Friday, March 6, 2015

Controversial Advice on Twitter Pitching

I've blogged before about the etiquette of twitter pitching and some hints for crafting a pitch. Today, I'm going to give you some of my stats on twitter pitching and what my most successful pitches were.

Fair warning: This advice is different than most advice you'll see on this subject. For that, I do not apologize.

First up, some stats. I pitched my most recent novel in three twitter pitch events last year. Across those three events, I had 51 requests. Some of them were repeats some very enthusiastic agents (one agent favorited five of my tweets in one event), and many were small presses (which I was not pursuing at the time), but still. Fifty one. That's a lot by just about any measure. If your work is ready, you'll find someone to love it (my agent actually first connected with me via one of these pitches, so... magic is real).

These are the pitches that generated the most requests: 

Her mother's cryptic journal. An ancient spell. A prince on the run. Waking Sleeping Beauty was simpler when it was just a dragon  (105 Re-tweets, 12 requests)
A mother sacrifices power so her daughter can live. The daughter sacrifices love so that she can die. Sleeping Beauty retelling (37 Re-tweets, 12 requests)
Sleeping Beauty in a broken desert kingdom, forgotten for centuries, saved by a woman who shared her curse. #A (59 Re-tweets, 9 requests)
Defeat a dragon. Break a spell. Escape royal assassins. Yet the most difficult task Nadina faces is to not fall in love Ad/Fant (50 Re-tweets, 5 requests)
Nadina has found the key to breaking the curse that has kept her alive for the last 400yrs. She just has to keep him alive.  Ad/Fant (15 Re-tweets, 4 requests)
A mother's race to save her daughter's life. A prince on the run, a dragon in the desert, and a sleeping beauty to wake. #A Fantasy (47 Re-Tweets, 4 requests)

Other pitches generated one or two requests. Some of those generated a lot of retweets (one had over forty retweets, but only one request). Retweets can be helpful at boosting your signal or telling you what people connect with, but the request rate is what really matters, so that's what I zeroed in on for this post. 

The thing that these highly requested pitches have in common? They sound fun and interesting. They make someone say "Oooh. I'd read that." 

Other than that - the "fun" factor - they have very little in common, and they don't really follow the standard advice most people are giving on this subject. The feed moves by so quickly (it is absolutely impossible to watch the feed in real time, even if you sort it by genre or audience), nobody is analyzing your tweet to say, "Hmmmm... is this following all the rules of a Good Pitch?". A twitter pitch has exactly ONE job: 

Catch someone's attention. 

That's it. That's all it needs to do. Now, there are a few things that can make you more effective at this. I recommend clicking on the Ten Tips for Twitter Pitching for a more lengthy explanation of some of these, but here's a quick overview. 
  1. Your pitch needs to be clear, concise, and as grammatically correct as possible. 
  2. Your pitch should include the appropriate hashtag for your genre and audience whenever possible. 
  3. Your pitch should use pithy language that reflects your genre and audience. 
  4. Your pitch should reflect the tone of your novel. You want to attract agents who want to sell funny books? Be funny. You want to attract editors who publish violently dark books? Be violently dark. 
And, of course, DO NOT LIE. Do not pitch "Sex, Robots, and Rock N Roll!" if your manuscript is a quiet, literary piece featuring neither sex nor robots nor rock n roll. (If you want to sell a manuscript about sex, robots, and rock n roll, maybe that's what you should be writing... but that's a different topic for a different post). Getting someone's attention only gets you so far - once you query those agents or editors who request your work, they will see your work. That's when a good query that follows all the rules and a clean manuscript matter.

So that's it. That's my advice: Make your pitch sound fun and interesting. This usually means focusing on a specific element or tagline, and sometimes means you'll ignore the stakes of the novel. Stakes are more elegantly defined in a query letter and are incredibly difficult to squeeze into a tweet. If you can manage it - GREAT! Do it!

But don't bash your head against your desk trying to force it to happen, especially if you have some perfectly good, effective pitches lined up otherwise.

EDIT: The rules of how often you can pitch have changed. Please follow the new rules on Brenda Drake's profile. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A "Regular" Writer Responds to That MFA Dude

I know some big names (Chuck Wendig among them, bless his soul) have responded to that MFA Dude. The article came rolling through my social media feeds a couple days ago, at first being shared with lots of praise and "This is what I've been saying for years" sort of comments. It was shared by people I like and people I respect and people whose work I love.

So I read it, and I read it thinking it would be a positive experience. Here are my reactions, as they came to me the first time I read it.

We are either born with talent or we aren't. Well, that's not so bad. I mean... I could have been born with a talent that I just didn't recognize until I was older. That happens all the time, right?

Oh. I had to have discovered it and started using it by the time I was a teenager? Welllll... I had an easy time writing essays in high school. That counts, right? I'm sure it counts.

If I complain about not having time to write, I should drop out? Well, I'm not in an MFA program, so I don't have anything to drop out of. *keep reading* Oh. He means I should quit altogether. I guess I don't really "complain" about not having time, it's just that I'm nursing a colicky newborn and had a failed adoption last fall and my husband lost his job twice in the last year and that's not really an excuse for not writing, I guess...

Oh, I AM a serious reader! I have something going for me! Yes!


I never read Infinite Jest. I should get on that. It'll improve my feminist fantasy writing, I'm sure. I should also read Tolstoy. It's shameful that I never have, honestly. I should never admit that to people. Maybe I should give Jane Austen another chance. There's more there for me to try to love, I can get smarter. I just need to try harder.

Well. I'm not trying to be a sh** writer and I'm not writing memoirs so maybe this part doesn't apply to me.

MFA professors don't help people get published. That's good to know, I guess. Money wasted? I don't know. I'm getting confused by this.

Nobody is supposed to think highly of me and I'm supposed to keep my writing a secret.

I've done this all wrong.

Yes. I'm sort of kidding. But mostly not. I really did have these thoughts, and I really did doubt myself for a day or so after reading the original article. Serious doubts. The kind that are so loud you can't hear anything else so you go vacuum the house just to drown out the noise. I'm overwhelmingly grateful that published writers, people a lot farther down the path than me, responded to this guy. I needed to hear those voices. 

And we all need to know how words can affect people around us.