Twitter and Conference Pitching: A Quick Guide

 

I’m not an expert on pitching, but I am one of the few people who kind of loves it.

 So, I was hoping this post could be informational but also share my love of pitching.

First, the reasons I love pitching (in conferences):

– It’s face-to-face, so you can get a feel of the agent/editor and their reaction to your story.

– It’s an organic conversation, it gives agents/editors a chance to ask questions that they wouldn’t otherwise. It means you get a chance to really sell your story in a more natural setting.

– It’s a chance for YOU to ask questions of the agent/editor you’re talking to. It’s great because even if they don’t request your MS you can ask them about future projects or about the industry in general. Almost every agent and editor I’ve pitched has been willing to take extra time to talk to me about small questions at the end. It has been a great chance to educate myself.

The reasons I love pitching (on Twitter):

– It’s low commitment. You can just post your pitch and step away (if you want).

– It costs you nothing (except maybe a bit of your sanity that day).

– You’re usually allowed to pitch more than once so you get multiple chances to make an impression on dozens of agents and editors that are taking part.

Some things to keep in mind:

– Pitching doesn’t give a full picture of your story, that’s what your query letter is for, so make sure it’s ready to go.

– Don’t pitch (on Twitter) unless you’ve got a completed MS. There is an expectation that you will send requested materials soon (often within a few weeks).

(NOTE: This is different for conferences. You have more time, but I’d also tell the agent/editor what stage the MS is on when you have the pitch appointment)

Basic elements of a pitch:

– Concept/World

– Character – their motivations, their flaw.

– Conflict – the inciting incident. The reason they can’t stay in their comfort zone anymore.

Do NOT try to include everything about your story in your pitch. There’s no way you can tell all elements of your story in a pitch whether it’s a 5 minute convo at a conference or a 140 character Twitter Pitch.

For a conference (in person) pitch, you can just include one great detail for each of the three bullet points above. Then if you have more time expand on the thing that makes your story interesting.

For a Twitter pitch, you can make one 140 character pitch for each individual bullet point.

Also, SPECIFICITY! My main advice when I critique pitches is to ask for specifics. “She’s a monster” is a bit vague. However, specifying the type of monster makes it more unique: “She’s a gumiho, a 9-tailed fox.” If you can give concrete reasons or examples for why your story is unique, then use them. Making your story stand out among the crowd is the key to a successful pitch.

Additional things you can add (if you have them):

– Great comps that give IMMEDIATE idea of your story (These Broken Stars was often pitched as Titanic in Space. That gives an immediate concept of the story. Don’t just use 2 comps and think it’ll give an idea of the story immediately, that’s not always the case so be aware of your story’s strengths)

– High concept hook (this is similar to including good comps). For example, “Cinder is Futuristic retelling of Cinderella with cyborgs and spaceships.” That kind of tweet would make me want to read IMMEDIATELY.

– Something that the story is based on that is cool and unexpected. I said that my story was based on Korean Myth which is (unfortunately) not common in YA right now. So it caught the eye of a few agents and it helped my pitch get interest.

Some things to try for Twitter Pitches (with examples):

Try making a pitch based on Plot Line.

– Say you’re pitching Hunger Games. You’d pitch the plot by saying, “A teen girl is forced into a televised game that makes 24 kids fight to the death for sport. Only 1 can survive.”

Try making a pitch based on Character Arc.

– Again, for Hunger Games. “Katniss will do anything to save her little sister, including taking her place in the deadly Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death.”

Try making a pitch based on World Inspiration.

– Hunger Games pitch with World inspiration. “Panem is all that’s left of North America. The capital keeps the 12 districts in line by demanding 2 teen tributes each year to fight to the death for sport.”

(I also made a video for tips on writing a Twitter Pitch)

And Finally, be positive. Even if the first, second, and tenth agent don’t show much interest then keep trying! You worked hard on your book and you should be proud of that. And if all else fails, you can still slush query.

Querying (1): Step by Step Query Process

So, I just went through the journey we call querying and I thought I’d write about it since I love step-by-step guides.

This post probably won’t be completely comprehensive, but I did try to include everything I personally had questions about. And if you have any additional questions, feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll try to use my resources, friends, CPs, etc. to answer them.

Step 1: Write your query 

(This will be a separate post. Just need to compile querying advice from my own trusted sources to share with you happy people)

UPDATE: Query Letter post is HERE

Step 2: Research Agents

This step can be done at any time during the writing and querying process. In all likelihood it WILL happen before you’re done writing your MS. Because we all like to look ahead a million steps and dream (If we didn’t dream, we probably wouldn’t be writers).

Here’s a sample of a spreadsheet I compiled with data points I thought were important for agents.

You can include as many or as few data points as you want. This is just what I did because I like to compile data (I’m a clinical researcher by day).

This helps because you can write up a query letter that includes detailed reasons why you are querying the agent. Doesn’t need to be much. It can be as simple as “I am querying you because you expressed an interest in Urban Fantasy with diverse characters. I am hoping to interest you in my diverse fantasy set in the city of Bangkok.”

Sites I used to research agents:

– Agency Sites (I always start there, they have the basics such as genre they rep and how to submit)

Query Tracker

MSWL (which stands for Manuscript Wishlist)

– You can also search Twitter for #MSWL

-Speaking of Twitter, you can follow your fave editors and agents

Writer’s Digest

Publisher’s Marketplace

– Also, lots of great interviews on blogs (I just googled [Agent Name + Interview])

Step 3: Make sure you pick the proper genre:

Genre is NOT MG, YA, NA, Adult.

Those are your audiences. You cannot just say you are writing YA and think the agent will think, “Great, that’s what I represent.” Some agents do represent all YA, but even they will think something is fishy if you don’t include a genre. So a genre is:

Fantasy: This is magic! Elves, wizards, mermaids, dragons. There is high fantasy (Lord of the Rings style) and low fantasy (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Style). There are subgenres in fantasy such as Paranormal, Magical Realism (to be discussed later,) and urban fantasy (to be discussed later).

Fantasy YA books: The Star-Touched Queen, The Wrath and the Dawn, Graceling, Throne of Glass, Prophecy, and Serpentine

Science Fiction: Also easy to define. This is taking something that is rooted in science and stretching it and expanding it into something fantastical. But it is not magic. So something like The Matrix is Sci-Fi because they do live in a world without the true laws of physics, but they’re ruled by machines and computer code. This includes sub genres like: dystopian and space operas.

Books that are Sci-fi: Legend, ZeroboxerHunger Games, These Broken Stars

Urban Fantasy: This is magical elements in a kick-butt urban world. So, Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series is Urban Fantasy.

Other Urban Fantasy books: Vampire Academy, White Cat, Shadowshaper, Labyrinth Lost

Contemporary: These books are set in a realistic, contemporary setting (thus the name). They can be issue driven, but don’t have to be. They are often quieter in nature, but are most times coming of age stories within the realm of YA. (Think John Green, Jenny Han, Katie McGarry). Tiny Pretty Things, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Perks of Being a Wallflower

Thriller: This is like the action movie, suspense genre. It’s more contemporary in setting (so no magic), but it has faster pace. I don’t read much of thriller genre in YA so I’d defer to other sites and their definitions, but some books in YA Thriller are The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, We Were LiarsAfter the Woods

Horror: Just like it sounds. It’s horror. I don’t write this genre a lot, so I defer to other sites on deeper definitions, but some books that are YA horror are Anna Dressed in BloodThe Madman’s Daughter, A Monster Calls

Magical Realism: This one is harder for me to define because I can see how a book would be Magical Realism one way, and then fantasy another. So I like THIS post to explain it. It’s pretty much a contemporary world with a magical element that is treated as a reality of life (I often think of Miyazaki films for this). The Weight of FeathersThe Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)Bone Gap

Historical: This is how it sounds. A book that is set in the past. Usually doesn’t have fantastical elements, but there have been some good historical with light magic (magical realism books).

Under a Painted Sky, Code Name Verity, The Book Thief

At the end of the day genre is definitely fluid. Some people would say their book is Science Fantasy because it’s a space opera with magical wizards on Mars.

I personally called my current MS Contemporary Fantasy because it is based on Mythology with a mythical creature, but it is in modern day Seoul and the characters deal with a lot of contemporary issues.

Step 4: Check on your word count 

(this actually could be a “pre-step” since it comes about in writing and revision stage.

THIS is a great guide written in detail about word count for all genres by Chuck Sambuchino at Writer’s Digest

But in general, these are the guidelines I follow (keep in mind these are just my rules for myself and I only write MG and YA):

YA Contemporary: 50,000-70,000 (Sweet spot ~55,000 to 65,000)

YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi: 60,000 – 100,000 (Sweet spot ~75,000 to 85,000)

MG (I tend to write “upper MG”): 40,000 – 60,000 (Sweet spot ~45,000 – 55,000)

Step 5: Make sure you FOLLOW SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

I cannot stress this enough. I have friends who work or worked at Literary Agencies. They say that the biggest reason for auto-reject  is that the person did not follow submission guidelines. I think “auto-reject” is the saddest thing ever because it happens before your pitch or work can speak for itself.

Things to make sure you double check:

– Does the agent represent your genre?

– Does your MS follow word count guidelines for your genre?

– Do you have the proper submission email? (This could be different from an email found on an agent’s blog. Go directly to the agency website to get the right email address for submissions)

– Did you address the agent in a formal way? (Mr. or Ms. LAST NAME)

– Did you write a personal blurb about WHY you’re submitting to them? Many agents like to know why you’re querying them. They want to know that you did your research.

Additionally, my critique group (and specifically the wonderful David Slayton @davidrslayton) created this sweet flow-chart of do’s and don’ts

Step 6: Headers/Subject lines/Attachments/Body of email

This is something I had A LOT of questions about. So I will just say what I did. This will definitely vary depending on the agent you send to, so please check their requirements before you send the same email to everyone (also, this should NEVER happen, you should personalize your emails for the agent you’re sending to):

SUBJECT LINE: Query [Agent Name]: TITLE OF BOOK

(the reason I put Agent Name is that a lot of submission emails are agency wide. It just helps to name the agent in the subject line)

BODY OF EMAIL:

1. Query letter

2. PASTE sample pages

3. PASTE synopsis (if requested).

(I personally liked to put synopsis last because the synopsis is kind of dry, language-wise. I want their first impression to be my voice. Now there is nothing I found that said what the order of sample pages and synopsis were. But if you do find that then follow those rules. Just know that query letter will ALWAYS come first. It’s your opener).

SIGN OFF: I put my signature at the end of the query letter. Because that was my formal opening and then the sample pages were like an attachment that I just copy pasted into the body of the email. 

I used a simple “Sincerely, Kat Cho”

BONUS:

 If you are submitting to an agent because of a request or a contest then the SUBJECT LINE should include that fact!

I did both a conference and an online pitch contest they looked like this:

RT Con Request for [AGENT NAME]: GUMIHO

#DVPit Request for [AGENT NAME]: GUMIHO

Step 7: Send the query!

Okay, now you’re ready to send the query! So press send!

Step 8: Step away!

Okay, so, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to FREAK OUT as soon as you press “send.” Try as hard as you can NOT to do that! It will only end in stressed sadness. So, this is the “waiting and distraction” phase.

Some suggestions of activities to distract yourself with:

1. Start another WiP

2. Read your whole TBR list

3. Watch everything you’ve ever wanted to watch on Netflix

4. Flee the country (and/or go on a reasonable trip)

5. Do…fun things? I don’t know, you’re lucky I came up with 4 things already.

Step 9: Submitting Requested Materials

You did it! You got an agent to request your materials! Whether it’s a 50 page partial or a full MS, this is a celebratory moment. I personally bought myself a little gift after my first request. (Then I drank heavily after I sent out the materials, but that’s…not a requirement)

I’ve heard varying advice for this. So, I’ll just say what I did.

I replied to the original email chain and changed the subject to “Requested Material: TITLE”

Then I put a little blurb into the body of the email. Not anything huge, just something simple like:

“Thank you so much for requesting my Full/Partial of TITLE. I have attached the requested material as a Word doc.
For your convenience, I’ve pasted the query letter below.
Thank you again, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Your Signature
PASTE QUERY HERE”

So, you don’t actually HAVE to paste your query letter again if you’re replying to the original thread. But I did it (and I’m not sorry!)

Step 10: Step away AGAIN! 

Yes! More waiting! So, see step 7 for my great suggestions on how to not worry about your MS being in the hands of agents.

Also, peppered in between each step should be halfway steps that I call CELEBRATE YOURSELF

Seriously! You did it! You rock. You are awesome. Even just sending ONE query means you’re putting yourself out there. That is huge. I know that I felt ridiculously accomplished after sending one query. And then I just rested for a while thinking “Yes, I did it. I pressed send.”

(I really spent time celebrating sending ONE query)

So, bask in your glory. And ask any questions you might have below. I’ll try to answer or provide links I’ve used.

Just as a final note, querying to find an agent might not be for everyone. I know people who have gone straight to a publishing house with their MS or have self-published to great success.
This post is merely for people who would like to find an agent as their next step on their writing/publishing journey.

Why I love Query Tracker

If you’re querying or about to query, then you probably know there are a lot of tools out there to help you in the process. For myself, I started out with an excel spreadsheet way too long for its own good.

I also had advice from critique partners and other writers.

But, in my need to be organized, I turned to Query Tracker 

(suggested to me by my lovely critique partner).

It. Is. Fabulous.

Here’s a blurb about QT by QT:

Why join QueryTracker?List of top literary agents and publishers.
Tools to keep your queries organized.
Benefit from the collective knowledge of thousands of other writers, all of which are enduring the query process just like you.
Export and backup your data at any time
The data compiled on agents and queries will give you special insight, such as:

  • The number of queries sent to each agent.
  • The number of queries each agent accepts.
  • The number of queries each agent rejects.
  • Response times of agents.
  • Plus much more…

Everyone who queries should use it! And here are a few reasons why:

  • Basic sign up is free
  • You can make agent lists for different projects
  • You can keep track of who you queried, what their response is, and if they requested.
  • You can look through your list based on convenient things like “outstanding queries” or “outstanding submissions” or, my personal favorite, “hide rejections.”
  • Also, it gives information about the agents: What they’re looking for, genres they represent, their clients, how to query them, how fast they’ve been replying
  • It makes epic pie-charts for you based on your responses and submissions (I love charts)

  • Within each agent profile, there’s a nice comments section where some people will put when they queried, when they got a response, the type of book they were querying, etc.

  • There’s a great community. In the aforementioned comment section, some people will ask about response times or if agents have auto-reply emails set up to acknowledge receipt. Sometimes it’s stressful when you don’t know if an agent got your query. So this community is a great place to turn to.
  • ALSO, best feature (in my mind) is the forums and the success stories. There are queries that worked! And they’re for individual agents. So you know what Steve liked because he requested it and then offered representation.