Twitter Pitching Like a Pro

Since there are a few of them coming up, this week I’m talking about Twitter pitch contests. There are a few posts around the web about pitching your books on Twitter, but with the addition every year of new pitch contests, it seemed time to make one happen here.

There are a few great ways to pitch your book on Twitter. In the contests where you are encouraged to post a new pitch every hour or so (#PitMad, #DVPit, #PitDark, to name only a few), you can employ a few different tactics. Below, I’m going to outline a few of those tactics that stand out to me, as an agent, as well as tactics that immediately make me bypass a pitch.

Space in a twitter pitch is limited. You have 140 characters, and some of those MUST be used for the pitch hashtag, as well as your genre in some cases. With that in mind, here are good and bad tactics for Twitter pitching.

Good Tactics:

  1. Use great, well-thought out comps. 

Stacey Lee says, “I find that comparables can be very helpful and attention-grabbing if you use ones that are: 1) on point; 2) well-known; and 3) not brag.”

I completely agree with her advice. This gives you room in your pitch to give at least two comps and, if you have one, the interesting setting where those two ideas meet: X meets Y in 1920’s Melbourne/a secondary world inspired by Ancient Mongolia/Gotham/wherever.

On point means that is really IS relevant to your book – you’re not just using it because it’s fantasy and your book is also fantasy. I’ve seen enough books comped to SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo at this point, that you’ll need to use another really on point comp to make this work for me.

  1. Be Simple

Kelly Van Sant says, ” the most effective twitter pitches I see express a single idea exceptionally well. You’re not going to be able to cram every single thing about your book into 140 characters, so pick one angle and focus on perfect simplicity.”

This is spot on. There is no room to jam your entire plot, and no way you’ll be able to get the gist of your book if you do. Your pitch will end up muddled and confusing. Pick one part of your plot to hook us, add your conflict, and boom! You have a pitch. Girl opens popup cupcake shop to pay for school BUT a boy with the same plan threatens her business; Boy finds a magic ring that gives him superpowers BUT the powers are actually a curse; and so on.

  1. Get Help

Julie Eshbaugh says, “One piece of advice I would give is to take your time drafting your Twitter pitch, just like you would with your query letter. Get input from your CPs, too. A Twitter pitch is short but it can make a lasting impression!”

Just like an agent can tell when you’ve taken the time to workshop your query and your manuscript, it’s clear when you’ve taken the time to get advice on Twitter pitches too. A critique partner can tell you when a line doesn’t make sense or your comps are too broad. They can tell you when you’re trying to add too much plot or not enough. I have also found, as both a writer and an agent, that I have a much easier time summarizing the work of other writers. So get advice from beta-readers who have read your manuscript: how would they pitch it?

Bad Tactics:

  1. Using Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions don’t work as query hooks, and they certainly don’t work in your Twitter pitch. Asking if the reader has ever thought about what it would be like to live on Mars gives zero sense of your book. You are limited to 140 characters – don’t waste it asking vague questions that may or may not generally relate to your concept.

  1. Not Talking About Your Plot

You have a very limited amount of space – this is the time to forget any fluff you might add to a query and give us what the story is ABOUT. Unless you can say it in one or two words, we don’t need to know if your character has been to rehab if it doesn’t pertain to what happens in the story. See number 2 in Good Tactics.

  1. Pitching Directly to Agents

Just don’t do it! Let them come to you. You can’t force your work on someone who might not connect with it the way you hope they will.

Thank you so much to the lovely Pub Crawl writers who contributed advice for this post! It’s incredibly useful stuff, and with some great Twitter pitch contests coming up, I hope it’s useful!


3 Responses to Twitter Pitching Like a Pro

  1. Rayna Sep 16 2016 at 4:09 pm #

    How do you feel about relevant emojis (ex: replacing a long word with the emoji version of an object to save characters)? Creative or unprofessional, provided that they’re relevant and used sparingly?

    • Hannah Sep 16 2016 at 7:17 pm #

      Personally, this feels gimmicky. I can’t think of a really long word that this would make sense for. Maybe someday there will be a fun pitch contest where your pitch is entirely emojis! But until then, I’d say leave them be.

      • Rayna Sep 17 2016 at 12:17 pm #

        Thanks! An emoji pitch contest sounds like so much fun. I know those “describe your book in emojis” Twitter games certainly are. Maybe somebody will organize one.

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