How To Be Successful at Online Pitching Events
So you're a writer with a shiny completed manuscript. Now you want to participate in a Twitter pitching event to try for an agent's attention. Awesome! I had lots of fun participating when I was querying and came to understand them very well after doing around eight over the years. I was lucky enough to find my agent in December of last year because of one of those events (#pitmad to be exact) and I wanted to pass on some tips. This is not an exact formula for landing an agent, but from my experience, if you follow these tips, your chances of success will be much stronger. At the bottom of this post, you'll find examples of my own pitches over the years to see what works and what doesn't.
Give the Unique Stakes
With so many pitches flying past an agent's eyes, you'll need to ensure your book's pitch stands out within the limited characters you have. Remember, you also need to include relevant hashtags like #pitmad and the genre and age category like #YA and #F (short for fantasy)! This is why it's important to pitch the unique stakes for your character(s) and the plot. A great formula to play around with is to introduce your main character (if multi POV, still choose the main, main character. There's always one) and what their ambitions are/what they want (the stakes). Then explain what threatens those stakes. This will give the gist of the story. Make sure they are unique though! Saying something along the lines of, "If Julia doesn't win, her world will never be the same" doesn't have the same impact as, "If Julia doesn't win, the monster will take Julia's sister forever."
Use Comparison Titles
From my own experience and from observing other successful pitches, you'll immediately bump up your chances of getting noticed by an agent when you use comparison (ie comp) titles. These are two other published books or tv show/movie titles that (legitimately) are similar to your book that can give the browsing agent an idea of what to expect if they "heart" your pitch whether it be with a similar plot, vibe, characters or world. It's very important you choose two that really are similar though and not just to make your pitch flashy, as you'll hurt your chances more if an agent does request and is frustrated / disappointed your manuscript doesn't match up to the comp title(s) you chose. I recommend putting the two comp titles at the top of your pitch to help catch an agent's eye then go into your manuscript's specific plot. Also important! Use comparison titles that are recent and not overdone! So Harry Potter or Catcher in the Rye would not be good choices. They came out too long ago and don't show if you're up-to-date in your genre & age category. It's also important to try and ensure you use at least one book comp title as this also shows to agents you're reading in your book's genre and age category.
An example for a YA book pitch would be:
PRINCESS DIARIES x TALBILB
This comp title mix tells agents right away to expect a fun rom-com story about some royal or wealthy teen girl's life in a contemporary setting.
One last note: notice how I used TALBILB which stands for To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han. If you have a comp title that's perfect but too long, don't be afraid to abbreviate like using "Princess Diaries" instead of "The Princess Diaries" to save crucial pitching space. So long as it's still understandable to agents!
This is one of those tips that isn't said enough in my opinion. No matter how amazing your pitch is, if you send out your first one in the afternoon, you're not likely to get the same traction compared to sending it out in the same hour as when the event starts. My most successful pitches were always the ones I tweeted just after 8AM. So make sure to schedule that first pitch in the first hour and choose your best one!
Make Different Pitches
Leading in from the last tip, it's important to shake up what your pitches look like. If an agent didn't connect with the first pitch you posted, something in your second that's different than the first may catch their eye instead. Twitter also doesn't like when users repeat tweets and will see your repeated pitch as spam if it's exactly the same as the first pitch/tweet.
Have a Friend Look Them Over
Have a friend help you out if you're struggling with coming up with a great pitch and want to make sure the one(s) you have work. Another set of eyes can give you a different perspective on how a pitch is perceived, especially if it's confusing to someone who hasn't read your manuscript before! If you can, have one friend who has read your book and another who hasn't look over your pitches to give their thoughts and tweak if necessary.
Only Pitch if Query & Manuscript are Ready!
This is by far my most important tip. My friend Jessica James wrote a great blog post about why it's crucial you don't pitch / query before your manuscript is ready. I won't go into too much detail here since her thoughts on it are so eloquently put (and you should 100% read it), but I will say this: there is nothing that can crush your hopes & dreams and ruin a manuscript's chances faster than sending it to agents before its ready. I unfortunately have too much experience in this myself! Pitching events are lots of fun and can get your manuscript in front of agents who may not have noticed it, but none of that matters if you send them a book that isn't ready to be looked at with a business eye. Because at the end of the day, publishing is a business and if your book isn't good enough for an agent to say, "I love this and I could (potentially) sell this" than it's not ready. It's tough to hear, especially if you're excited to participate and just itching to see what agents would think (been there), but pitching events won't disappear and neither will cold querying. So don't take this chance!
Now onto examples of my own pitches over the years. The early ones are super embarrassing, but I think it's important to show how helpful the tips I shared above are (and come from personal experience). The screenshot pairs are for each book of mine (three total) and I'll highlight where my tips would/would've come in handy.
Sample of my first book pitches. Barely any traction because I tweeted too late in the day, the stakes are so vague/not unique enough, no comp titles and this book was a hot mess overall. It was far from ready for agents to read!
Sample of my second book pitches. These were by far my most successful pitches. They had relevant comp titles, unique stakes, friends who helped with them, pitched early, and I made different ones. The problem though? My manuscript wasn't ready. The query & first chapter were strong, but even with those and these successful pitches, it didn't matter when the rest of the book needed more revisions.
Sample of my third book's pitches. This pitch was successful because it used relevant comp titles, pitched early, had friends help me make them, had the unique stakes, and what synched it all together: a query & manuscript that were ready. This pitch landed me my agent, Sabrina Taitz at WME (you can see her profile photo in the screenshot!), because it had all the elements of a great pitch AND a manuscript that matched it. I still had revisions Sabrina wanted me to do to enhance the story, but I'd taken the book as far as I could when I pitched. She saw exactly what my manuscript needed to take it to the next level and loved it enough to take it -- and me -- on. You'll notice that this pitch wasn't technically as successful as my second book's pitches, but the success I found in my third book's pitches proves that a large number on a pitch doesn't necessarily mean anything.
Pitching events are always fun and can bump up your query in an agent's inbox, so I encourage other writers to participate! I hope you'll use some of my tips to put your best foot forward and give yourself a stronger chance at landing an agent. I'm rooting for you!