How to Pitch for #Pitmad

Updated: Jun 5

#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.

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, videogames. 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 fo those three things. Then fid 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.

Don't Overgeneralize.

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!


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