Top 5 Twitter Pitch Mistakes

Photo credit: Jexweber.fotos on Flickr
So as some of you who follow me on Twitter know, I participated in this season’s #pitmad and #PitchMAS Twitter pitch events—except I wasn’t pitching this time.

No, for the first time ever, I got to participate as someone making requests (in this case for my editorboss). And you know? It was really fun and interesting to see the other side of these pitch events. I’d frequently participated as a pitcher, but handing out shiny gold favorites was fun.

That said, out of the hundreds of pitches I read, I requested maybe 1%. (I did the math with an estimate.) Many times it had less to do with the pitch and more to do with the fact that it wasn’t what I was specifically looking for, but I did notice several common mistakes that I think are important to take note of.

So without further ado, here are the top five twitter pitch mistakes I observed:

  1. Stakes and/or conflict are unclear. This is huge. HUGE. If the stakes and conflict aren’t crystal clear in your pitch, then it’s very difficult to know enough about the book to make a request. Why? Because stories are rooted in conflict (and the conflict isn’t clear if we don’t know what’s at stake). Without conflict, there isn’t a story, and so pitches without stakes or conflict don’t show why the events in the story are important. 

  2. Vagueness. I’ve written a post already on why details are so important in queries and pitchesso I won’t rehash the whole thing here. The short version is this: if your pitch has a phrase that could apply to anyone else’s pitch (i.e.: “dark secret,” “overcome great odds,” etc.), then chances are likely you could do better. In a pitch or query setting where the important thing is to stand out from the hundreds of other queries and pitches, you’re not going to do it with a vague phrase that a hundred other people have used. Instead, your goal should be to make your pitch so specific that it wouldn’t fit for anyone else’s manuscript. 

  3. Quotes. I understand the temptation to use a quote, I do. But the problem is, quotes never ever address point one—the stakes and conflict. Not only that, they don’t tell us what the book is about, which is the point of the pitch to begin with. Quotes are fun, and I get that, but save them for another setting. Chances are likely they aren’t going to help you in a pitch fest. 

  4. Summarization (instead of pitch). Pitches, unlike a synopsis, should not tell us the ending. A pitch should intrigue and make me want to read the book—but I don’t want to know how it ends before I’ve even taken a look at it. Save the full plot summary for the synopsis. 

  5. Not using all 140 characters wisely. By this, I mostly mean I saw a lot of people twisting their pitch around to try to make their title fit. And quite frankly? It’s unnecessary—you’d be much better off using those characters to get extra information in about your manuscript. Cool titles are fun, but most of the time, they’re not going to get you requests—an interesting premise with clear stakes and conflict, will. 

  6. Bonus: didn’t specify genre or category. I can’t speak for everyone browsing through the Twitter pitch feeds, but if a pitch didn’t have the category or genre specified, I skipped it. Why? The truth is, there are just way too many pitches to go through to spend time reading one that might not be a category or genre that I’m looking for. The genre/category tags are important for a reason. 

  7. Extra bonus: For more on the essential aspects of a Twitter pitch, check out this post.

So those are my top five Twitter pitch mistakes. What recommendations do you have for Twitter pitchers? 

Twitter-sized bites:
Assistant Editor @Ava_Jae shares the top 5 pitch mistakes she observed during #pitmad & #pitchMAS. (Click to tweet
Thinking about participating in a Twitter pitch event? Here are 5 common pitch mistakes to avoid. (Click to tweet)


Laura Rueckert said...

Nice post, Ava! My favorite is #2.

About #1, I've always thought the stakes were hyper-important too, but I read an interesting post by Lara Willard, where she analyzed the RTs and favorites for her pitches.

I highly recommend the article, because it shows how stakes apparently weren't so important to the agents making requests in her case (SF/F).

There's also a handy timing analysis, which shows the optimum times (in terms of requests and RTs) to tweet.

While it doesn't mean I'll ignore stakes when writing twitter pitches, I would certainly diversify, and write some concentrating more on other aspects too.

Prerna Pickett said...

I suck at writing twitter pitches, but I agree with everything you've outlined here! Which is why I don't do them, because it's hard for me to condense everything into 40 characters.

Nicola Alter said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing. Didn't even think about the genre tag but I can see now how important that is.

Ava Jae said...

Interesting! I do think she's probably right that with SF/F the stakes can often be implied. I personally was looking only at Contemporary/Romance-y pitches, so in those cases, conflict and stakes = absolutely vital. Diverse pitches are definitely a good idea, too—there were many cases where if I wasn't sure about a pitch, but I was interested, I'd click through to see the other pitches the writer had tweeted to learn more about the MS. :)

Ava Jae said...

Aw, it's definitely hard, but I would encourage you to try, anyway! It's great practice for querying down the road, and there are lots of places before pitch events where you can get your pitch critiqued (for free). Just keep an eye out for pitch critique events before the actual pitchfest. :)

Ava Jae said...

You're welcome, Nicola! The genre tag seems like it wouldn't be a big deal, but genre/category are really important to know from a requesting standpoint.

Jen Donohue said...

Ooh, how exciting to be a requester! It would be interesting to hear the followup, how many of the requests turn into requests for fulls (because the Pitch things only want a query + sample if you get favorited, yes?)

Ava Jae said...

It was totally exciting! Everything I favorited actually was automatically a full request, so there isn't really anything to track follow-up wise. But it was a really neat experience. :)

Jen Donohue said...

I didn't realize it was an automatic full! (I haven't participated yet, I always miss them and/or don't have something ready enough).

Ava Jae said...

It depends on who requests. For most Entangled editors, it's an automatic full + query. For some agents, it's a query and a couple pages. It depends.

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