A Scribbler’s Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests
Hi there, Scribbler! If you’re a querying writer looking for different ways to connect with literary agents, you may be interested in Twitter pitch contests. What are Twitter pitch contests, what are the benefits and when do they occur? Find all the answers in this article.
What are Twitter pitch contests?
Twitter pitch contests are an avenue for unpublished writers to virtually pitch agents their completed manuscript(s), vie for coveted editing packages or meet potential critique partners. Twitter pitch contests are what the name suggests: writers pitch literary agents or editors via Twitter in hopes to land a request for more materials.
What are the benefits of Twitter pitch contests?
Participating in Twitter pitch contests afford writers several advantages:
- Grab an industry professional’s attention. As the number one reason why writers participate in pitch contests, the potential to connect with a literary agent or editor and get requests to query your first chapter, partial manuscript or full manuscript is the top benefit of participating in Twitter pitch contests.
- Test interest for the story. Maybe you won’t get a ton of agent or publisher interest but engaging with other writers and Book Twitter users affords you the opportunity to “test the waters” and see if there’s interest in the market for the book you’re pitching. It’s important to note (and I’ll discuss it below) that the Twitter algorithms make it incredibly hard for tweets to be seen, so no agent likes or peer retweets does not mean your story isn’t valuable.
- Find a critique partner or beta reader. Most, if not all Twitter pitch contests, require tweets to have at least one age group hashtag and one genre hashtag. As such, searching your age group and genre hashtag together (“#A + #SFF” for adult sci-fi/fantasy) will return hundreds of tweets and allow you to not only boost tweets you think should be seen but connect with other writers in your genre and develop friendships or partnerships.
- Hone your pitching skills. It’s easy to tweet what you had for breakfast but nearly impossible to distill your 90,000-word manuscript into 280 characters. Thankfully, most pitching events allow participants at least three unique tweets spaced out through the event. Try a few different types of pitches: a log line (one sentence that includes the main character, conflict and stakes), a spoof or satirical tweet (e.g. inserting your plot into the lyrics of a famous song) or a bulleted list of unique plot points and comp titles.
What are the drawbacks of participating in Twitter pitch contests?
- Lack of visibility. As stated above, Twitter algorithms can be unfair — especially if you’re new to or dormant on Twitter. Hundreds of pitches flood Twitter each hour during these events, sometimes ending in 13,000+ tweets for the several-hour period! If you plan to engage in Twitter pitch contests regularly, it may be beneficial to become more active on Twitter a few weeks before the event.
- Low success rate. With the thousands of tweets sent during these events and only a few dozen literary agents participating, it’s no wonder not everyone gets a request. Getting a request is an exciting accomplishment to be celebrated but not getting one doesn’t signal the end of your writing career. Twitter pitch contests are just one small way to connect with an agent; other avenues like face-to-face pitching and cold querying works too.
- Potential for stolen ideas. Some writers don’t participate in these contests because they’re scared someone will steal their idea. While it’s always a good idea to be cautious with your intellectual property, these instances are rare. In addition, only completed fiction manuscripts should be pitched so the odds of someone stealing your exact idea, writing and editing an entire book and then pitching it is a long shot.
List of annual Twitter pitch contests
There are several large annual pitch contests held on Twitter. Keep in mind, the ones I mention below are only the most popular; dozens more exist, especially for specific genres and age groups. Also, a big thanks to Emma Lombard for her exhaustive list of 2021 Twitter Pitch Party events.
Linked to the wildly-popular contest to win a writing mentor, PitchWars, PitMad is the original Twitter pitch event that invites writers to pitch unpublished works to literary agents and acquiring editors. This event occurs quarterly, and at the time of posting, the next #PitMad events are on September 2, 2021 (8AM – 8PM EST) and December 2, 2021 (8AM – 8PM EST).
This event exclusively showcases and raises up the voices of “unagented, marginalized writers who have been historically-underrepresented in the publishing industry.” Success stories from #DVPit include We Hunt the Flame, The Gilded Ones, Stand Up, Yumi Chung! and many, many more. While the official 2021 day hasn’t been released yet, writers can plan for #DVPit to occur in the fall (most likely October).
For writers who include a little (or a lot) of horror, gore, or darkness in their manuscripts, the biannual #PitDark event is perfect. It’s the only Twitter pitch event that spotlights darker literature. #PitDark usually occurs in May and October.
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s twitter pitch party not only garnered over 10,000 tweets in January of 2021 but became a trending topic on Twitter! This pitch contest is open to all age groups, all genres and all unpublished or unagented writers. It’s an annual event held every January.
Things to know when participating in pitch contests
- Only pitch a completed, edited manuscript. If you do get a request from an agent, you want to be able to send out materials immediately — and be confident that you’re sending your best work.
- Read the rules of the event very carefully. Each contest has a unique set up for participants promoting others’ tweets and agents showing interest with liking, retweeting and quote tweeting.
- Prepping for pitch contests takes time. Spending five minutes on your tweets probably won’t result in your best pitches and won’t frame your manuscript in the glowing way you want agents to see it.
- Understanding where your book could fit on shelves in a bookstore — as well as having comparative tiles — will help in crafting your pitch tweets and identifying which hashtags to use.
- No form of success is guaranteed in a Twitter pitch contest, so try not to be discouraged if you don’t receive any engagement.
- Twitter pitch contests are a great way to figure out what your favorite agents are interested in acquiring, especially if you’re almost ready to query. Simply navigate to their profile and click on “likes” to see an aggregate of the pitches they’ve requested materials on.
If your tweets don’t receive any engagement, it does not mean that you are a failure, that your book is unworthy, or any other negative statement Imposter Syndrome is trying to convince your brain to believe.
I’m here to help you with your pitch.
Jumping into the query trenches is difficult enough but throwing yourself into the chaotic and exciting world of Twitter pitching is something all on its own. If you need help deciding if you’re ready to pitch, crafting your tweets or just need to vent, feel free to send me a DM over on Instagram at @iamgirlofwords. Happy pitching, Scribbler! You got this.