Update 12/2/15: Since publishing this post, I parted ways with the agent I signed with via the January 2014 #PitMad and signed with a new agent! I wanted to be transparent about this, but still think #PitMad is still a great way to connect with an agent. The rules of #PitMad have also changed, so I updated the post accordingly.

Last year, I signed with an agent who found me via my #PitMad tweets. While I ended up parting ways with this agent and signing with a new one, I have many friends who signed with agents via #PitMad and achieved more positive outcomes with those agents. So I want to let other writers know how Twitter contests like #PitMad can help you get offers from literary agents. For real.

Wait, wait, wait… what is #PitMad?

#PitMad is a twitter contest hosted four times per year. This page has the date of the next #PitMad. Between 8am and 8pm EST, authors can pitch their novel three times in 140 characters or less using the hashtag #PitMad and their genre. Literary agents monitor the feed throughout the day and like the pitches they like. When an agent likes your tweet, it’s an invitation to send them your query.

As of December 2015, you may only tweet three times per day. This is because #PitMad has grown over the years, so the previous rules where you could tweet twice an hour made it overwhelming for industry professionals to search the feed. I recommend you schedule your tweets four hours apart to optimize for the morning, afternoon, and evening crowds. For other contests that still allow you to tweet more frequently, I’m keeping my Excel spreadsheet I used to write my tweets available. Click here to download this excel template now. You can still use this to write your three tweets.

#PitMad Excel Template

How to write your tweets

Here are some tips based on what worked well for me, and what I saw working for other authors:

  • Make the stakes obvious. Try following this framework: “When [MAIN CHARACTER] is [OBSTACLE], he/she must [DO SOMETHING] or else [CONSEQUENCE]. #PitMad [GENRE]”
  • Always include the genre. Some agents only represent specific genres, and may search for that genre in the stream.
  • Use proper English. Don’t sacrifice words or proper spelling in order to fit your tweet into 140 characters. Instead use stronger verbs or words to make your plot concise.
  • Don’t try to be super clever. Don’t ask rhetorical questions, and don’t try to be overly cute or witty. Just focus on making your plot and stakes crystal clear. What is your story about at its core? Focus on that.

Here’s the tweet my former agent liked (well, at the time, “favorited”):

I didn’t always include the title of my novel, but I’ve been told the title’s catchy, and it worked for me! Here are a couple more:

  • 16yo girl sold to a Paris pickpocket ring must steal to survive or have the courage to help bust her mob’s vindictive ringleader. YA #PitMad
  • In STEALING PARIS, a 16 yo’s parents sell her to a pickpocket ring. She must become a thief or take down her mob’s ringleader. #PitMad YA

Technical tips

  • Schedule your tweets. Use software like Tweetdeck to schedule your tweets in advance so you don’t have a heart attack the day of the contest.
  • Space your tweets out at weird times. Try not to schedule them exactly on the hour or half hour because that’s when there’s the greatest volume. I always scheduled mine at :03 and :33 or :17 and :47.
  • Never schedule identical tweets. Twitter will fail to schedule tweets that are identical to previous tweets you’ve posted that day. It’s also in your interest to craft three different tweets so interested agents can learn more about your book — it’s hard to fit much into 140 characters!
  • Don’t be a spammer. Don’t set up multiple Twitter accounts to retweet your tweets. Don’t tweet more than twice per hour. Other participants and agents WILL notice and call you out on it. So play nice.

What to do when an agent likes your tweet

When an agent likes your tweet, it’s SO exciting. I squeaked out loud every time it happened. Several of my coworkers witnessed this. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get likes early in the day; most of mine came late in the day, and even overnight. I think it’s easier for agents to sort through stream after the madness has died down, and pluck out their few favorites.

When an agent (or publisher) likes your tweet, here’s what to do:

  • Internet stalk them. Decide if you want to query them at all. I received 9 agent likes and four publisher likes. I didn’t query any of the publishers because I knew I wanted to be agented first, and I didn’t query one of the agents because he had no experience repping my genre, as far as I could tell. Publisher’s Marketplace, Absolutewrite, and Querytracker are your friends here. Don’t bother querying people you would never accept offers from. Otherwise you’re wasting their time.
  • Follow their submission guidelines. You can usually find agents’ submission guidelines on the submissions and/or bio pages of their websites. Also, participating agents will usually tweet instructions for authors before they start liking.
  • Include #PitMad in your subject line. This will distinguish you in the agents’ regular slush pile inboxes. Remember, if an agent likes your tweet, you’re sending them a solicited query. My agent was closed to unsolicited queries, so I was ecstatic when she liked my tweet!
  • Include your tweet in the first paragraph of your query. This will refresh the agents’ memory as to why they liked your tweet. I even hyperlinked the word #PitMad to the particular tweet they liked.

That’s it! Then you play the waiting game like everyone else, but hopefully your waiting game won’t take as long as it usually would. I hope this post helps other writers out there prepare for the next #PitMad. GOOD LUCK!

Share this! Here are some ready-made tweets:

Click to tweet: How #PitMad Helped Me Get a Literary Agent (And Tips for The Next One) – http://bit.ly/1eVtjJ3 by @DianaUrban #pubtip #querytip

Click to tweet: Check out this #PitMad success story, including helpful pitch writing tips and a downloadable pitch template. http://bit.ly/1eVtjJ3

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