Twitter Pitch Tips from Author Dan Koboldt

Twitter is a goldmine for writers! There are so many pitching opportunities because of it. Author Dan Koboldt is the organizer of #SFFPit, a Twitter pitch event for Science Fiction and Fantasy manuscripts for all ages groups. Today he’s here to share some Twitter pitching tips with us. But even if you don’t write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Dan shares some info and advice that is relevant no matter what genre you are working in:

Dan Kobolt
Dan Koboldt

Publishing is an extremely competitive world, especially for a new author trying to break in. Literary agencies receive hundreds of queries a week from aspiring authors seeking representation, but most new agents only take on a handful of new clients each year. When my publisher Harper Voyager held an open submission call last year, they received over 5,000 submissions. Fifteen were selected for publication, meaning that the odds of success were 0.3%.

Numbers like these can be daunting to a new authors. Yet, as the readers of Sub It Club know quite well, there are many paths to publication. Twitter pitching contests like #PitMad and #AdPit have arisen as a fun, interactive way to connect authors to literary agents and editors. The idea is simple: authors with completed manuscripts pitch them during a specified window of time under a common hashtag. Agents and editors peruse these pitches, and “like” the tweet if they’d like to see a submission.

Importantly, this is not a magic workaround to the query process. An author whose pitch is marked still has to send a query and partial. Furthermore, pitching an entire book in 140 characters is hard. As the host of #SFFpit, the Twitter pitching event for science fiction and fantasy, I’ve spent some time studying what works.

The Purpose of a Pitch

First, let’s start with the goals. You want to develop a pitch that:

  1. Concisely describes what the book is about
  2. Conveys the book’s age category and genre
  3. Stands out among hundreds of other pitches
  4. Demonstrates proficiency at writing and pitching

Not all of these are required for success, but if you achieve all four with your pitch, you’ll have a leg up in the competition. And it is a competition, make no mistake. In my experience, only a fraction of participating authors get a request from Twitter pitching events.

How to Write An Effective Pitch

There’s plenty of good advice in the blogosphere about writing effective Twitter pitches. I’ll share a few tips, and then point you to some sources to find out more.

  • Start with a compelling character and his or her goal. Good stories are about interesting people who want things. Using the character’s name is fine, but usually not necessary: it’s more important to tell us who the person is in terms of heritage, profession, etc.
  • Be specific. If you’ve ever scanned the Twitter feed for a pitching contest, you’ll see many of the same phrases over and over. “Or her world will never be the same” is a common one. Tell us instead that if a character fails, he’ll be tortured, spend his life alone, or start a war. Specificity will help character descriptions, too. A princess is a common character type, and carries little meaning. But add a word like “reluctant” or “illegitimate” and you’ll make her far more interesting.
  • Get feedback on your pitches. A pitch is a form of writing, and all writers are a bit blind to their own work. Feedback from a friend or critique partner can be invaluable for fine-tuning a pitch and finding any weak points. It’s also not much to ask, since reading and critiquing a 140-character pitch only takes a few minutes.

Here are a few other places to go for Twitter pitching advice:

Join Us for #SFFpit and #SFFchat

The following info is dated, but #SFFPit still happens! Check our Contest Roundup and the details link below. -HB

The next #SFFpit event is this Thursday, December 10th, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (U.S. Eastern time). Get the details here. If you’re seeking representation or publication for a science fiction or fantasy manuscript, I hope you’ll participate. If you’re not, feel free to stop by the hashtag to offer some encouragement.

We’re also running a special warmup event on Wednesday, December 9th at 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. (Eastern). At each time, several of my fellow Harper Voyager authors will offer pitching tips, answer questions, and discuss the state of SF/F publishing on the hashtag #SFFchat. Each chat will last about an hour. I hope you’ll join us then, too.

About the Author

Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher, avid bowhunter, and the creator of #SFFpit. His debut novel The Rogue Retrieval, about a Vegas magician who infiltrates a medieval world, will be published next month by Harper Voyager. You can find out more about Dan at his website where you can join his mailing list. Follow him on Twitter @DanKoboldt.

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