One hundred and twenty-ish characters (after you minus the tags) is not conducive to properly “pitching” most books.
To which many might say, “duh!” But the pressure of a pitch event – it’s real. Agents tweet they’re going to look! People post about former success stories! How can one miss such a chance!? Well, if your story is not best represented this way then even a ‘like’ doesn’t mean much. You’re free to submit to an agent who might then look at your sub perhaps a few days before they otherwise would have anyway. I posit that getting a request via a pitch that doesn’t represent your book properly could be detrimental. If your pitch has one tone and your book another, the agent may think, “this isn’t what I thought,” then dismiss it.
So should we quit this game, y’all? Not exactly. But a bit.
PeerPitch run by the Scribblers blog allows 35 words in their competition. And the difference in my interest and understanding of those pitches earlier in the week versus scrolling PitMad yesterday was huge. I saw PeerPitch tweets reduced to the PitMad length and saw the light. Then super agent Jennifer Laughran tweeted this:
Hi writers. Can I be real with you for a sec? Come closer. Look: These twitter pitching contests… they don’t show your work at its best.
This is not just because it’s hard to distill a plot and create an effective pitch – we all already know that’s challenging. Honestly, it’s the character limit! Look at this. Here’s Harry Potter as a tweet and as a 34 word pitch (yes, I know both of these are actually quite compelling if rough but the example still holds).
orphan boy discovers he’s destined for a school of magic must then vanquish resurrected evil wizard #pitmad #mg #fan
12yr-old boy rescued from vile adoptive family by invitation to wizarding school, learns his dead parent’s painful legacy, must then fight for his life and to destroy the most evil villain in the magical world.
I mean WOW, the difference in not only information and context but in how much you’re drawn in. The second example is also almost exactly what you’d want to put in a query letter while the first is NOT.
So what’s the point of a pitching on twitter then? Because, I don’t know if you look, but I do and when I scroll through and see who has liked what (i’ve done this a lot), it’s rarely an agent and almost never an agent from a well known agency. I have gotten likes from smaller agencies in America and been rejected after submission; I believe that’s because this particular novel isn’t best served by the twitter format. I have another WIP that when’s it’s done has a hook that’s easy to distill and would be pretty easy to tweet. But you know what? I already have a request for a full MS from a great agent. Therefore, if you’re book has a giant, shining, drool worthy hook – pitch contest away as it’s a decent short-cut to agent research. Guess what though? You’ll still have to do agent research when you get a like to be sure the agency and agent might be a good fit.
Could you better spend your time polishing your query and researching agents? I think probably! I have very limited time to work on querying and writing because of other work and family life. While thinking about how to make my pitch snappier and concise is worthwhile, I’m really starting to doubt the value of about ninety percent of the seemingly gazillion pitch parties.
Choose wisely. Try not to get caught up in the hype. There really is no fast-track to publication and/or writerly success.