Updated: Aug 25, 2020
I recently pitched the premise of my upcoming novel on Twitter’s #PitMad (Thursday September 5, 2019) and I was blown away by the experience—in a good way!
What is #PitMad?
It’s a quarterly manuscript pitching party where writers get a chance to cast their manuscripts out into the publishing ocean with the hopes of catching the interest of an agent, editor or publishing house.
Am I Ready to Pitch?
As a writer, this is the million-dollar question! Writers always feel the urge to do a few more tweaks or edits! Having gone several rounds with my beta readers, a manuscript appraiser and a professional editor, I decided to take the plunge!
If you haven’t yet had other eyes on your manuscript, I wrote a blog about out Finding and Using Beta Readers to get effective feedback on your work-in-progress.
Summarising an Entire Manuscript in 280 Characters
Wow! And I thought writing the synopsis and query letter was a challenge! Concisely hooking readers into your premise with only 280 characters sure gets the brain juices buzzing. You are allowed to tweet three different pitches about your MS throughout the party—and you just hope like crazy that one sticks out.
I already had my query letter and synopsis sorted before I tried pitching on #PitMad and this made it a whole lot easier to pull the wording and terminology from my query letter for my tweets. Plus, I was exceptionally confident and happy with my query letter since I ran it past The Query Shark, Janet Reid, first. If you’re looking for an honest and unbridled opinion from a publishing industry professional, I highly recommend using Janet’s services.
First check out The Query Shark’s blog archives for every conceivable kind of query letter ever written, and Janet’s critique of each one.
Have Courage—Do It
It is very scary putting yourself out there as a writer—especially if you’re a new one! Being in Australia meant that PitMad started at 10 pm my time and ran all through the night. I scheduled my tweets to go out automatically while I slept. A couple of my followers asked whether I was going to sleep or stay awake all night watching for responses. I’m way too old to pull all-nighters anymore! It’s not worth paying the price the next day—not when I have four teenagers to get up to in the morning.
I ended up having a wonderful, full-night’s sleep and awoke refreshed the next morning to then deal with what had happened through the night.
Aaand … How Did It Go?
I was staggered to find that my three pitches combined had attracted over 400 retweets from my followers and other writers! This alone made the whole experience worthwhile. Then I started filtering through the wonderfully supportive comments and my day just got better—and I hadn’t even checked the likes for interested publishing professionals yet!
There were a fair few likes from non-publishing peeps, even though technically liking PitMad posts is supposed be only be for agents and editors. But who am I to shoot down the enthusiasm of fellow writers? I truly appreciate the support!
Feeling uplifted by the #WritingCommunity’s encouragement, I then scrolled through the likes. I had likes from five small presses, which is amazing in its own right because I know how many writers lament having no likes from anyone after a #PitMad event.
The crucial bit to know before participating in #PitMad is KNOW WHAT YOU WANT OUT OF #PITMAD BEFORE YOU PITCH. Do you want an agent? Do you want to go straight to a publishing house? If so, are you happy to go with a small press? If you’re not sure which path you want to follow, check out Jane Friedman’s The Key Book Publishing Paths.
My whole aim was to secure an agent. Full stop. But I’m not going to lie—it was hugely flattering and exciting to garner the interest of these small presses. I didn’t dismiss them outright—I spent the whole weekend doing my due diligence to check if they were the real deal. Victoria Strauss’ Writer Beware blog Precautions for Small Press Authors was invaluable for this. Likewise, Jane Friedman’s blog How to Evaluate Small Publishers—Plus Digital-Only Presses and Hybrids is packed full of practical info too.
I was fully prepared to pass on all of the small presses but one of them stood out like a shining beacon, so bright that my resolve to go the agented route began to waiver—especially after I read Publishing with a Small Press: Straddling the Indie-Traditional Gap by Eliot Peper.
I stuck with the publishing professionals’ advice and followed up with their suggestions about how to check the legitimacy of a small press, including contacting several of the press’ current authors. These are the questions I asked:
Did [xxx Press] find you or did you find them? How?
Are you happy with the quality of their edits? Do they just do copy editing on spelling, punctuation and grammar, or do you get deeper developmental suggestions too?
How much editorial input were you given regarding title, book cover or editing changes?
Do you get regular sales and royalty reports? And do they pay on time?
What is their promotion and marketing strategy like?
Have you retained the rights to your book/s?
Do you know of anyone who has terminated their agreement with [xxx Press]? Do you know how this was handled?
On a more personal note, what are the team at [xxx Press] like to work with? Do you have one particular main point of contact? Is their communication regular?
To play devil’s advocate here, what are the things you don’t like or enjoy about being with a small press?
Two of the authors came back to me very happy to answer my questions (always a good sign)! They were both completely open and transparent and both ended up telling me similar stories about being supremely happy with this particular small press and its staff. However, they also both had a similar answer to my last question—that a small press lacked the publicity clout of a big house.
If I hadn’t included that last question in my questionnaire, I believe I would have been sold on this small press. With my decision wavering, I called upon a few of my trusted beta readers, who are like my own personal cheerleading squad—they’ve been with me since my initial rough-as-a-dog first-draft and know of my dreams and aspirations. After a lengthy discussion with them, I concluded that I would be sticking to my original guns and begin querying agents. Of course, this means a much longer journey ahead of me with a potentially long line of rejection letters but I'm ready!
Was It Worth It?
For me personally, yes, it was definitely worth participating in #PitMad! Here are my reasons why:
So many supportive folks came out to play on #PitMad day! It was an exhilarating and positive experience, even though the end result was not what I had hoped for.
The folks who expressed an interest in my book because of my pitch were immediately added to my ‘Interested in My Book List’ that I’ve been slowly growing.
I learned all about publishing with a small press, even though this had not been my goal—it’s invaluable to learn about the variety of options and pitfalls in the publishing industry.
Even though I was pitching my own book, it was wonderful to be able to support my fellow writers and retweet their pitches too—I love being part of this supportive community!
When is the Next #PitMad on Twitter?
Here is a Twitter Pitch Party Calendar for 2020.
Subscribe to Emma Lombard's newsletter for book publication news and swag giveaways.