Last week I participated in Pitch Madness, a sort of Twitter party/contest/hangout designed to give aspiring authors some visibility to agents and editors. It’s the second time I’ve joined in, but only the first time I had even remotely interesting pitches.
While I certainly don’t have Twitter pitching down to an art*, I do think that I’ve gotten better since I last tried #PitMad. If anything, I hope other aspiring authors or pitch-writers can learn from the mistakes I made/make.
To start, let’s inspect the tweets I sent out earlier this year:
Oof. I was pretty bummed in June that none of my tweets got attention, but looking at them today, I’m not surprised. My primary reaction to them is, “Meh.” Girl who kills with a touch? Meh. Get rid of superpowers? Meh. All three pitches are wordy to the point of being their own stumbling blocks.
Pitches are notoriously difficult—even when you have an elevator ride instead of 140 characters. A successful pitch (or “logline”) should provide a character and stakes at the very minimum. Those three early pitches did a lot of describing. I was so worried about getting the “deadly abilities” point across that I didn’t even bother with my main character’s arc or personal stake in the story.
A great logline shoots your reader with the conflict of your novel. If you can’t fit the your plot conflict into a simple sentence, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with one of two problems. Either A) it’s not high concept enough or B) you don’t actually know your book very well. A quick note on “high concept”: This buzzword can be defined in many ways. I think of the “concept” as the essence of a story. Having a “high” concept, to me, means the book’s essence is striking and easy to communicate. A high concept story is unique and appeals to a large audience.
When I wrote those original Twitter pitches, I thought my book was high concept, but you wouldn’t know it by what I tweeted. Now look at my (slightly better but still not great) new pitches:
If there’s one thing I got better at, it’s wording. I don’t even know the girl who came up with those confusing tweets in the beginning of this blog. Sheesh. When I re-read the new versions, I’m reminded of the short sentences Netflix uses to describe their movies. Snappy, simple, to the point.
The originals focused on what the characters did, not what would happen if they failed. There was nothing to care about. They want to get rid of superpowers? That’s nice. Good for them. But no one wants to read a book that has no tension. I learned this part of pitching from my mentor, Sharon Johnston, who is the master of the query letter. She is absolutely brilliant where it comes to picking out a book's essence.
My new pitches are by no means perfect, but they show how much I’ve grown as a writer in the past six months. I’m going to push harder than ever to keep growing and to write better each day I turn on my computer.
Michelle ate four cookies today, and she isn't even sorry.
*Actually, I’m STILL TERRIBLE at Twitter pitching. Ugh. I need more practice.