Updated: Aug 2, 2020
#Pitmad is a twitter event where authors pitch their novels to agents. Here's a breakdown of the rules from the Pitch Wars website:
If you're new to #pitchwars I recommend checking out the site to read all the rules and check out the videos and other resources they have.
First Things First
Before I start talking about the actual mechanics of a pitch and how to write one, here are some tips you can do to be as prepared and polished as possible for #pitmad.
The lovely thing about #pitmad is that every one is using the exact some hashtag. Sometimes it can be hard to meet writers and gain followers on Twitter, but a few days before a pitch event the hashtag usually becomes active. You'll start to see a bunch of posts about people asking who's participating. Comment on as many of these as you can, drop a GIF, say hello, tell them what genre you're pitching; don't just have a cookie cutter response for each one, try mixing it up and really make connections. This can gain you followers but it can also get you added to lists and make sure your pitch gets retweeted on pitch day.
Clean Up Your Bio
We don't all use our Twitter platform exclusively for writing and that's fine, but when #pitmad rolls around tidy up your bio. A good formula is: Writer of (genre) from (country or province). Likes X and X. Can usually be found doing X. When it comes to genre try to pick something unique to you, like "quirky sci-fi" or "crime fiction with a sense of humor". Try to describe your style as well as your genre. For place, you can stick to State or just plop in your countries flag, or you can get specific again and say something like "from a city with more bars than people" or "living in a small east coast town you haven't heard of". For likes pick one serious interest or hobby and one silly one, ie. likes baking and couch potato crime solving (bonus points if the second one ties into your genre). 'Can usually be found' is just an extra little one to add it if you haven't already used up all your bio space. You can use it literally and mention a cafe you like to write in, or you can make it silly again and say something like 'sharping my blade in preparation for the next glorious battle' if you're a historical fiction writer. Try to tie things into your genre. It paves the way to building an author brand for yourself and gives snooping agents a clear idea of who you are as an author.
Work Your Time Line
The day before a pitch event fill your timeline by either tweeting or retweeting writing or book related posts. Again, remember that you're building a brand. If potentially interested agents stop by your timeline you want them them to see and think WRITER. Don't let this stop you from retweeting other writers pitches, being a team player also looks good on you!
Pimp your niche. If you write historical fiction, find articles on old castles (preferably ones where a photo thumbnail comes up when you share it). If you write romance find a Buzzfeed listicle about top ten saucy women in renascence Italy, show that you have a sense of humor about your genre. If you write Fantasy then find the most beautiful, book porn edition of Grimm's fairy tales and share and gush about it.
Aesthetics are a great way to bring attention to a book, BUT #pitmad doesn't allow you add photos to your pitches. Create and aesthetic using free-domain or properly sourced photos and include a caption like Katy's. If you make this your pinned Tweet then it's a sneeky way of getting more info to an agent that may be interested and come lurking around your profile. It this is pinned then they are bound to see not only the fancy bio you've created but also images and more details about your book.
Try to make the five things facts or aspects of the book you couldn't fit into your pitches. Work every word! Go to your profile on your laptop and on your phone. No scrolling! What you see may be the first impression an agent gets of you. Make it count!
Okay, now let's talk about actually writing a pitch!
What should a pitch do?
I've helped a lot of people with their pitches and the number one thing I find with people who are struggling is that they don't really understand the purpose of a pitch. They know it's meant to attrack agents, but not how it attracts agents.
A pitch is not a summary of the plot. It's not even the back blurb of a book. Think of a pitch as a movie poster. Not a trailer, not a teaser, just the poster. It's a photograph, stationary, so you have to carefully decide what you want the audience to see. At first try, everyone writes a Marvel Poster; busy, crammed, overloaded. Braveheart is a great movie poster. Hero in the forefront, battle scene in the background, hint of romance up there in that cloud in the corner.
Your pitch needs to look like this poster. Key elements only. No noise, no extras.
A pitch isn't about showing an agent how wonderful you are with words, how philosophical and layered your novel is, it's about telling an agent 'hey, this story is marketable'.
How to write a Pitch
First, start by making bullet points of the key elements in your novel. Write SHORT sentences. Use small, yet precise words. This pitch has to fit in a single tweet with hashtags.
Once you have your list pick only three of the points to use in your pitch. It's going to feel like all of those things are important, but believe me, they aren't.
Once you have your three key elements you have to decide how you want to arrange them. There isn't a right or wrong way to order them, just try to keep it simple. If you're struggling with how to fit your points together, there are a few different methods I use that may help.
The Spoiler Pitch
It is perfectly fine to include spoilers in your pitch. I found my publisher through #pitmad and my entier pitch was focused around the big twist/reveal in my book. A twist is a unique kind of hook because it's not something you can put on the back of the book but you can feed it to agents. Even if you don't base your pitch around a twist or spoiler in your book, don't avoid them either. I see a lot of pitches that over some secret at their core. Don't hover, just dive right in.
The Comp Pitch
Comp is short for comparison titles. Typically, you pick two books you think are similar to your book in some way and put them at the top of your pitch. Ex. THE HOBBIT + DUNE.
I like to branch out with comps. I like to pick movies, tv shows, video games. Usually, I'll pick one book and then one other different media comp. How do you decide on a comp? A comp title shouldn't be exactly like your book, but it should share at least one strong element. SO of those three things you've picked, find a book that also has one of those three things. Then find another comp that has a different one of those bullet points.
Some ways in which comps can be similar are setting, plot, character, and genre (if it's something niche). Try to find comps that highlight different things, so your plot may resemble The Hobbit but your setting is similar to Dune.
The Mash-Up Pitch
This one is where you can get really creative. The mash-up pitch is where you take two different well-known concepts and put them together as a way to describe your book. This is very common for retellings. Ex. A Cyberpunk Sleeping Beauty. Cyberpunk gives us genre and aesthetic, and everyone if familiar with the plot of Sleeping Beauty.
Mash-up's don't have to be based on myths or retellings though. Here's a list of some options you can get creative with:
Authors: Pick two authors with unique style or voice that you think represents your book. ex. Lovecraft meets Jane Austen
Genre: Two genres not often mixed. Using subgenres can have a big impact.
Time period: A lot of concepts take time periods or setting out of time. Ex. Italian renaissance in space.
Normal with outrageous: Pick a fairly normal concept in your book and pair it with some more extraordinary concept. Ex. Apocolypse with dragons. Jane Austen with magic. Cinderella with guns.
The Sex Swap
Many people use this for retellings but it's not the only use. If your story wasn't designed around being a male Little Mermaid you can still use this type of pitch. Focus on your main character and see what well-known character of the opposite sex you can use as a comparison. Ex. She's a female Jack Sparrow. He's a male Marie Antoinette.
One of the biggest issues I see in pitches is people being vague or overgeneralizing. Phrases like "or else he'll lose everything" are extremely common. Agents want to know the stakes. What exactly will the character lose? His home? His family? His throne? His reputation? There are going to be a lot of pitches that end with "or else he'll lose everything", so make sure you stand out and use every word to its max potential.
Other phrases and words to avoid:
bad war, or evil monster. "war" and "monster" imply bad and evil, so those words aren't necessary. If you had a friendly monster, that would be the time to throw in the adjective.
Careful with things like forever, eternal, for good, etc. Ending a sentence with "Or he could lose his kingdom" is actually more powerful than "he could lose his kingdom forever". Don't lay it on too thick. Less is more.
Suddenly. Don't use it. Don't use it in your pitch, don't use it in your novel. Just stripe this word from your vocab because it reads like a cheesy movie narrator.
Another word you should unlearn: Undescribable. For the love of god you are a writer, NOTHING should be indescribable!
There are only two days left until #pitmad. Work on those pitches. If you want to see what people think, try posting them to twitter under the hashtag #pracpit to get some feedback. Just make sure to delete these practice pitches before #pitmad so people don't get confused and boost the wrong tweets. Best of luck!