Lessons from #PitMad

Last Friday, as part of Pitch Wars, there was a huge pitch session on Twitter (#PitMad). For 12 hours(!), writers were allowed to post 140-character pitches for their novels. During this time, various agents and editors popped in and out of the Twitter feed, reading the pitches and requesting pages from those they were interested in. It was a really fun experience, with an insane amount of pitches, and the level of enthusiasm and excitement made for a crazy (if distracting) day.

It was also a great learning experience. If you think condensing your 80,000-word novel into a 1-page query letter is hard, trying boiling it down to 140 characters (and I’m talking characters, not words). Writing a Twitter pitch really forces you to think about the essence of your book. What’s the basic theme/idea? With 140 characters, you don’t have room for much except genre, main character, and basic conflict/plot. On the flip side, grammar isn’t important, you can use slang and abbreviate words, and the classic X meets Y formula is a great attention grabber (one of the ones I liked was Fringe meets Minority Report). 

But you also need to make your pitch stand out, because after reading a lot of them, they tend to blur together. I tried different versions of my pitch, but the one that got requests highlighted the unique aspects of my novel (circus, culturally diverse heroine, unusual fairy tale retelling):  “YA: A 17yo Latina circus musician takes on diseased lab rats and a twisted scientist in this modern retelling of the Pied Piper.”

I’m not sure when the next big Twitter pitch session will be, but it’s good to work on crafting your pitch beforehand, so you have it ready to go. To practice, try creating pitches for your favorite books or movies. It can actually be a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. Plus, it never hurts to have a quick answer ready when someone asks you what your book is about!

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