Status update post-DVPIT: three MG books have been requested (The Wirewood Grimoire, Momori: Child of Sand, and Dragon on Cranberry Road). I've also had the pleasure of submitting to five incredible agents.
Being a marginalized author in the last year has really led me to explore wonderful new worlds for my books. A large part of this can be attributed to my enthusiasm for etymology and folklore. There is nothing like diving into a culture's rich traditions, food, and childhood myths and fables to get me to sit down and develop a new fable-inspired world.
I come from a Jewish background, great-great grandparents who emigrated from Europe just before World War II broke out, and have experienced anti-semitism since I was in elementary school. There was a lot of history there which I knew little of, partially because none of my ancestors encouraged their children to hold onto traditions once in America. It's no wonder that I indulge in foreign films, value travel, will taste any new food, and discovered a love for studying languages (several years later and my Japanese and German is finally taking off).
What I love most about DVPIT is that marginalized voices receive special attention. There is great opportunity to connect with agents who intentionally seek writers who haven't been widely represented before (culturally, religiously, female or male, LGBTQIA+, disabled). Readers need marginalized stories! Without them, we fall into a repeated pattern of androcentrism. This doesn't mean that male voices should be discounted — you could be a white, male author but if your book honors your Italian roots about Sicilian immigrant children who find solace in the witchy gift giving of La Befana, I'd love to read that!
The first time I participated in a Twitter pitch event, it could have been better. Then I studied. I studied event guidelines, author profiles and pitches, agent profiles and comments, and blogs about pitching. Every pitch event following, I've had multiple requests. How did you fare in DVPIT April 22-23? Did you receive at least one request? How often were you pitching your book throughout the day? There are two more Twitter pitch events lined up for this spring and summer: May 21 — #PitDark: a Twitter pitch event geared towards twisted tales of a darker nature, for all ages (murder, psychological thrillers, horror, dark fantasy). It is hosted by Jason Huebinger from 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. (ET). June 4 — #PitMad: a renowned Twitter pitch party hosted by PitchWars; it is global from 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. (ET). You can network with other writers, agents, and editors from around the world. Any age range and genre is welcome. Many agents, literary assistants, acquisitions editors, and small and big presses alike frequent PITMAD and other author Twitter pitch events.
Still bogged down with questions? Glimmers of success for pitches come in many forms:
1. Research recent successful pitches from DVPIT this month. Which pitches gained agent likes? I emphasize the word "agent" because some of the most "popular" tweets actually don't have agent likes and therefore weren't successful.
2. Set your clock. Timing is so important! This means prepare your pitches in advance or at least carve out time throughout the day to pitch. Author preparation shows: 1.) Pitch in the morning when agents start their day; 2.) Pitch early afternoon when agents break for lunch; 3.) Pitch before the end of the day when agents wrap-up their Twitter pitch time. You can choose to pitch only once per book but be aware that pitching multiple times in various ways means you'll have a better chance at getting noticed.
3. DVPIT and PITMAD are always fair. There is hope for every pitch out there. Avoid being caught up in poor Twitter etiquette liking and retweeting negativities. The writing community is watching you, always. Guidelines eliminate false retweets and likes.
4. Rise and shine! This is East Coast time. I live in California and make sure that I am up bright and early at 5:00 a.m. to pitch. Mental notes help me determine which books I'm going to pitch at what hour and I prepare my pitches days before. Find a rhythm that works for you so you can feel rested, prepared, and encouraged.
5. Read the rules! Typically, it's one pitch per hour, with a maximum number of times you can pitch for your book. You can alternate your pitches for multiple books but don't try to encourage followers to retweet your pitch if the rules prohibit it. Don't encourage followers to like your book (agents only!). And don't try to sneak in a last minute pitch when the event ends. People notice.
6. Accept your writing community. Follow, like, and retweet agents, editors, and other writers who stick out to you. You don't want to end up being that soi-disant novelist who doesn't write seriously or put in the time to network.
7. Hashtag. Pitch events list out which hashtags to use which will help you stand out to agents and better describe your book. A #hashtag can also help your pitch be categorized properly on Twitter when agents look for a specific category (e.g. #MG or middle grade, #MR or magical realism, #OWN or own voices).
8. Comparable titles. How can an agent become excited for your book if you aren't excited about other books? Neil Gaiman said that he didn't quite find his voice until he was well into his career, inspired by and emulating other authors and their books for years. Read and find books similar to your idea so that you can present comparable titles to agents. That is a crucial way to announce what your values are as a writer by listing what you read.
9. Edit, edit, edit. Practice pitching with everyone you know. Honest feedback and saying your pitches aloud leads to multiple revisions, which leads to a better pitch.
Below is a basic formula for a worthy 280-character or less pitch/tweet:
[COMP X COMP]
[Age]yo [character name] is [critical backstory]. When [inciting incident] causes [major plot change], [character name] must [major decision] or else [stakes]. [hashtags]
Below is an example of one of my pitches during #DVPIT which gained two agent likes:
CORALINE X PAN'S LABYRINTH 12yo Momori felt its hot breath on the train. In Nazi-occupied Japan, fears of a silly girl, let alone a gaijin Jewish girl, matter little but she'll find courage & face the spirit world alone if it means bringing her brother home. #DVpit #MG #MR #OWN
You'll want to find your own voice for pitching, but the general rules for a great pitch apply. My pitches can always improve!
10. Always research agents and agencies. You always want to be wary of legitimate agents and agencies if you end up getting a like. Take some time to do this and make sure that, not only is the agent/agency legitimate, but that you also feel it's a great match for your goals as an author. If you aren't sure what your goals are (traditional publishing, small press, the Big 5, hybrid, part-time author, full-time author, etc.) discover that first.
I hope this blog felt encouraging as an author relating to other authors. We all have intensely different obstacles and paths with our publishing career. With that, we have a very unique #writingcommunity but also have an important obligation to determine what we really want out of our #books.
Wrapping-up the last point about research and goals, it feels important to note that the first writing conference I ever attended shocked me in many ways. One of those ways was hearing an author panel where two authors actually complained about only wanting to publish one book and be done with it; they needed to appease their agent to write multiple books. Initially, this frustrated me. But I realized that judging would get me nowhere, and even if the comment was simply for show, it's not my book and not my problem. The other authors in the panel thought more like I anticipate I would if published, and they nearly fell off their seat at the fact that they were making a living from telling their stories.
I know I would be the latter, the author with happy tears because she gets to write her books as long as she can. But I've known that answer for a long time. If we are transparent about the longevity of our writing, whether it's a fantasy we can live without or if it's a real need as important as the air we breathe, I think success will very soon knock on the door.