Advice for Querying

#PitMad – How to write the perfect pitch and catch attention

(updated August 2018)

The second #PitMad event of the year, hosted by @pitchwars, is coming up soon!
September 6th kicks off the second round, with December 6th being your last opportunity.
You can stay up to date on events by following @pitchwars on Twitter or by checking out the #PitMad page at pitchwars.org/pitmad.

So what is #PitMad exactly?How to the write the perfect #PitMad pitch and catch attention


#PitMad is a Twitter hashtag event used by agents and unsigned authors alike with the goal of connecting the two.
During the event, unagented writers are invited to share their story pitch via tweet with the #PitMad tag. Agents will be spending the day reading tweets with these tags, “liking” the tweets that they are interested in and eager to receive further material from. Best case scenario, an agent likes your tweet, loves your additional material, and then offers you a contract!

Why should you try #PitMad?

Why not? The event is free and only takes a tweet. Pretty simple effort in exchange for what could possibly be the contract that starts your career, which is exactly what has happened to several writers that participated previously.
But it is also a great learning experience. Crafting a tiny pitch that encapsulates your story in an interesting way can be tough. Putting your plot under a microscope can show you a lot about how strong your story actually is and help you understand the core value of what makes your story appealing. If nothing else, this makes you more aware of what kind of book you are selling and how best to market it.

Who should do #PitMad?

Firstly, you need to be a writer that currently does not have an agent. If you are already under contract, even if for a different book, this event is not for you.
Secondly, you need to be a writer with a full manuscript. The concept here of “pitch” is not referring to story ideas. These are pitches for whole books.
This is important because an agent who “likes” your post may request your entire manuscript. Therefore pitching while unfinished, even if you are just working on those last couple of chapters, keeps you from delivering the correct material upon request. This will land you with a big fat “sorry, I’m no longer interested.” Agents in this event are looking for writers that are ready to begin the process for publication.
Thirdly, you need to be a writer with a manuscript that is in its best and most ready form. This means your story needs to be edited and polished to the best of your capability, whether by yourself or by a professional editor. Whatever your editing method is, be sure it results in your best work. A manuscript riddled with typos and poor grammar will not be taken seriously by anyone.

How do you participate in #PitMad?

Simple- write a story pitch and tweet it with the appropriate hashtags!
Okay, maybe I’m making it sound way too easy. While the formula is cut and dry, crafting a clever pitch that will gain attention can be frustrating. Therefore, I’m going to break this up between writing the pitch, formatting the tweet, and important participation tips.

Writing the Pitch

Your pitch needs to zoom in on three key elements- the main character (a.k.a. MC), the conflict, and the stakes.

Begin by stating the name of your MC, including your most important character details. Whatever the details, make them directly pertinent to the rest of your pitch information. If they’re not relevant, don’t waste your character limit.
Example do– Amily Saris, ship owner and smuggler…
Example don’t– Amily Saris, brunette with green eyes

Next, introduce the conflict. Character space is limited so narration has to be sacrificed in favor of jumping into the action. The conflict is what makes the story worth telling in the first place. And while this may include several incidents and side plots, your pitch is only about the main initial conflict that puts the story into forward motion.
Note, don’t mistake “conflict” to mean strictly a bad or negative event. The point is not that something terrible happens but that something CHANGES normal life for your MC. Be as specific as you can concerning what the change is.
Example do– Amily Saris, ship owner and smuggler bargains her freedom with a transport mission. Upon discovering her cargo is human rather than goods, she must choose-
Example don’t– Amily Saris, brunette with green eyes gets in trouble and must find a way out. She takes a job to save her skin but it turns out complicated and dangerous.

Lastly, you add in your stakes. As your story progresses from beginning, to conflict, to climax, your MC will progress as well. Your MC at the start is not going to be the same person at the end. Why? Because of the stakes.
The stakes are what force your character into making choices that change the course of the story. They serve as your MC’s motivation and influence the actions your MC takes in reaction to the conflict.
As with conflict, stakes can be several different things. Again, you want to narrow it down to the stakes that influence your MC directly and create the most internal struggle.
Example do– Amily Saris, ship owner and smuggler bargains her freedom with a transport mission. Upon discovering her cargo is human rather than goods, she must choose- deliver and walk away free or save the innocent and put an end to the trafficking regime for good.
Example don’t– Amily Saris, brunette with green eyes gets into trouble and must find a way out. She takes a job to save her skin but it turns out complicated and dangerous. Now she must figure out a way to get out of it without causing more problems.

Formatting the pitch

Now that you have your pitch written, formatting is a matter of putting together the pieces:

Pitch– which you now have
Event hashtag #PitMad– this is absolutely necessary if you want to be found by agents in the event
Genre and age tags– necessary and requested by #PitMad admin so that agents can get a better idea of what kind of story you are pitching and what market they would be selling to. You can find a whole list here of appropriate genre tags if you are unsure what to include.

*Bonus– if you happen to have room, you can also add comps. These are published works that are similar to yours so the agent can get an immediate idea of what your book will read like. You don’t want to use a comp that is identical to your story but one that shares likeness while still making your story look unique. If you do use comps, format in all caps. I didn’t leave enough character count in my pitch example to include comps but here’s what it would look like in theory-
Completed Example– Amily Saris, ship owner and smuggler bargains her freedom with a transport mission. Upon discovering her cargo is human rather than goods, she must choose- deliver and walk away free or save the innocent and put an end to the trafficking regime for good. STAR WARS: REBELS meets FIREFLY #Pitmad #NA #SF

Important participation tips

Remember, for any further tips and answers you can always refer to the official #PitMad FAQ page or contact their admin by tweeting @pitchwars.

Formatting tips
I mentioned that comps should be in all caps to signify what they are. Some people prefer to put the book title or MC’s name in all caps as well. There’s no hard and fast rule about this. It is really up to your taste. (updated note- I have noticed some people will use all caps to emphasize plot. THIS IS VERY CONFUSING! I would avoid this at all costs and reserve caps for characters or comps ONLY.)
If you are running short on character space, it is perfectly okay to use a little shorthand (ex. “w/” to mean “with”, “bc” to mean “because”). Just be sure that you are not creeping too much into text lingo territory and always use shorthand that is easily recognized and understandable.

Participation tips
Only agents are supposed to be “liking” tweets for #Pitmad so resist the urge to “like” other pitches you see during the day. Perhaps even warn your friends beforehand that they should avoid “liking” pitches of your own. You and friends are, however, welcome to retweet and quote tweet to boost pitches and show support.
You can also pitch more than one manuscript throughout the day. The caveat here is that you may only tweet three pitches per manuscript. It is recommended that you space out these tweets, only posting one every 3-4 hours.
Since you get to have three tweets per manuscript, try your hand at making them all different versions. One style may be more likely to catch a certain agent’s attention than another.

Agent request tips
If an agent does “like” your tweet, carefully follow their submission details. Most often the agent has a tweet with specific instructions on how they wish for you to respond to them. If not, you should consult their official website which can be found in their bio. If you look thoroughly for info and still can’t find answers, you can always message or email them directly with any questions you have.

Agent instructions will include sending in additional materials. This means thinking and preparing beyond just your pitch! These materials could be any combination of first few chapters, a longer pitch, “x” amount of pages, or a full synopsis. You need to have this extra material handy and polished so that you can respond to requests promptly.
When emailing your materials, your email subject (unless otherwise specified) should read- “PitMad Request: TITLE”. It is very important that you send in materials promptly to ensure continued interest in your manuscript.
Many agents will tweet requests for general submissions since it can be very difficult for them to see all the event tweets in their feed and “like” everything they enjoy. Therefore, search #PitMad yourself to see if there are any agents accepting unsolicited material. However, be respectful. Do NOT submit material unless an agent has made it clear that such general submissions are welcome.

You’re all set!

Go ahead and start utilizing these tips to craft your pitch! Be sure to begin now before the big day so you’re not scrambling at the last second!
Remember, the event is September 6th! I hope to see lots of great pitches in my feed!
Matt Wainwright, our pitch guru, is going to be offering FREE pitch help NOW-AUG 31st. Please feel welcome to email him (mattwainwright@polishandpitch.com) or direct message him on twitter (@mattwauthor) if you’d like advice on your pitch. We are happy to help you perfect your tweets for the big day!

-Jaime

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