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Twitter Pitch: How an Author Hashtagged Her Way to Discovery by an Agent

While celebrating the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web, we revisited books from over the years that considered how the Internet has impacted our lives, and how doing business has changed. Business, of course, doesn’t refer to just global conglomerates with better data: for authors the Internet has upended the business model. The right application of a Twitter hashtag can result in thousands of eyeballs, and the inspiration to go it alone. But while many authors are using trending hashtags to sell copies of their books to readers, there’s a whole series of hashtags that authors are using to pitch their books to agents and publishers.

Claribel Ortega
Claribel Ortega: 'It's a chance to put your work out there and let them find you.'
Claribel Ortega—a writer with a book, a blog, a collection of writer resources, a stint as a journalist, and a love of technology—recently signed with Fuse Literary Agency after she pitched her book in a follow-the-hashtag event on Twitter. We talked to Claribel about book pitching events on Twitter, how they work, best practices, and how they can help an author’s writing in addition to his or her career.

You met your agent when you used the hashtag #DVpit on Twitter. Give us some background on how that happened.

For #DVpit and other events like it, authors pitch their books in the allotted 140 character space, and use the # for the event along with tags identifying age group, like #YA for young adult, and genre, like #UF for urban fantasy. Editors—usually from smaller or indie houses—and agents look at these tweets and if they’re interested in seeing more from you they will favorite your pitch, which acts as an invitation to send your query and however many pages they ask for. Most editors and agents post their submission guidelines on their Twitter feed the day of the event. You could query most of these agents traditionally but contest requests often get looked at first and there are many agents who are closed to queries unless they request during a contest.

My agents found me via #DVPit which is a Twitter pitching event made specifically for books about and especially by marginalized voices but there are many others that are similar in nature. There’s #Pitmad, #Pitchmas, and others like the science fiction specific #SFFpit that are all scheduled for specific times and followed by editors and agents.

Besides the pitch contests, there are also weekly events, like #MuseMon which I started, #2BitTues and #1LineWed.These are more to showcase your writing, network with other writers on Twitter and sometimes even catch the eye of agents as was the case with me. During the weekly events there is normally a theme—for example #MuseMon is always inspired by music in some way—and you tweet a line from your manuscript that fits that theme. A lot of times I found myself tightening up lines from my book in order to make them fit in the 140 character limit and then finding the new version of the line worked better so I change it in my book. It also helps you find words you used too often in your manuscript.

You participated in other hashtag events before you ultimately had success. What did you take away from the experiences that didn’t ultimately work out for you?

It’s all a learning process. Every event you participate in, you find what works for you and what doesn’t, you meet new writer friends, and you also sometimes find agents or publishers you would’ve never queried otherwise. It’s a chance to put your work out there and let them find you, which can be a nice change of pace. It’s also great practice for learning to pitch your book in a succinct way. I did have one bad experience where a small publisher turned out to be less than legitimate and I almost ended up ruining the chances for my book’s debut. Fortunately I got out before any real damage was done.

Doing business with people you meet on Twitter can be daunting. Do you have any advice for authors who get a response from an agent or publisher?

Research everyone! Extensively. There’s no vetting process for participating agents and editors so it’s your job to make sure they are legitimate. I would search places like Absolute Write, Predators and Editors, and Publishers Marketplace to see past sales. If someone has no information available on them online, it doesn’t mean it’s all clear. In fact I see that as a red flag. If they don’t have a proven track record and sales, make sure the people you work with have a background in publishing, actual experience aside from being self-published authors. Also ask around. The author grapevine is incredibly valuable.

Would you ever recommend that an author not participate?

Yes, if their book is not finished or polished I would say to bow out until it’s as close to perfect as possible. Also, if their manuscript has been queried for years with no response, after multiple revisions, I’d say it’s time to move on to something new most likely. Your project only gets so many chances before it’s time to pack it in and start fresh.

Is this a replacement for the more traditional way of querying agents and publishers?

Not at all! I think Twitter pitch contests are just one avenue, but the slush pile that is traditional querying is still the standard and I think still the way most authors are signed. I was lucky, and my experience was not at all typical but I am not, by far, the only author who has signed via one of these contests. It just happened to occur really fast for me.

Any other advice?

Remember to be kind during events. It’s not easy to put your work out there and authors need encouragement. I’d also say to prepare ahead of time, have writer friends look over your pitches, and read successful pitches from past events to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Also be sure to read and follow the rules for each contest carefully. Spamming your pitch will most likely do nothing but get you blocked. As far as the weekly events go, being kind still applies! It’s not easy to keep these events running smoothly so just be conscious of what you put on the tags. Besides that: just use these opportunities to improve your pitching skills, to make connections, and to have fun. Also make sure you’re participating in the events when they happen. Here is a schedule of pitch contests, and a schedule of weekly Twitter events.


Seth Dellon
Seth Dellon is director of audience development at Foreword Reviews. You can meet him or hear him speak at most of the events Foreword attends, and contact him at seth@forewordreviews.com.

Seth Dellon

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