What I Took Away from My First #PBPitch Party!
Well, I finally did it. I signed up for a Twitter account. I always insisted I never would, and for years I stayed strong, but as I’ve learned that a lot of great exchanges and connections in the writing world happen via Twitter (#WritingCommunity), I decided it was time. So, world of #hashtags, here I come!
One of the main reasons I took the twitter plunge was because of those wonderful events known as “pitch parties”—specific days/times designated for writers to tweet out their 280-character story pitch,* and for agents and editors looking for gems to “heart” or “like” those they want to see. An agent/editor "heart" is essentially a portal that allows your manuscript to bypass the ever-growing “slush pile” and actually get the agent or editor to read and consider your manuscript on purpose. Now, a heart does not guarantee a sale, but it certainly can result in valuable feedback.
There are a number of pitch parties out there, but arguably the one most important for picture book writers is #PBPitch, which is specific to picture books. So, it was with great anticipation that I prepared tweet-length pitches for 4 of my stories for the big day on June 20th. Now, I’ll save you the suspense—I didn’t get any agent or editor hearts. But that is not surprising. There were 20-30 new pitches being sent every minute for 12 hours (8am-8pm), and admittedly, I am a NEWBIE at pitch writing. Who knew that writing the pitch could be just as hard (okay, sometimes harder) as writing the story itself?? But the pitch party wasn’t a total loss. Here are my take-aways!
BETTER PITCHES: Although I had drafted standard-length pitches for these stories already, the 280-character limit imposed by twitter was a whole new banana. That restriction really forced me to drill down to the absolute essential thread of my stories, and ensure that every single word was necessary and compelling. As I worked, I noticed how much more zingy and gripping my pitches naturally became—without the cushion of all those extra words, the essence of each work really shown through. So, this was an excellent exercise for me in developing my skill as a pitch writer.
BETTER STORIES: One thing that surprised me was that for a couple of my stories—which have been revised and critiqued many times, and are polished—the exercise of writing the shorter pitch made me consider ways that my story could be even better. Almost like, “well this is what I want the pitch for my story to be, but it’s not—how can I adjust my story to fit this “aha!” pitch?” Next revision, here I come!
EDUCATION: As I periodically monitored the #PBPitch feed and read through some of the pitches being posted, I started taking note of the ones that hooked me vs. the ones I scrolled past. What was it about those “hooking” pitches that kept my interest? What was it about those forgettable pitches that made them fade? A couple of observations: shorter is usually better, although there is such a thing as too short (not enough info); short sentences are better than long, verbose ones; pitches that embody the voice of the story are better than those that just describe it; Santa, Halloween, and unicorns are overdone (thank goodness I don’t have any stories in those categories!); and at least for me, emojis in the place of words were distracting instead of compelling.
NEW CONNECTIONS: I have several new twitter connections with others in the #WritingCommunity—thanks so much to those who retweeted my pitches and who posted encouraging notes! Even if I didn’t get a “heart,” it was great to be a part of the event, and so fun to see all of the amazing, creative ideas that people are writing about. I only learned after it was over that retweeting is part of the event (retweeting others’ pitches is a way of showing support and making it more likely that a tweet will be seen), so I wish I would have been retweeting all of the wonderful pitches I loved—a casualty of being a twitter newbie I guess. I’ll know for next time! We're all in this together.
Bottom line? I learned a lot! So, until the next #PBPitch party in October, I’ll keep working on my pitches and query the old-fashioned way!
*Those readers who are not writers may be wondering what the heck a pitch is—basically, a pitch is the 1-2 sentence “hook” that you use to get an agent or editor interested in reading your whole manuscript. It usually summarizes the plot/theme, but in a way that is compelling and (for picture books especially) fun. My pitches:
PS—thanks to all of my family and friends who have recently followed by blog, I so appreciate you coming along and supporting my kidlit publishing journey!