Advice from #pitmad’s creator – An Interview with Brenda Drake

I had the chance to catch up with Brenda Drake, queen bee of #pitmad and #pitchwars after the latest #pitmad twitter event. She is a writer a social media guru (my words not hers) and a great advocate for writers. I talked with her about pitching on twitter and writing in general.

Brenda Drake. Thank you for having me on Novel Pitch today, Ralph. I’m thrilled to be here.

Novel Pitch.  Brenda, you have created a sensation for aspiring authors, first with #PitMad and now with #PitchWars! How was this brainchild born?

BD.  I had been doing contests for some time. Small ones, along with Pitch Madness. #PitMad came about during my Pitch Madness contests that used to happen every March and September and now happens only in March. It was a sort of consolation prize for writers who hadn’t made it into Pitch Madness, and it took off from there. When I was watching Cupcake Wars one day, I got the idea for Pitch Wars. While watching the teams working together to create beautiful, tasty cupcakes an idea hit me. What if there was a mentor who could help a writer get their manuscript agent ready? Someone who could help them figure out why agents were passing on their requested pages. And that’s how it all started.

NP.  What makes pitching on Twitter a unique opportunity for new writers?

BD.  Pitching on Twitter is a fun way to pitch agents and get to know the community. Sometimes it’s successful, sometimes not, but it’s great practice. Jumping in a bigger pool and seeing if any one bites, helps a writer see if they have their hook down. Also, it gets a writer to learn to focus on the main plot and how to pitch it. Sometimes an agent will favorite a pitch and the writer wasn’t aware this agent/publisher was into their premise. It helps bring agents and writers together.

NP.  How did you find your own Agent? Did you pitch him via twitter, or at a conference, or did you go the standard query route?

BD.  I had just parted ways with my previous agent and had noticed my current agent participating in #PitMad. I invited him to do a future contest and warned him I’d be querying him soon. He said he looked forward to it. But I did notice his likes during the Twitter pitch party and added him to my list of agents I wanted to query when I was ready, and the rest is history.

NP.  Why do you think so many agents are attracted to events like #PitMad and PitchWars? Is it just that they get to read pitches in their pajamas, or is there something more profound happening in the publishing industry?

BD. Participating in #PitMad allows the agent to find premises they’ve been looking for but haven’t received in their slush. Pitch Wars provides polished manuscripts for the premises that pique their interests. In contests like Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness, our readers/mentors have picked through the slush for the agents and presented them with the best writing and premises in our community. And agents want to find you and your amazing story.

NP.  So many people have found success through the twitter pitch opportunities you have set up. Do you have a favorite story of Pitching Success?

BD.  I think all of them are my favorites. Ha! I can’t choose. But I will say that it’s a thrill each time I hear of a new success.

NP.  I know lots of writers who are challenged to balance social media along with their other responsibilities (myself included). Do you have any tips for writers trying to stay up to date online while getting their writing careers going?

BD.  I would do only what you can. Your main focus should always be your home life first and your writing. I’m about schedules. What helps me is to hop on social media during my breaks from writing and when nothing is happening at home. I read links from the writing community with my morning coffee, answer tweets and emails, then write for a few hours, then do family things. I’m lucky not to have a day job, but I do have a lot going on with the family, so scheduling helps. Don’t get overwhelmed. Only do what you can. We only live once, right?

NP.  Tell me about your upcoming book! (add any event plugs you’d like to include)

BD.  TOUCHING FATE is the first book in The Fated Series releasing from Entangled Crave on October 12, 2015. It’s about a girl who can change fates, except for the boy’s she loves. It’s filled with romance, betrayal, curses, fates, friendships, family bonds, and a touch of magic. I’ll be part of a Facebook party with other authors releasing that month on October 29, 2015. There will be giveaways, and it should be tons of fun. Details will be on my blog soon.

NP.  Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

BD.  Be kind on social media and don’t act entitled. You don’t know who is watching and who will judge you for your actions. You don’t want to get blackballed in the community. Though social media is large, the publishing community is small, you will be noticed for your actions–good or bad. Also, keep writing. I have had many heartaches and many missteps. I’ve been rejected (a lot). I’ve had to change my course (a few times). But giving up was never an option for me. Perseverance is the key to realizing your dreams.

NP.  And THANK YOU BRENDA!

Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at school until her family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brenda’s fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write young adult and middle grade novels with a bend toward the fantastical. When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment). You can find out more about her, her books and her contests at http://www.brenda-drake.com/ or just search the hashtags #pitmad or #pitchwars to see what the fuss is all about.

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In 140 Characters or Less : #PitchingOnTwitter Part III

In 140 Characters or Less : #PitchingOnTwitter

Part III: 10 Tips to help your Twitter Pitch rise above the noise.

This post is the third in a three part series about pitching your book on Twitter. You can see Part I and Part II here.

We’ve been through the basics and have looked at a few pitches that worked. Now we need to stack the odds in our favor. Participating in #PitMad is exactly what it sounds like, Pitch Madness. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of aspiring writers who participate in each of these events. Writers assemble from every genre, level of experience and part of the world to participate. There are thousands of tweets generated with this hashtag in the course of a single day.

Let’s take a moment, to bend a knee and say a resounding Thank You to Brenda Drake and the other Agents, Editors and Publishing Industry professionals who organize and participate in these events. It takes a tremendous amount of work to pull these events off. I personally appreciate that #PitMad is one of the most democratic and potentially diverse pitching events of the year. There is very little cost to participate (you just need access to a computer or smartphone and a twitter account). In many ways the event is blind, which is a wonderful attribute for the publishing industry.

But, let’s be honest, it is also a scrum. Everyone participating is throwing out a pitch in a loud noisy room full of other writers. We are all trying to get the attention of the Agents and Editors any way we can. So how do you rise about the noise? Here are a few tips for putting your best foot forward in #PitMad or any other Twitter Pitching contest.

  1. Write a great pitch. Don’t skimp on this step. Writer’s write, that is what makes us writers. Keep working on that great pitch until you know you have soaked everything you can out of those 140 characters, then rewrite it and try again.
  2. Rewrite a great pitch. It will take many drafts to get something that truly hangs together.
  3. Write a second great pitch. It is good to have a few different pitches all for the same book. You might want to try one that focuses on the first plot point, or create a cliffhanger in one pitch and develop your main character further in your second. Write a few and listen for words that sing.
  4. Hashtags matter. Make sure you know which hashtags are best for you and add them consistently. Get the genre and age group right to help Agents and Editors find something they want to represent.
  5. Schedule your pitches throughout the day. If you can’t sit at your computer all day and watch the crawl of pitches use Hootsuite or TweetDeck and set up a schedule. Pitch at least three times (morning, midday, afternoon) to get in front of the various folks who will be looking at different times. *** UPDATE – Some contests have changed their rules about the number of times you can tweet out your pitch. Make sure you check the rules BEFORE you tweet. ***
  6. Read other pitches. If you see something that sounds great, retweet it. After #PitMad it is fun to connect with other writers who have also participated to recap and pat each other on the back. (If you didn’t read Part II of this series, go back to see some great examples)
  7. Take note of the Agents and Editors who are participating. If you get tapped by one of them be sure to do your research about what they represent before submitting.
  8. Follow the rules. Please use the rules the organizers have set up so everyone has the best shot at getting attention. Be polite and gracious. Everyone is taking their own time make the most of this event.
  9. Have fun with it. While it can be stressful, these are great moments to participate in a larger writing community. Meet some new writers. Find your tribe.
  10. Celebrate your success. Even if no one responded to your pitch, you put yourself out there. Every time you share your work consider it an achievement. In general, pitching is really hard. Pitching on twitter is 140 characters hard is extremely hard. You did it, and you’ve grown from the experience. Take the lessons you’ve learned and keep writing.

I hope you have a great experience at #PitMad or any other twitter type pitch contest you participate in. Good luck, and share your experiences here at http://www.novelpitch.com!

Remember, it is all about writers helping writers.

In 140 Characters or Less : #PitchingOnTwitter Part II

In 140 Characters or Less : #PitchingOnTwitter

Part II: 9 Sample Twitter Pitches

This post is the second of a three part series about pitching your book on Twitter. Come back to www.novelpitch.com tommorow for Part III #novelpitch

With #PitMad just a week away I thought I would gather some good examples of Twitter pitches that got attention in past #PitMad events. The tweets below appeared during #PitMad on the date listed and received both favorites and retweets during the event. Of that group, I selected my personal favorites to give a range of examples. In most cases (but not all) these tweets translated into submission requests from Agents or Editors.

Please note, that in all cases I have reached out to the original author to obtain permission to reuse their tweet here. Their words are quoted in BOLD below and their twitter handle is provided if you’d like to find out more about them or their writing. I’ve added my own commentary in Italics to help you consider how you might use these techniques for your own pitch.

Sample Pitches from #pitmad June 4, 2015

 

@AshleyHearn

BEAUTY+BEAST w/ Gullah folklore. Family secrets. Haunted marshes. Breaking 16yo George’s curse will take more than true love’s kiss. #PitMad

This pitch is a good twist on a classic tale. Taking a good Comp (See my series about Comps) or a common story and turning on its head is smart way to attract attention. It has a nice hook at the end. One negative about this pitch is that it didn’t include a genre.

 

@AJH_Ray

Eliza can handle moonshine, vicious gossip, and her hound dog brother. She’s not so sure she can handle being an outlaw’s wife. #Pitmad #WF

In a single tweet she expresses her voice as a writer, rounds out the main character and adds a dilemma worth dwelling on. On top of that she includes a fun secondary character (hound dog brother). Fantastic pitch, one of my personal favorites.

 

@AlexS_Writes

#YA UNSPOKEN meets FROZEN: Lacey’s icy magic becomes a liability when rivals plot to grab her family’s territory & gothic estate. #pitmad

This pitch used excellent Comps to set the scene. The stakes are high and the combination of Icy Magic and Gothic Estate promises an interesting setting. Intriguing.

 

 

@MichelleHulse

#pitmad #CR While id’ing snakes in rural Louisiana, a naturalist finds death threats, a potential reward, and a second chance at first love.

Now I have to admit that I didn’t know what id’ing snakes meant when I read it, but it sounded authentic and made me curious. (It means Identifying. I might suggest using ID’ing instead). Regardless, the stakes are high, the setting is interesting and the pitch works.

 

@savina_cupps

WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE/THE HUSBAND’S SECRET: a runaway teacher’s tragedy is unearthed by a lost student who tries to find her #Pitmad #A

Great title, high stakes, character potential.

 

@CaroBradAuthor

Grace can fix cars but broken hearts? Not so much. What happens when she gets under the hood of the hottest actor in Hollywood? #R/E #PitMad

Another favorite for me. This is a great main character pitch. The writer’s voice comes across and the situation leaves you wanting more.

 

@EtafRum

On the verge of an arranged marriage, 17yo girl is sent a package: her dead mother’s diary. Now everything’s changed. #PitMad #LF #YA

This pitch makes great use of a MacGuffin (the Dead Mother’s Diary). It is unique in that the pitch focuses on what you might expect to be the first plot point instead of the standard dilemma. Tricky approach for a tweet, but effective.

 

@sybilward

A mystery writer must give up her footy pajamas, solve a murder, deal with the ghost in her old trunk and, oh yeah, stay alive. #pitmad #A

And, oh yeah, added the stakes at the end of this fun character driven story. I loved this pitch, but would have loved it more if I knew it was a Thriller or a Mystery. It just needed a #T or #M to make it complete. Still, great pitch.

 

@LInna1029

After almost killing her best friend, Mara must flee Shadow’s Edge and control her magic or risk becoming a deadly Nightshade #PitMad #YA

This pitch captures the potential transformation of a Main Character. Like Etaf’s pitch above this is difficult to do in a few words, but can be powerful. The writer shows story potential by demonstrating the risk of her Main Character’s transformation. Well done.

 

Reading through these and other examples I took away a number of lessons about writing a solid twitter format pitch:

  1. Put the main character front and center. Who’s story is this anyway? Let the reader know either a name or attribute (or both) of this MC. We all want someone to root for.
  2. Main Characters eat steak. No, wait, Main Characters face stakes! If nothing else write about your main character and the stakes they face on their journey. There must be a risk or loss at stake, or the events of the book won’t matter to the reader.
  3. Key superlatives can give a pitch life. Footy pajamas, the hound dog brother, icy magic each helped me as a reader grasp the potential for the characters and the world. Try to be more specific, not less, to set your pitch apart.
  4. Get you key hashtags in first and work to a shorter character count. Don’t drop a genre hashtag to get in one more word. Make it work.
  5. What other lessons did you learn from this group of pitches? Please leave comments below.

Now that we have learned the basics (Part I) and have seen some examples (Part II) come back tomorrow to learn some technical tips and tricks that will help your Twitter Pitch shine.

In 140 Characters or Less : #PitchingOnTwitter Part I

Part 1: The Art of the Twitter Pitch

#PitchingOnTwitter Tell me your story, in one hundred and forty characters or less #novelpitch RT Please

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This post is the first of a 3 part series about pitching your book on Twitter. Come back Tues for Part II and Wed for Part III #novelpitch

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This should be my shortest post yet, but I am not sure I will be able to pull that off. #brevityrequired

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I am writing this post as I might post on Twitter, so please forgive the grammar, or lack thereof. #amwriting BUT Spelling still counts!

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There are many opportunities to pitch your book on Twitter. #Pitmad Search hashtags for examples and info. Click here for more Brenda Drake

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It isn’t as easy as it looks. You need to create a hook in 1-2 short sentences. Remember to include the correct hashtag ex #pitmad

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Hashtags are also a necessity for genre, ex: #SF #R and age group #MG #YA. See below for full list from Brenda Drake.

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Prepare ahead of time. Write your tweets and try them on a friend. (post them here if you like for feedback) #novelpitch

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Multiple tweets can be used, but assume they won’t be read together. You might want to write a cliffhanger… (1 of 2) #T #WF #pitmad

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… But the payoff might be read before the cliffhanger, spoiling the fun. Try different versions of the same hook. (2 of 2) #T #WF #pitmad

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Diana Urban wrote a great post about this (she initially got an agent via #Pitmad) #winner dianaurban

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#Pitmad is coming up on Sept 10th. Time to get to work on your micro pitches! #pitmad #novelpitch #amwriting RT

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Post your fav pitches here. Better yet, try to write a twitter pitch for a famous book. I’ll write a post about the best ones. #novelpitch

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Below is the full list of hashtags, as recommended by Brenda Drake. Come back tomorrow for (Part II) some sample pitches #novelpitch

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Sub-hashtags …

Categories:

#A = Adult

#CB = Chapter Book

#ER = Earlier Reader

#MG = Middle Grade

#NA = New Adult

#PB = Picture Book

#YA = Young Adult

#WF = Woman’s Fiction

Genres:

#CF = Christian Fiction

#CR = Contemporary Romance

#E = Erotica

#HF = Historical Fiction

#LF = Literary Fiction

#LGBT

#M = Mystery

#Mem = Memoir

#NF = Non-fiction

#PR = Paranormal Romance

#R = Romance

#S = Suspense

#SFF = Science Fiction and Fantasy

#T = Thriller

#W = Western

Come back tomorrow for sample pitches and more on crafting a twitter pitch. Please Retweet RT to your friends.

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Pitch Opportunity – New York Writers Workshop

New York Writers Workshop hosts three-day Pitch Conferences in New York City for writers of non-fiction and fiction. Each type of conference is offered twice a year, in the spring and fall. The Fiction Conference includes sections for those writing for adults as well as for children and young adults.

Participants polish their pitches with the help of conference leaders who are members of the New York Writers Workshop faculty, then present them to three different editors from major publishing houses. Editors provide feedback and may request proposals and manuscripts after the conference.

Each conference also includes a panel discussion of literary agents.

See Conference Leadership for a list of some of the agents, editors and publishing houses we work with.

Upcoming Conference Dates are:

New York Writers Workshop Non-Fiction Pitch Conference:
November 13-15, 2015

New York Writers Workshop Fiction Pitch Conference:
October 16-18, 2015

Respect the bell!

I watched the first Republican Primary Debate last night. Seeing 10 candidates talk politics, policy and Trump was entertaining. I laughed, I cried, I yelled at the TV, I got hives thinking about the next four years, but then I heard it. That noise. The noise of my nightmares. The noise I couldn’t get out of my head for the last three months. The bell.

Now I’m not here to talk politics, even if Hillary is going to wipe the floor with this cycle’s herd of elephants. I am writing about the debate, because it is probably one of the closest things to a pitch situation that you will ever see on live TV.

I didn’t actually make the connection until later, when I was reading back through some of the tweets about the debate. A literary agent I follow wrote “Respect the bell you ingrates “. If I was tweeting during my last pitch slam I probably would have tweeted “Respect the bell you novelists! #ampitching #pitchslam”  (Social media has changed the way I watch/do everything now.)

Once I read the tweet I was transported back, into that hotel ball room, waiting for the person in front of me to finish their pitch and hearing the bell. Ding Ding Ding. I could feel the nervous energy, the anticipation, the surge of adrenaline. My moment had come! Don’t wilt in the bright lights.

This morning I found I have a new respect for the politicians on that stage. They are up there trying to take complicated issues and ideas and boil them down to into a perfect sound bite. These are big ideas that fill volumes of pages, with stacks of research behind them. Issues as big as the environment, reproductive rights, education, America’s role on the world stage. Yet they have to explain the whole thing in 90 seconds or less. Oh, and it should show the character (politician) and raise the stakes for the audience. Sound familiar?

Watching the scrum, you could see who was well rehearsed and well prepared and who was struggling in this situation. Some candidates had what sounded like canned responses, some sounded more authentic. If you leave the politics behind, (near impossible for me too) and watch the debate again purely for presentation style you can see examples of a smooth delivery (Christie, Rubio), a deer in headlights look (Jeb Bush) and an overwhelming bravado (Cruz, Trump). Regardless of style, the goal is to be memorable and authentic.

Like pitches, debates require skill in time management. It is impossible to cram every ounce of an idea into a compressed moment. Knowing what to fit in and what to leave behind is the key to creating a pitch that can resonate in a short interaction. Watching the candidates there were moments where you could see them self edit a response on the fly. In the moment they were dropping out lines they may have rehearsed, or adding in a quip to respond to something they just heard. That ability to adjust in the moment only works if you are already confident in your own pitch.

Keep it tight. When the candidates keep talking past their time allotment they often come across as less prepared or disrespectful of the others on the stage. For writers and authors going over a time limit in a pitch slam is not great either. You might think you are making a real connection with an agent, but chances are you are really just stealing an opportunity from another aspiring author.

Crafting and delivering a pitch within the time that an agent or editor has gifted you is a skill every author needs. Be prepared for the bell.

Ding Ding Ding