8 Easy Ways to Pitch like a Llama

For most normal people, sights are set on Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, and then cleaning up their act for the New Year. 

For writers, we keep a slightly different calendar–November is Nanowrimo, December 1 starts Decembo, and just after that comes the magical twitter event that happens but four times a year: PitMad. 

Disclaimer incoming: I am not affiliated with Pitch Wars or PitMad! For more official information, visit their site at www.pitchwars.com. For those of you still with me, PitMad is an event where writers pitch their books on twitter to industry professionals. The next one is just over one week away, one December 5. If you are a writer, and you’re here because you want to be able to pitch your book the best you possibly can, you’re in the right place.

There are so many resources that can teach you how to pitch successfully: From the Pitchwars Blog to Catherine Blackwell’s introduction-to-twitter-pitching primer and so many posts in between, knowledge is everywhere, just hoping you’ll find it and apply it. For most pitch events now, I give positivity passes in my DMs, just letting writers know what they’ve nailed so they can go in confident. I do this because I know there’s a tendency in the writing community to criticize endlessly, and if these writers are anything like me, they’ve been working on these pitches for weeks and already have implemented plenty of advice. But in my DMs, I do still see people who could be given just a little boost: they know how to pitch, they just need a tiny little oof to push it from great to outstanding. 

If you need the basics, please consider clicking on one of the links above. If you’re like one of the people in my DMs who already have a good pitch and are looking for ways to make sure it actually gets read, then read on, little rainbow. 

Just because an agent likes your pitch does not mean that they’ll request the full manuscript, or that your wait time will be shortened. Cold querying does work just as well, so if twitter pitching isn’t your thing, hey, no big deal. That being said, in my own experience, my full manuscript request rate shot way up for pitch event requests than anything else–especially in events where several agents liked the pitch. And I connected with my agent through a twitter pitch event; here’s the one that she initially liked:

This is not an objectively special pitch. In fact, I think there are lots of elements to pitches like this that anyone can easily replicate, so let’s break down what they are and talk about ways to lay the groundwork necessary to creating an eye-catching pitch.

  1. Get Help

In our writing/querying/publishing support group, the #llamasquad, we create a shared google doc weeks ahead of time for every pitch event. We post our pitches and comment on elements we love and suggest improvements–sometimes big ones–to make every pitch shine. Nobody has ever been successful completely on their own–we all need other people to help us be our best. The Llama Squad is closed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a group of ambitious and talented writers, too. We are in the information age, and reaching out to people who can help us is easier than it ever has been before in human history. Reach out. Get help. Sometimes just another pair of eyes on your pitch is enough to transform it into gold. 

  1. Consider Breaking Something Good to Make Something Great

I know it’s common to “recycle” pitches and sometimes it’s not a bad idea, but for your pitch to feel really fresh, just play with rewriting it entirely. This is another one that’s based completely on my personal experiences, but there’s something magic about expressing old ideas in new words. If you’ve used a pitch verbatim in several past events, just consider starting from scratch to see if it sticks. 

  1. That Being Said, Make Sure it’s Easy to Read

Unless you have a format that’s truly turn-it-on-its-ear different, just sticking with the traditional pitch formula is the best way to go because it’s the easiest to read and understand within seconds. Brittany Morris says it best:

  1. Lead with Easy-to-Understand comps, and put a Paragraph Between those and the First Line of the Pitch

The general rule is that no comps are better than bad comps, but if your comps are obscure or have too many caveats or are just plain confusing (Sometimes I see things like “Emotional journey of FIEVAL GOES WEST with the multi-dimensional characterization of Severus Snape meets SISTER ACT II: BACK IN THE HABIT) just skip them. If you do have them, make them easy to understand and read by placing a space between the lines.

  1. Post Early

I know, nobody wants to be the kid with no chill posting at 8 a.m. on the nose. But there are so many writers who have no idea what to do, and they’ll scroll through the early ones just to get a sense of how they should wing it. When they do that, they’ll see yours and (if it’s good!) RT it. And your tweet will get placed higher on the feed, which makes it easier for industry folk to see. Most of the time, the first pitch of the day is the most successful. 

  1. Include Sensory Details

I think this one is what separates the good from the great. The easiest detail to include in a 240-character pitch is a visual image. If you can make someone see something in their mind’s eye, you can connect with them. Don’t say “flowers,” say “azaleas.” Don’t say “Birthday decoration,” say “red balloon.” Don’t say “dog,” say “husky puppy.” The more specific these images are, the more powerful. 

  1. Specific Stakes (One more time for the people in the back: Spe! Cif! Ic! Stakes!)

If you’ve read almost an entire pitch and love it, it’s such a bummer when it ends with something vague like “or else her entire village will be in peril.” Stakes that stand out are specific ultimatums, like “she will marry him, but only if he agrees to give his beloved husky puppy back to the animal shelter.”

  1. Be Kind and Generous

People expect PitMad to be a day their feeds are littered with pitches. If you see a pitch you like, don’t be stingy or worry that your friends will get tired of these incredible books being distilled down, just RT it and/or comment with something encouraging! These actions go a long way; being brave is much easier with support. 

Are you pitching next week? DM me so I can support you. Best of luck!

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