If you’ve been in the query trenches before, or if you’re about to jump in, you probably know that there a few ways to get your manuscript in front of agents and editors. One way is classic querying. You research agents and editors, pick the ones that best fit your manuscript, and tailor your query to them. Then you send your query into their slush pile with hundreds of others. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fine way to query. Many authors have found their agents and editors this way. But in this day and age, with social media, there are other ways to get your manuscript in front of agents and editors.
The writing community on Twitter has come together to offer querying writers amazing new ways to pitch to agents. Many published authors have created contests to help writers get their work noticed. Brenda Drake is one such author. She has created multiple Twitter contests, the schedule for which can be found on her website.
Many of her contests require the entering writer to write a pitch for their manuscripts. During #Pitmad, querying writers are able to pitch their manuscript three times on Twitter in the time constraints. Agents and Editors will like the pitches they want to see samples of. That means you have 140 characters, including #pitmad and #(genre).
So how do you take your (insert word count) manuscript and describe it in 140 characters? Also, how do you make it stand out against hundreds of other pitches? The #pitmad feed runs so fast it’s overwhelming. If an agent or editor isn’t instantly drawn in, they’re not going to favorite it.
Every good pitch is made up of four components: The Main Character, The Obstacle, The Reaction, The Stakes.
When [Main Character] encounters [Obstacle], he/she must [Reaction] or else [Stakes.] #MG/YA/A #Pitmad
Okay, that seems simple enough, right? Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard. Let me give you some examples of both good and bad pitches. I’m going to use a plot from a Best Selling novel, so you should be familiar with it.
HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERERS STONE
Bad: An orphan boy learns he’s a wizard and is brought to a school of witchcraft and wizardry to learn magic alongside new friends.
Let’s go through the formula:
Main Character: Orphan Boy. What’s his name?
Obstacle: Is a wizard?
Reaction: Goes to school.
Stakes: There aren’t any.
So from this, it looks like a cute story about magic school. In this day, that is a very common plot. How is it going stand out from anything else? We don’t know what really happens in the book. Let’s try it again, shall we?
Good: At magic school, 11yo Harry learns his parents’ murderer is after an eternal elixir. Harry must find it first or he’ll be killed
Let’s go through the formula:
Main Character: Harry (eleven years old)
Obstacle: His parents’ murderer is after an eternal elixir.
Reaction: Harry needs to find it first.
Stakes: His Life
Obviously, I left out a lot. I wanted to use “the dark wizard who killed his parents” but that took up too many characters. I don’t mention the classes or Ron or Hermione. But this is the very base of the book. This is what you want the agents and editors to be interested in.
This does work. I promise you. During the last #pitmad I pitched my new manuscript. Because I used this formula, I received nine favorites. Six of which, I queried. I’m still waiting for responses, but I did have one partial request after the initial submission. This is the pitch I used: