sub-genre tags to choose from, but if your story mingles more than one genre, feel free to use more than one– just don’t go overboard, it will make it look like you don’t really know what genre you’ve written. This is Bad.
  6. Do Not direct your pitches at a particular agent. They will not appreciate it and may even block you which totally defeats the purpose. If you want a particular agent to notice you, and they don’t– just query them through the normal channels, or if that’s not an option, try again next time, and/or be happy and grateful for those agents that did notice you.
  7. Do Not use the hashtag to promote your books, give aways, or other events. Spam is bad. In fact, limit your use of the hashtag to your pitches, and to promotions of the event itself. Seriously, the hashtag feed is going to explode during the event, don’t add to the overload. A tweet or two about the event, or a question about it is fine. If you get retweets and favorites and want to thank those folks, you can do so without including the event hashtag, just @ them.
  8. If you write a fake pitch for fun (and yes, they can be entertaining) please make sure you note that it is fake. #fakepitch
  9. Share the Love. If you see an interesting pitch from someone else, retweet it (not favorite, DO NOT FAVORITE) retweets are always appreciated and it will make people happy.
  10. If you get a favorite from an agent (or publisher) rejoice and celebrate! Then get serious, this is business, after all. Investigate them thoroughly. Are they established? Who do they represent? Do they have experience repping your genre in particular? Are their complaints about them? And so on and so forth. If you don’t like what you see, don’t query that agent/publisher. A favorite is an invitation, not a command.

Now that you’re all excited to participate, let’s cover this last important bit: When You Shouldn’t Pitch.

  1. Your work is not finished. Really finished. Complete. Polished. Ready to send off at a moment’s notice if you get a request for a full. Seriously, right this second it’s ready to send. If you still need to do one last pass, don’t pitch. Instead, do that last pass and then pitch during the next event.
  2. Your work has already been picked up by a publisher. You may still want an agent, but most agents don’t want to deal with a work that has already been signed. Pitch a different work.
  3. The current PitMad event does not fit your genre– don’t pitch your Romance during #SFFPit, don’t pitch your adult novel during #KidPit.

Further reading:

#Pitmad’s Website

#SFFPit’s Website

The Ultimate Writers Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests

Controversial Advice on Twitter Pitching

Five Rules For Pitch Competition Success

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