Contests, Pitching, Querying, Twitter, Writing

5 Signs You Should (or Shouldn’t) Be Tweeting Tomorrow

Last fall I wrote a popular post featuring two contests that were happening on the same day–On the Block and #PitMad–and I’ve revived it the last couple of times #PitMad popped up, but I decided it was worth updating the post to only cover #PitMad, so here goes.

In case you’re new to the Twitter pitching circuit, #PitMad is a twelve-hour pitch session that happens four times a year, dreamed up by contest queen Brenda Drake. I’ve participated in the past and received requests. It’s a great opportunity to discover agents who are interested in your premise–since that’s all you have room for in 140 characters :). On the eve of this opportunity, here a few words of both encouragement and caution.

5 Signs You Should Be Tweeting Tomorrow

  1. You have three solid tweets–or one amazing tweet–prepared. I’m not just talking something you’ve come up with off the top of your head. I mean you’ve run these tweets by people who’ve read your manuscript and people who haven’t to ensure they make sense and will draw interest. You are only allowed to tweet three times. It can be the same tweet, although if you’re only using one, it had better be so spectacular it’s worth not trying out two other variations. Because you never know how a different wording might strike one agent’s fancy and not another’s.
  2. Your opening pages are solid. Rarely does an agent ask for a full from PitMad. It’s likely that if an agent or editor likes your tweet, they’ll be asking for sample pages first, and as with any querying experience, that first impression is all-important.
  3. You have all of the necessary querying materials prepared. As with the opening pages, agents could ask for a synopsis or even a bio, so make sure you’re ready.
  4. You are 100 percent confident in your manuscript RIGHT NOW. If an agent likes your tweet tomorrow, they expect you to send your manuscript right away. It’s not an “I’m interested in seeing it whenever you have it ready” kind of thing.
  5. Your readers/other writers have told you it’s ready. Chances are you’ll never think it’s ready on your own, but if other people are telling you it’s the best thing you’ve written and agents are going to jump on it, that’s the best recommendation you can have to start testing the query waters. Might as well start with PitMad!

5 Signs You Should NOT Be Tweeting Tomorrow

  1. You are still waiting on feedback from someone. If you still have your manuscript out with a beta reader or critique partner, WAIT FOR IT. I know this is hard, guys. Believe me. There’s this fantastic opportunity to get in front of agents and it won’t happen again for months and … I’m going to stop you right there. Never rush sending out your manuscript. Getting a complete picture of what it needs is more important than a pitch contest, no matter how exciting it is to dive in.
  2. You don’t have a strategy for your manuscript. Do you want an editor? An agent? What kind of agent? PitMad is open to all kinds of industry professionals, so you should know what you’re looking for before you participate. You don’t have to respond to every like you receive, particularly if you think a publisher or agent may be sketchy. I recommend knowing what you want before you participate, but if you decide to test the waters anyway just to see who’s interested, make sure you research them all before you submit anywhere.
  3. You just want to see if agents or editors are interested in your concept. Just … no. If they ask you for more and what you send them is not query-ready, you’ve just wasted a first impression. You can’t go back to them later and say, “But I fixed it now!” You also can’t say, “It’s not ready yet but I’ll send it to you when it is.” By the time you have it ready, they might not be interested anymore. So much of this industry is catching the right person at the right time.
  4. It’s the best opportunity ever. I get how much of a thrill it is to have your pitch liked by tons of agents–or even just one. I think every contest or pitch opportunity that’s coming up seems like the most important, best ever–whether that’s Pitch Madness, Query Kombat, PitMad or the other Twitter pitch fests out there–but not if you’re rushing things to submit. I can’t stress that enough! Make sure it’s ready. Agents will assume it is if you put it out there.
  5. Everyone else is doing it. I can understand this temptation tomorrow, when you see everyone else tweeting pitches. It would be so easy to dash off a tweet, just to see … but don’t do it unless you’re ready. Like your parents always said, if everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you do it? Don’t be a lemming!

Best of luck to everyone pitching during PitMad tomorrow. And if you decide to hold off, remember that many, many writers have found their agents the old-fashioned way through the slush pile. Since I’m not in a position to pitch tomorrow, that’s the route I’ll be taking!

Contests, Pitching, Querying, Twitter, Writing

5 Signs You Should (or Shouldn’t) Be Submitting/Tweeting Tomorrow

So there are a couple of amazing opportunities out there tomorrow for writers who have a manuscript ready to query. One is the incomparable Authoress’ new On the Block contest, a progression from her very popular Baker’s Dozen contest. The other is #PitMad, a twelve-hour pitch session that happens four times a year, dreamed up by contest queen Brenda Drake. I’ve participated in both of these in the past (well, Baker’s Dozen) and actually received quite a bit of interest on my last manuscript for both. I may even still be waiting on a few agents to respond … ahem. Anyway. On the eve of these opportunities, I thought I’d throw out a few words of both encouragement and caution.

5 Signs You Should Be Submitting/Tweeting Tomorrow

  1. You have a solid logline/tweet prepared. I’m not just talking something you’ve come up with off the top of your head. I mean you’ve run it by people who’ve read your manuscript and people who haven’t to ensure it makes sense and will draw interest.
  2. You have a solid first page/first pages. In the case of On the Block, being selected rests on that first page, so it’s very important where that 250-word sample ends. But the first pages are important for PitMad, too, because it’s likely that if an agent or editor favorites your tweet, they’ll be asking for sample pages before a full.
  3. You have all of the necessary querying materials prepared. This point is more for PitMad as On the Block will end up being a certain number of pages, but agents could ask for a synopsis or even a bio, so make sure you’re ready.
  4. You are 100 percent confident in your manuscript RIGHT NOW. If an agent favorites your tweet tomorrow, they expect you to send your manuscript right away. It’s not an “I’m interested in seeing it whenever you have it ready” kind of thing. And maybe with On the Block you think you could get away with submitting your logline and first page tomorrow and then tweaking the manuscript before the go-live date. Well, perhaps you could, but what if you get into those tweaks and discover there’s more work to be done than you realized? You shouldn’t be gambling with those agent opportunities that way.
  5. Your readers/other writers have told you it’s ready. Chances are you’ll never think it’s ready on your own, but if other people are telling you it’s the best thing you’ve written and agents are going to jump on it, that’s the best recommendation you can have to start testing the query waters. Might as well start with PitMad or On the Block!

5 Signs You Should NOT Be Submitting/Tweeting Tomorrow

  1. You are still waiting on feedback from someone. If you still have your manuscript out with a beta reader or critique partner or–since I expect this may be the case for a number of writers out there–are waiting on feedback from a PitchWars mentor who promised it, WAIT FOR IT. I know this is hard, guys. Believe me. There’s this fantastic opportunity to get in front of agents and it won’t happen again for months and … I’m going to stop you right there. Never rush sending out your manuscript. Getting a complete picture of what it needs is more important than a pitch contest, no matter how exciting it is to dive in.
  2. You don’t have a strategy for your manuscript. This particular point is more for PitMad than On the Block, which is agent-focused. Do you want an editor? An agent? What kind of agent? PitMad is open to all kinds of industry professionals, so you should know what you’re looking for before you participate. You don’t have to respond to every favorite you receive, particularly if you think a publisher or agent may be sketchy. I recommend knowing what you want before you participate, but if you decide to test the waters anyway just to see who’s interested, make sure you research them all before you submit anywhere.
  3. You just want to see if agents or editors are interested in your concept. Another PitMad comment here and just … no. If they ask you for more and what you send them is not query-ready, you’ve just wasted a first impression. You can’t go back to them later and say, “But I fixed it now!” You also can’t say, “It’s not ready yet but I’ll send it to you when it is.” By the time you have it ready, they might not be interested anymore. So much of this industry is catching the right person at the right time.
  4. It’s the best contest ever. I get how much of an honor it is to be selected by Authoress for one of her contests. I was there last year in Baker’s Dozen, and it was an honor–but I also was ready with that manuscript. I’m sure this new contest will be equally prestigious and exciting to see your entry singled out and bid on by more than a dozen agents. I think every contest that’s coming up seems like the most important, best contest ever–whether that’s PitchWars, The Writer’s Voice or this new On the Block–but not if you’re rushing things to submit. I can’t stress that enough! Authoress (and I assume Jodi Meadows again) only see your logline and first page, so they don’t know if the rest of your manuscript is ready. YOU are the only one who knows that. Don’t submit if you’re only doing it on the strength of your first page and not the entire manuscript.
  5. Everyone else is doing it. I can understand this temptation tomorrow, when you see everyone else tweeting pitches. It would be so easy to dash off a tweet, just to see … but don’t do it unless you’re ready. Like your parents always said, if everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you do it? Don’t be a lemming!

Best of luck to everyone submitting to On the Block or pitching during PitMad tomorrow. And if you decide to hold off, remember that many, many writers have found their agents the old-fashioned way through the slush pile. When I have this current manuscript ready, that’s the route I’ll be taking!

Contests, Pitching, Querying, Twitter

Contests, Contests Everywhere

The other day I participated in a Q&A for @MissDahlELama, and one of the questions she asked was: What are your feelings on participating in contests, and what are your favorite kinds?

I thought this was a particularly interesting question, especially with the crazy amount of contests going on at the moment. You’ll probably be able to figure out which anonymous answer was mine from the following, but I thought it was worth expanding further.

So, I love contests of all kinds. I’m going to break down some of the contests I’ve participated in and what I think the benefits are.

The contest where you’re vetted before you’re in. These are the contests like The Writers Voice, Pitch Madness, Baker’s Dozen, or Surprise Agent Invasion, where you submit your entry and the host–and sometimes others–choose their favorites to post for agent votes. What I like about these is that if you get in, you get validation that your concept and writing stand out from the pack. (Of course it’s still subjective, so not getting in doesn’t mean your story isn’t agent-ready. I’ve had CPs whose novels are amazing not get selected because their concept just didn’t interest the judges.)

There are a ton of contests like these out there. I like it best when they ask for your query/pitch and first 250 words because the judging agents get a taste for both where the story’s going and your voice. It’s also a better representation of what most agents receive in their inbox.

The query/first page contest where the first xx people make it in. These are the contests like An Agent’s Inbox or Miss Snark’s First Victim’s Secret Agent. You submit your entry, and a certain number get in. What I like about these is that it’s a better representation of what an agent will see in his/her slushpile. Some of them will be excellent. Some of them will need a lot more work. Although the sample is probably still a bit higher quality than what the agent sees, you do get a feel for what else is out there.

In the two contests I mentioned, you also get critiques, and this is invaluable to those of us querying. These people haven’t read your whole manuscript and aren’t predisposed to like your work. For Miss Snark’s First Victim, it’s only your first 250 words, so the opinion is entirely about your writing and voice, independent of the concept. Those critiques can be brutal, but they’re so helpful in telling whether your writing can stand on its own.

The contest with a one-line or Twitter pitch. One line? 140 characters? These requirements might seem impossible, but it’s so helpful to boil your story down to this short description. A number of blogs host these contests on a regular basis (Operation Awesome comes immediately to mind), and it’s become a thing for the bigger contests to hold a Twitter pitch afterward.

What I like about one-line/Twitter pitches is that it forces me to think about the central hook of my story. I’ve received requests based on both of these. On the downside, it’s such a short sample that it doesn’t allow you to show much voice, so often an agent will like the concept and then not connect with the character. If you want to try one out, though, there’s one happening today :).

Should you enter contests? Well, my answer to this is obviously yes, but it’s up to you. I enter when the agents participating seem like a potential fit or when I think I can learn something new about the effectiveness of my pitch/query/first 250. Based on contests, I’ve tweaked my query letter and first 250 in ways I know make them better. So even if I don’t get an agent request, I’ve gained something from the experience.

So now that I’ve given you the longer answer to the contest question, here are a few blogs that host contests regularly:

Miss Snark’s First Victim

Mother.Write.(Repeat.)

Brenda Drake Writes

Cupid’s Literary Connection

Operation Awesome (first of every month)

Deana Barnhart (pitch contest tomorrow)

YATopia

I know there are many more. These are the ones that are top of mind for me as I’ve participated in them. If you have another contest to add, please include them in the comments. And I’d also love to hear your thoughts on contests!

Pitching, Querying, Twitter, Writing

Twitter Pitch Party, Anyone?

Now that the agent round of “The Writers Voice” is over, I’m turning my attention to Thursday’s “The Writers Voice” Twitter Pitch Party. Basically, you post your pitch between 12-6 p.m. EDT on Thursday, and agents will request from it. If more than one agent requests, you have to pick one. Click here for more info, but I think it’s now up to five agents participating.

If you didn’t see Becca C.’s post about Building Your Twitter Pitch, go read it now! She compiled excellent advice from multiple agents and writing experts. I couldn’t have said it any better, so I won’t try.

It’s so hard to convey plot, character, stakes and voice in just 140 characters–134 with the required hashtag (#WVTP). It’s different than a one-sentence pitch. You can be creative with the format and punctuation to an extent. The point is to make the best use of the character limit. Most of all, the pitch needs to make someone want to read it.

I’d love to get your feedback on my Twitter pitch, but I’m also opening up the comments to anyone else who wants feedback. I’ll post mine first. Let’s polish those Twitter pitches!