Pitching your MS to literary agents is:
- super scary
- depressing and demoralizing
- taking waaaay too long
- all of the above
Obviously the answer is D. That’s why I was excited to discover some new ways to get an agent’s attention: online pitch contests and twitter pitch parties. Both are gaining popularity and easy to enter.
Online pitch contests are run by bloggers. The rules vary from contest to contest, but generally writers send a short pitch (for example 35 words) and the blogger selects a certain number to post on their website. Agents visit the blog and leave comments requesting queries for the pitches that catch their eye.
There are variations where first lines, first pages, or longer pitches are submitted. Some contests like PitchWars are more in depth and actually set up mentorships. The author works with a mentor to improve the MS and query letter before the agent round.
Too timid to enter the main event? Twitter pitch parties are often held after a contest and are open to anyone with a completed MS. Authors send out their 140 character tweets, including the hashtag designated by the organizer, up to twice an hour. Agents and editors visit the hashtag and favourite (by clicking the star) any pitches they want to see in their inbox.
Some great reasons to try pitching online:
- Agents will see your pitch. Online contests are like a secret back door to get your pitch to agents who are actively looking for new clients. And if no one bites, you can still send the agents involved a traditional query.
- Jump the queue. When you send your query to an agent who commented on your contest pitch or favourited your twitter pitch, you can write the contest name in the subject line of your email. Your query is now considered requested material and moves to the top of most slush piles.
- Quick response times. Since writers often wait months to maybehear back from an agent they queried, having a set date and time to find out if you were selected is priceless. Also, twitter pitch parties are one day events, which means you know if your pitch is working right away.
- Strengthen your pitch. Agonizing over each and every word (or character) to make your pitch short enough to meet the guidelines of the contest really forces you to break your story down to its basic elements.
- Networking. Like the WCDR, contests have a supportive community environment. Writers retweet each other’s pitches, give feedback and encourage. It’s a great way to connect to writers around the world.
- It’s exciting! Clear your schedule if you are participating in a contest because you will be on edge that day. You will want to check in on a regular basis, both to see how your pitch is doing and to encourage the other contestants. And if an agent requests your MS, its time to celebrate!
Want to know more about online pitch contests? Check out Brenda Drake’s website for information about her online pitch contests – Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness.
Thinking of doing a twitter pitch contest? Read agent Carly Watters’ guide to twitter pitch contests.