Twitter #PitchContests

So it is the evening of August 25th and I spent the day taking part in the Twitter pitch event #SFFPit. Many of you will know what this is, but for anyone that does not: it is a day where you get to tweet a 280-character summary of your novel as a ‘pitch’, once per hour, for 8 hours. The hope of doing this is that an agent will see your tweet and like it. If you get a like, this means that the agent would like to see a formal query or partial (depending on their tweeted guidelines). That 280-character limit, by the way, also includes characters for the relevant hashtags that describe your genre/audience (#SFFPit #A #FA for example, would be adult fantasy). Having just participated, I thought I might share my early thoughts and experiences.

First, as you can imagine, condensing your work into less than 280 characters is tough. It used to be 140 characters, of course, back when tweets were shorter, but that was before I became a twitter-user. But given the challenge in writing something enticing, and yet representative of your work, in this tight of a word limit, I did actually start early and prepared all 10 different versions of my pitch two weeks in advance. If you are going to do one of these events, I encourage you to do the same. I also encourage you to schedule your tweets. That way all you have to do is watch for likes and interact with other people, not worry about creating the perfect pitch or whether it is time to post.

In terms of my own experience, I will start off by saying that I am incredibly grateful to Dan Koboldt @dankoboldt and Michael Mammay @MichaelMammay for putting in the work to organize this and invite agents and editors to attend. I’m also grateful to the agents and editors who found time to look in and comment, and the other writers who supported each other through comments and re-tweets.

At the end of the day, I had what I considered a good number of replies and retweets – but no likes from agents. So what is my conclusion? Was this worthwhile? The answer is yes.

I’m glad I participated. For one, it forced me to condense my work down into 280 characters. That’s an elevator pitch. And as I’m going to #chicon8 ( #woldcon ) this week, maybe I’ll even get to re-use it verbally a few times! I also got feedback on what pitches worked better, as those were the ones that got more retweets. I’m also really happy to have received support from my fellow writers. I even gained some followers from it, which are probably engaged, genuine followers who followed because they liked my ideas (I assume).

However, I will say that before I did SFFpit, my expectations of doing a Twitter pitch contest were radically different from the reality of participating.

For one, with not a single like, the experience was a little demoralizing for the few hours after it ended. I had read so much about scamming agents, and bots that would like your work and you had to watch out for – so I had to laugh when my work wasn’t even appealing enough to bots and scam artists to attract likes!

But on reflection, I quickly got over the lack of genuine agent likes. After all, I am a relatively new Twitter user (I in fact started using it purely to do #SFFpit) so what did I expect? As a newer user to Twitter, I do not have that many followers. With few followers, few people were going to organically see my work and I would not get many retweets or comments. That probably made it harder for my pitches to be seen amongst the sea of pitches. So for me to be successful, I would have had to depend on a fair amount of luck – I was not only depending on the agent I wanted to be online but for them to see my pitch and for them to respond. Putting your happiness and sense of self-worth in the hands of luck is the road to madness.

I am still happy I participated due to the contacts I made with other writers. But in the future, I will probably stick with traditional querying. The author-agent relationship is usually a career-long one and finding the right match is critical. Traditional querying may be more upfront work, but that way I can hand pick the agents I want to work with, rather than send out my work to whoever is available for that specific day’s Twitter pitch. Traditional querying also guarantees that the agent will see it, rather than forcing me to depend on the vagaries of luck plus twitter algorithms. At least for now, to me, that seems a better way to pitch for anyone.

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