Hollywood rules commercial fiction publishing.
Don’t believe me? Just go look for advice on plotting a novel, and you’ll inevitably come into contact with a book called Save the Cat, a primer on writing screenplays. These days, books are novelizations before they are ever novels. Hence, it should surprise no one that when it comes to choosing books for publication, the publishing industry has adopted the Hollywood-style elevator pitch.
In recent years, elevator pitches have moved out of the elevator and onto Twitter. During a quarterly manuscript pitching party (called #Pitmad), an aspiring author can now pitch- in 280 character (including spaces)- their finished works out into the internet ether with the hope that an industry insider will discover them.
Note that not all agents take part in this pitch party, and some find the quarterly event, which for some reason is always held on a Thursday when many aspiring authors are tethered to their day jobs, an unproductive means to find new writers. “One-hundred and forty characters should never be enough to properly describe your book,” says Jessica Faust of BookEnds Literary Agency.
Still, if you have the time and a finished book, I think it’s worth taking part in #Pitmad. There’s also a lot you can learn.
Being an agent is hard
This was one takeaway from the experience. Not only did I participate by pitching my recently completed book, I also followed the hashtag throughout the day (sporadically as I was working), reading the pitches as they came up in my Twitter feed. As I read and retweeted, I became a quasi-agent for a day.
Carol, a struggling waitress, finds a magic lamp in a dumpster behind the restaurant. She rubs it and out comes Jack, a Djinni. (660a) (713) (1024)
That story could be boring. It could be great. So much of everything depends on execution. Just how does an agent decide?
The other aspect of pitching is throwing out comp titles. This isn’t required, but I noticed that the pitches using them often got many more retweets, especially if the comp title was incredibly popular.
I assume things like number of retweets can catch an agent’s eyes. I didn’t add comp titles to my pitch. So that’s another lesson learned about pitching.
Do a close reading of the rules for #Pitmad
This was my first go at this rodeo. I hadn’t really heard of #Pitmad before, which just shows you how new to Twitter I am. I first became aware of the event two weeks ago, when fellow writers I follow on Twitter started talking about polishing their pitches. I really wanted to put my recently completed manuscript out there in as many ways as possible. So I got to work.
Naturally, I went to the #Pitmad webpage for more information, but I stupidly skimmed the text. I didn’t read the part about being able to pitch three times during the day. As a result, I only prepared one pitch, and that pitch was of the Carol and Jack variety.
If I had to do it again, and I can on June 3rd, I would make three different pitches. One would be of the Carol and Jack variety and another would hit hard on comp titles. I’m not yet sure how to frame the third one I’d post. I guess I have time to figure it out.
I have no Twitter game
Another thing I learned is that I have no Twitter game. I use the app only for belonging to a writing community, one that is often helpful, I might add. The problem is that I kind of find Twitter really boring. I don’t think I spend more than fifteen minutes a day on the app, and when I do, I’m mostly searching for Tweets from authors seeking advice or encouragement. When it comes to getting retweets of your pitch, however, this kind of limited engagement is a handicap.
Indeed, none of the writers who follow me retweeted my pitch. Almost all my retweets were from strangers.
My pitch received only 9 retweets in total
The bulk of these came in soon after I tweeted my pitch, which is why writing three pitches and posting them throughout the day is much better for getting engagement. Pitches in the internet ether have a short half-life.
Still, I got nine retweets. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but in hindsight, getting even that many retweets of my pitch turned out to be the best aspect of the #Pitmad experience.
When it comes to writing, I always feel unsure if I’m treading the correct path, especially when it comes to knowing if the kinds of books I write are marketable. Are other people interested in the type of storytelling I’m interested in? Are my tastes just too odd or idiosyncratic? Am I just too unique? Maybe even a mad genius before their time? A visionary?
Thankfully, the answer is a resounding No!
Strangers retweeting my pitch tells me that there is an audience out there, however big or small.
And then there were the coveted likes. I received one from a developmental editor trying to drum up business. I checked out their website and learned that for a grand sum of $6,500 dollars I can have the full publishing experience- developmental, copy, and line editing as well as a final proofread. Too bad they were barking up the wrong tree. I’m too poor for that.
Two more likes came from people who probably don’t know about #Pitmad and its rules. It was yet another confirmation to me that readers might be interested in the book I wrote.
The fourth like came from an agent. I should be jumping up and down. Unfortunately, neither the agent nor the agency they work for shows up on QueryTracker. And though the agency’s website looks legit, when I clicked on the list of authors they represent, I quickly realized that none of them have a book deal. Also, the agent’s manuscript wish list indicates that they don’t really represent the genre I work in. Because of this, I’m on the fence about querying them.
So that was my #Pitmad experience. It was pitiful but also insightful and reassuring. I glimpsed a potential audience for my work out there. For look, I also got this comment on my pitch:
And that comment made my day.
Let me know in the comments what you think about #Pitmad or if you participated last week. Should I query the agent who liked my tweet? All advice will be greatly appreciated.
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