Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Twitter Pitch Contests: The Basics

If you follow people in the writing community on Twitter, you may have noticed some of them participating in Twitter pitch contests. These are organized a few times a year and are an opportunity to pitch your work to agents and editors (some of whom are closed to queries, so you might not be able to pitch them another way!).

Twitter pitching can seem intimidating at first. Once you get the hang of it, though, it can fun and beneficial—just ask the writers who've signed with agents or publishers thanks to a well-crafted tweet.

Here are six basic rules for Twitter contests.

1. Take the time to craft your pitches.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that because the pitches are short, they'll be quick and easy to dash off. In fact, it can be much harder to come up with 140-character pitches for your book than longer ones. You'll usually want to come up with a number of different pitches, too, since Twitter doesn't allow you to tweet the same thing twice (and you'll want to try out different angles to see which ones get more bites).

Here are some good resources to help you write your pitches:
Dan Koboldt's Brief Guide to Twitter Pitching
Literary agent Carly Watters' Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests
How to Win a Twitter Pitch Contest from Writer Unboxed

2. Follow the rules.
Each Twitter pitch contest is hosted by someone, and they'll have a post up with the rules for that particular contest. This is where you'll find out things like how many pitches you can do total, how often you can pitch, and what types of manuscripts are included in the contest.

Don't be the jerk who thinks they're above the rules. People who pitch too often get noticed by contest organizers and industry professionals—and not in a good way.

3. Use the hashtag(s).
Every Twitter pitch contest will have a unique hashtag that marks the pitches as part of the contest. These will generally be short to give you as much room for your actual pitch as possible. Some examples include #pitmad (Pitch Madness), #WVTP (Writer's Voice Twitter Pitch), and #DVPit (Diverse Pitch, designed to showcase work that's about and/or by marginalized voices).

You can also use additional hashtags, like #YA for young adult, #SF for sci-fi, #R for romance, etc. These can help agents and editors filter the contest feed. Don't get carried away, though—you need to leave room for the specifics of your pitch.

4. Support others.
One of the best things about these kind of contests is finding pitches that sound intriguing and connecting with other writers. If you see pitches you like, most contests allow retweeting or quoting those pitches to increase their visibility. An important note: don't favorite pitches you like, because this is normally the way agents and editors indicate their interest. It's a terrible letdown to see that favorite notification and then realize it's just a fellow contest participant.

5. Do your homework.
You're not under any obligation to submit your work to anyone who favorites your pitch. Take the time to research agents and editors who request. If you see red flags, trust your gut.

6. Don't take it too seriously.
Twitter contests can be a lot of fun, but they're just one more way to get eyes on your pitch. Even if you don't get requests, you can still query the agents who participated in the contest. It's often a lot easier to hook someone's interest with a full query than a one or two line pitch.

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