top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureJamie Lilac

The Power of the Pitch



It’s only right that my first blog post on my new author website be about #PitMad, because it’s how I met my incredible agent. Shoutout to Kristy who is an absolute dream to work with—I could not have been luckier.


There is an abundance of resources out there that dive into the art of the Twitter pitch, and I encourage you to seek them out and pluck from them the parts you think could be helpful to you. That’s what I’ve attempted to compile here, things I’ve learned along the way that helped me out and put me in a better position to find an agent who would connect with my story.


Above all, I hope that you find something useful here that you can add to your notebook, and I wish you all the success you’re hoping for!





THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD PITCH


Believe it or not, pitches aren’t just for Twitter pitch contests. When you write your first draft, it may be only for you, but when you start wanting to get it traditionally published, you’re now entering a business. That means there is money involved, and that means that others need to be able to see how they would sell your book. Your pitch may be what gets you an agent, but that agent needs to be confident that they can pitch that book to editors, and the editor needs to be confident that they can pitch it to others—that they can sell it. If you were in a bookstore and there were twenty books you were considering buying, but could only buy one, you wouldn’t sit and read each one’s first chapter. You’d likely take a look at the jacket copy and buy based on that. A short 1-2 sentence pitch for your book is invaluable for much more than just a pitch contest.


It isn’t going to fly to say, “It’s so complex, I can’t possibly tell you about it in a few sentences,” or, “There’s nothing else like it, just read the first few chapters and you’ll see.” Maybe there isn’t anything else like it, and maybe it is beautifully complex, but that doesn’t help me sell it. I don’t have time to read the first few chapters to decide. I have time to read a pitch, so you need a pitch.


In fact, I think a pitch is so important, that this is what I start out with when I’m writing a book. How would I pitch this? How would an agent pitch this? What would make readers want to buy this?



CRAFTING YOUR PITCH


Okay, so we know WHY a pitch is important, but how do we actually write one? There are endless ways to pitch your story in a Twitter pitch contest, but when writing it, here are some of the things to keep in mind:


1. Who is your main character (MC)?

2. What does your MC want/need? *DESIRE/GOAL*

3. What’s standing in the way of your MC getting what they want/need? *CONFLICT*

4. What happens if they don’t get what they want/need? *STAKES*


Let’s take a closer look at each of these.


1. Who is your main character (MC)?

-You can give us your MC’s name and age if you’d like, but what I really want to know is who ARE they? What can you quickly and concisely tell us about your MC that lets us know how their role in the story might go? Katniss Everdeen isn’t just a sixteen-year-old girl. She is a survivor. She is a skilled hunter living in an impoverished district. She is a 16 y.o. who sacrifices herself for her sister. Why is this important? Because you’ve told us a lot about the story without saying much (remember, you have limited characters on Twitter). Later on, when you set up the conflict (that Katniss is entered into a game in which kids are forced to fight to the death), what you’ve told us about her here has actually done some heavy lifting. She’s a survivor? Okay, so she isn’t going to go down in the games without a fight. She’s a skilled hunter who lives in poverty? She’s going to be crafty and will have valuable traits within the competition, probably ones that will give her an advantage. She sacrificed herself for her sister? So, she isn’t without a heart—this might come into play in an interesting way later (ie: Peeta/berries, you get it.) It isn’t enough to tell us the name of your MC. Tell us who they ARE.


2. What does your MC want/need? *DESIRE/GOAL*

-This one is self-explanatory, but just like the character description, this part can do some heavy lifting also. Could what they want add a deeper layer of conflict to the story?


3. What’s standing in the way of your MC getting what they want/need? *CONFLICT*

-The conflict is the meat of your story, so it needs to be strong enough to carry an entire book. A strong conflict can evolve and grow with the story, hitting more notes than one and never being stagnant.


4. What happens if they don’t get what they want/need? *STAKES*

-What does your MC stand to lose? Stakes don’t have to be life or death. We just want to know that they exist and they are personal. Be specific about this. Avoid general phrases like, “or she will lose everything.” WHAT will she lose? Why should we care?


Research! Search the #PitMad hashtag and read over tweets you think were successful. Why were they successful in your opinion? What do you like about them and how can you employ that to fit your own story? In addition to finding successful #PitMad tweets, I’d suggest you also take a look at Publisher’s Marketplace. Look at deal announcements and dissect how those pitches are crafted. Look at pitches for books and movies you like. Go to IMDB and find movie loglines. You loved Shadow & Bone? How did Leigh Bardugo quick pitch her book in interviews? When they asked the question, “What is your book about?” what did she say?



COMPARISON (“COMP”) TITLES


Every time #PitMad comes around, I see the same question: Do I need comp titles?


My opinion? Yes.


At least in one of your three pitches, but I think they're so important that I would have them in each one. You don’t need comp titles to *participate* in #PitMad, but they are an important component in the Twitter pitch. Twitter pitch contests have grown exponentially over the years, garnering thousands and thousands of pitches each time. This means that your pitch can easily get lost in the pile. There are a few ways to try and combat this, the rest which we will talk about later, but right now, let’s talk about comp titles.


First, what are they?


Comp titles are things (usually books, but sometimes characters, movies, TV shows, cultural movements, video games, etc.) that are similar to your book.


For query letters, you may choose comp titles based on sales trends or audience—so, you might say something like, “TITLE OF YOUR BOOK is perfect for readers of Jenny Han and Sandhya Menon.” However, comp titles for pitch contests are usually comparing the content of two things to the content of your book. Ideally, you’d still like for an agent or editor to be able to read your comp titles and see where your book could fit in the market, but you aren’t so much trying to comp author audience in these pitches as you are content.


I’m not an agent or an editor, but I am human (or at least, I think?), and I can say without a doubt, that when I’m scrolling through the #PitMad hashtag, my eyes are going directly to the comp titles in each pitch. If they don’t have comp titles, most of the time, my eyes skip over them altogether.


It can get overwhelming trying to pick out the perfect pair of comp titles, so my number one suggestion for choosing them is to always stay true to your book. Don’t try to force a comp title where it doesn’t fit. You don’t want someone requesting material in hopes of seeing something like Children of Blood & Bone, and instead getting a slow-paced contemporary rom-com. Be honest with yourself about the content of your book and what makes you excited about it.


Secondly, get creative. You don’t have to stick to only book titles. Is your main character (MC) comparable to Jesper Fahey but there isn’t anything else Six of Crows-esque happening? Write JESPER FAHEY as one of your comps instead of SIX OF CROWS. Look for interesting and intriguing combinations rather than choosing two titles that are similar in nature. I want to look at a comp title pair and be excited, wondering how you’ve taken those two things and married them together. If I see “THE CRUEL PRINCE x THE IRON KING” or “DIVERGENT x THE HUNGER GAMES,” I haven’t really learned much other than one involves fae and one is dystopian, and I most likely wouldn’t continue reading even though I love all four of those books. I want to be excited! Is your book about a Korean girl group hiding the fact that they are secretly faeries? K-POP THE CRUEL PRINCE? I want to read your pitch! (I also want to read this book now, so…). Have fun with it.


The next bit of advice I have, you can take it or leave it, because it’s likely pretty controversial, but as far as comp titles go, I think you should trust yourself and your understanding of your own work wherever that may lead you. I’ve heard MANY authors and agents say to never use popular titles as your comp titles for pitch contests. This mainly refers to huge successes in the industry such as Twilight, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, etc. The reasonings behind this are completely understandable:


1. It could potentially come across as though you aren’t super familiar with the genre and only know popular titles.

2. They aren’t recent titles. As it happens, most of these huge successes are more than five years old, and it’s always good to show that you have an understanding of the present market.

3. This isn’t my opinion, but it does seem that no one wants to hear, “I wrote the next Twilight.”


All of these reasons are valid and something to seriously consider when choosing your comp titles. But because I don’t like hard and fast rules, and because I’m here to give you the truth as I see it, each #PitMad, I see a few very successful pitches who are comping an extremely popular book or series in their genre. I’ve even seen agents liking these tweets who previously have given the advice to never use these sort of comp titles. I don’t think it’s any fault of their own. I simply think that sometimes, a familiar, popular title or character can catch our eyes.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advising you to comp Twilight or Game of Thrones so that you can catch someone’s eye with a flashy title. Definitely do NOT do that. You should always be using the most accurate comp titles for your book. What I AM saying, though, is that you know your book best, and that means that if you feel like Daenerys Targaryen is the most accurate comp for your MC, then you shouldn’t be made to feel like it will never work. I’m mainly talking about Twitter pitch contests here. I wouldn’t advise using a super popular title in a query letter, because that’s where you want to show marketability and relevance, but Twitter pitches are different. Twitter pitches are something to get agents and editors excited about your book. I think comping popular titles or characters can be risky, but I don’t agree with saying it should never be done in pitch contests, because I see it work each and every time. I also see it not work, though. For as many successful pitches I see using The Hunger Games, I see just as many that didn’t work. Bottom line—keep in mind the reasons some do not like popular comp titles, but beyond everything else, be true to your story.


Again, have fun with it. You didn’t write a book because you hated the story. You wrote it because it excited you. Now is the time to get everyone else excited about it! We are all rooting for you.


Formatting: Place the comp titles on the top line of your pitch in all caps separated by an “x” (ie: LEGENDBORN x CLUELESS)



VISIBILITY


We’ve talked about comp titles being a great way to try and make sure that your pitch stands out amongst the masses, but what else can you do about this?


1. Hashtags. Many agents and editors search #PitMad using hashtags. If they know they are only looking for horror, they will search the #H hashtag. They know they want Own Voices stories? They will search the #OWN hashtag. Here is a comprehensive list of the hashtags they may be looking through (https://pitchwars.org/pitmad/#hashtags). In general, I would suggest listing your hashtags at the end of your pitch, and always remember to have #PitMad somewhere in there.


2. Formatting. Type out your pitch and see how it looks to you. If you’re comfortable doing so, ask others how it looks to them. Is it jumbled? Is it hard to read? Would it look better if a space was added after the first line? You can do this in a Word document or you can write it out (without sending, of course) in the Twitter “create a post” box so that you can be cognizant of Twitter’s character limit. Can you do without one of your hashtags so you can place in a much-needed space? Can something be abbreviated without taking away from the impact? This may not seem important, but when you’re trying to stand out in a sea of thousands of pitches, formatting can be what stops someone in their scroll. In general, a safe way to go is:


COMP TITLES


Pitch

Hashtags


You have up to three pitches throughout the day, though, so if you want to, get creative with your formatting. Check out the #PitMad hashtag for examples. I’ve seen really fun pitches that utilized emojis and lists of things in their books. Check out the hashtag and see what it is that catches your eye and why.


3. Timing. #PitMad begins at 8AM EST. You can pitch three times during the day. Statistically speaking, your first pitch is going to get the most interaction, so although ALL of your pitches should be strong, make sure you are coming out with your strongest first. Some will advise you to not pitch ON the hour but a few minutes later, so they may say to submit your pitch at 8:07AM instead of 8:00AM since so many will have their pitches going out at 8 o’clock on the dot, and I don’t have any data on the merit of that, but I wanted to drop it here in case it's helpful to you. My advice would be to post sometime between 8-8:15AM, then again between 9-10:30AM, and make your last pitch around lunch time from 12-1:30 EST. There is no magic formula to pitch timing, but any little bit helps in improving your chances.


4. The Writing Community. My favorite part!! I could gush about this community forever and ever and go on and on about how much I adore it, but this post is already going to be ridiculously long, so instead I’ll just give you what you need to know. The writing community can be so helpful in boosting the visibility of your pitch. We are all in this together, and everyone wants to see everyone win, so find people who want to trade retweets or people who may not be participating but are wanting to retweet and support others who are. Search the #PitMad and #WritingCommunity hashtag in the days leading up to the event. Create a Twitter List for those that you want to retweet on the day of.



MISC. TIPS & THINGS TO REMEMBER


-If you won’t be able to post at 8AM EST on the morning of #PitMad for any reason, no fear! You can easily schedule your tweets through Twitter and not have to worry about it.


-I’ve already said this, but I’m going to repeat it. Make sure you have #PitMad somewhere in your tweet so that it’s searchable.


-Don’t bog down your pitch with generic phrases. You have limited characters in a tweet, so always be specific.


-Remember that agents and editors are popping in throughout the day (and often times in the days after #PitMad) so don’t be disheartened if after a couple of hours, you haven’t received any likes.


-Don’t introduce side characters, subplots, or any unnecessary worldbuilding. Stay focused on the main character/s and main conflict.


-I would advise staying away from rhetorical questions. I’ve never seen one done effectively in a pitch.


-Receiving likes is so exciting! BUT! Do your research before sending materials. Unfortunately, there can be scammers liking tweets, so make sure that you’re only sending your work to people you want to have it.



AND FINALLY…


HAVE FUN.


I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t take it too seriously. There are many more ways outside of Twitter pitch contests to get an agent. This is NOT the only way. I know cold querying can be rough, but it works. And beyond that, how you do in a pitch contest has NO bearing on your talent or the quality or merit of your work. Usually, it just means you put together a solid pitch and the stars aligned for it to be seen by others. There are countless incredible pitches that get lost in the scuffle, countless stories of wildly successful authors who received zero likes in every pitch contest they entered. Do NOT get discouraged. Your story will find its way one day, and this is only one avenue of MANY for it to do so.


Make some friends in the community, be inspired by how much everyone wants to lift each other up, and remember that you do this because you love to write and you believe in the stories you’re telling.


I believe in you and your stories, too, and I can’t wait to read them all one day.



2 Comments


Cristina Franco
Cristina Franco
Nov 08, 2022

OMG CAN'T WAIT FOR BELLEGARDE TO COME OUT. IM SO EXCITEEDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!🤗

Like

j.a.allahmensah
Jun 01, 2021

This is SO helpful Jamie, thank you so much for writing this! Also MAJOR congrats on your agent, I am so excited to read about Sienna when your book comes out!

Like
bottom of page