By Melissa Uhles
Do those hashtags mean anything to you? They didn’t to me when I first saw mentions in an online writing group I was in. It turns out that Twitter is a place where there are “pitch parties” that help match writers with publishers and or agents. There are strict rules. Your manuscript must be complete and polished. You must also use the correct hashtag for the contest and genre (PB for picture book, for example). If your pitch is favorited, that means you are invited to send a query to that agent or publisher, sometimes they may ask for the first chapter as well.
When I learned about the pitch parties, they seemed like a terrific opportunity to try and pitch my book in 140 characters. But it’s wasn’t easy! I had pitched a few picture books in #PBPitch and gotten no favorites, I admit it hurt the ego a little. But I wasn’t going to give up.
I researched the publishers that starred my pitch and decided to submit to three of them. Limitless Publishing requested a full MS a few days after my submission and offered me a contract not long after that.
Here are my 10 Tips for Pitch Party Success
1. Read and follow the rules for each contest.
This will benefit you and is polite to the host, publishers and agents that are on the feed. It shows that you respect everyone’s time and effort. Check out Sub-it-Club's contest roundup for monthly updated lists of Twitter contests and links to the contest sites.
2. Don’t favorite other author’s pitches that you like.
Favoriting is only for agents and publishers in these contests. That said, these contests can provide an opportunity to connect with other writers. So, while you can’t favorite and some don’t allow you to re-tweet. You can leave a nice comment like, “sounds intriguing.”
3. Write a one sentence pitch with character and stakes
Think of the characters and what’s at risk in your story. For example, my Twitter pitch was: A hot rancher threatens to turn an actress/dating vlogger’s world upside down.#Pit2Pub #NA #R.
4. Get a few people to read and give feedback on your pitch prior to the party.
It would be terrific if you could find some fellow writers to give feedback on your pitch. I have a few writer pals and an online group, Sub-it-Club where I can go for a critique. But in a pinch, friend or family members will do.
5. Put your pitch in a Twitter character counter
There are character counters online that will help you determine the length of your pitch before you post. It’s important to make sure it all fits within 140 characters, which isn’t easy. But honestly, I found it was a fun challenge to make a pitch fit into so few words.
6. Don’t forget the right hashtags
Check out the contest’s website for rules on hashtags. For example, the hashtag for #PitMad looks like that. And you need to add your genre hashtag. For contemporary romance for example it would be #CR.
7. Don’t delete the pitches from your feed for a few days
Agents and publishers are busy and sometimes they pop on the feed to let writers know that they may not check pitches on the contest day but will be on the hunt the following day. While you may be in a hurry to delete all that repetition from your Twitter feed, wait a few days to make sure it gives latecomers a chance to see your story ideas.
8. Click “Live” on the feed and your genre hashtag to see where your pitch is
It can be confusing trying to figure out if you tweet is up after you post it. Click on the Live tab and your genre, for example #R for romance that is off to the left of the page and you should see it sandwiched in with the others in your category.
9. Research Publishers/Agents that favorite your pitch before you submit.
Some people pose as legit presses but try to charge for services, which is a red flag. Before putting energy into submitting, research their site and look on Absolute Write to see if there are any mentions.
10. Don’t give up. They get popular and competition is fierce.
Remember, as agents and publishers mention on the feed, you can always submit the old fashioned way with a query letter and forget the contests. This is just a way to try and get on top of the slush pile.
We’d love to hear about your experience with Twitter contests in the comments. If you don’t have a manuscript yet, these free writing prompts might help get you started.
Melissa Uhles is a Freelance Writer, Co-Founder of Pen and Parent, and mom who has authored three books under her pen-name MJ Greenway. She writes under the clouds of the Pacific Northwest where sometimes her son and husband pop in to check on her.
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