How To Craft The Picture-Perfect Twitter Pitch

By Zabé Ellor

Participating in a Twitter pitch conference is a great option to get your work in front of agents and editors. Though cold querying is how the vast majority of authors find representation, participating in a pitch contest is a fun opportunity to give your work visibility and hone your pitching skills.

As a new agent, the first few clients I signed were authors I connected with through Twitter pitch contests. Their excellent pitches showed they had a clear vision for what their projects were and how they fit into the market. Their participation showed they were eager to be in publishing spaces and professionally engage with members of the book community.

There are many different pitch contests hosted on Twitter. The two most prominent, PitMad and DVPit (marginalized authors only), are hosted multiple times a year. Each event has its own rules about when it is scheduled, how often you can pitch, and how many projects you can pitch, which can be found on the event websites. Follow and respect the rules for every contest—you don’t want to make a bad impression.

While the contest is ongoing, participating agents will read the feeds and like pitches that catch their eye. Please refrain from liking your friends’ pitches and show support by retweeting or commenting, because too many likes will make the results confusing to sort through. Participating agents will post instructions on their feeds about how to query them if they like your pitch. Remember, you don’t have to submit to everyone who requests. Carefully vet the agents and editors you submit to.

So how do you craft a Twitter pitch that catches an agent’s eye? There’s a helpful formula, and I’ve lain it out with some examples below—one adult thriller, one YA fantasy, and one picture book. First, lay out in plain terms what your main character wants, what stands in their way, and what they need to do to get it. Keep it short and simple. Pick words carefully to convey the stakes of the story and the relationships between key characters. Even without tags, we should catch hints of genre, setting, and tone.

Ex-FBI agent Tonya must rescue her kidnapped son from her ex-husband by facing down his dangerous biker gang

To free her people from a lethal curse, hardened soldier Martina impersonates a witch princess to expose evil magicians hiding in the royal court

3 year old escape artist Paco prepares a stupendous trick—slipping free of the Bathtub of Doom while his parents are watching

While these pitches are for three wildly different stories, they all clearly indicate conflict and dramatic tension, with themes that line up well with their respective genres. Agents reading these pitches and looking for these genres will take notice.

Then we turn the pitch up a notch by adding a hook or twist to show off the high-concept nature of the manuscript we’re pitching. What sets it apart on the market? How might it subvert our expectations or add a deeper layer of conflict?

Ex-FBI agent Tonya must rescue her kidnapped son from her ex husband by facing down his dangerous biker gang friends—only to discover her preteen may have masterminded his own abduction

To free her people from a lethal curse, hardened soldier Martina impersonates a witch princess to expose evil magicians hiding in the royal court. Her enchanted mask can offer the political skill she lacks—by slowly consuming her own identity

3 year old escape artist Paco prepares a stupendous trick—slipping free of the Bathtub of Doom while his parents are watching. But not even preschool’s most mystifying magician can evade the grasp of the Clinging Stink!

A good twist tells agents that your story takes your premise new and interesting places. By juxtaposing the twist against the premise we’ve established, you highlight that your book neatly fits in a category while also offering something new to readers

Once you have the body of your pitch, add details, comp titles and the proper hashtags. Don’t forget to categorize your pitch by genre—agents use these to search Twitter feeds for the genres they represent!

BABY TEETH+SONS OF ANARCHY

Ex-FBI agent Tonya must rescue her kidnapped son from her ex-husband by facing down his dangerous biker gang—only to discover her preteen may have masterminded his own abduction

#PitCon #A #T

PAWN+THREE DARK CROWNS

To free her people from a lethal curse, hardened soldier Martina impersonates a witch princess to expose evil magicians hiding in the royal court. Her enchanted mask can offer the political skill she lacks—by slowly consuming her own identity

#PitCon #YA #F

THE PIGEON NEEDS A BATH + THIS BOOK IS MAGIC

3 year old escape artist Paco prepares a stupendous trick—slipping free of the Bathtub of Doom while his parents are watching. But not even preschool’s most mystifying magician can evade the grasp of the Clinging Stink!

#Pitcon #PB

Not all books can or should be reduced to a Twitter pitch. Stories where the language is the selling point, with multiple main characters and plotlines, or stories with complicated worldbuilding, can be difficult to communicate in 280 characters.

Still, for debut authors, crafting a Twitter pitch can be an excellent way not only to attract agent attention but to identify strengths and weaknesses in your own work. If you struggle identifying the stakes of your story, ask yourself what your characters stand to lose if they don’t succeed on their journey. If you have trouble identifying the high-concept angle, ask yourself what makes your book feel fresh in its genre.

Twitter pitching is by no means the only way to get an agent, but it’s a great way to hone in on the most marketable aspects of your book, refine your vision of where it fits on the market, and identify where you have room to improve. Best of luck and happy pitching!

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Zabé Ellor joined The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in August 2018, after previously interning at the agency and at Inklings Literary, and serving as a publications assistant at IOP Publishing. He graduated from Cornell University in 2016 with a dual degree in biology and English. An avid reader and writer, his non-literary interests include running, travel, and finding the perfect dim sum in his home city of Washington D. C.

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