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Why I Don’t Do Twitter Contests

Every year it seems like new Twitter pitch contests pop up and, while I know a lot of people love them (Beth and Moe, included), I just can’t. Part of it, I admit, is I don’t have the patience to sort through all the tweets to find what I’m looking for. But another part of it is that 140 characters simply doesn’t give me the information I feel I need to make an informed decision about a project. Maybe I’m too set in my ways after fifteen years in this business, but I love my regular ol’ queries. They give me everything I need to make a decision.

Any decent query includes a blurb about the book. That blurb should make the genre clear and introduce the characters and plot, but it also tells the reader about your writing ability. A sloppy, amateurish blurb with mediocre writing will likely lead to a sloppy, amateurish book with mediocre writing. Sometimes storytelling ability in a blurb is strong enough to trump writing that might not be perfect, and I’ll still request. On the opposite end of the spectrum, someone can be a fantastic writer but lack storytelling ability, and they’ll get a rejection. A lot can be gleaned from sentence structure and word choices that I just can’t see in 140 characters.

If a query is too long and contains extraneous information, the book might be wordy and overwritten. Other queries are too short and don’t give me enough info to understand why the book is different from others in the genre. There are often indicators in a query of the author’s professionalism. You might be amazed how much we can tell from a simple query.

So, maybe I’m old-fashioned and set in my ways but I’ll stick with my queries. No Twitter pitch contests for me, thank you very much.

 

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6 comments

  1. I think any mutually agreed upon way an agent (or editor) and writer find each other is a great thing. My only pet peeve is the idea of a pitch session as a contest. I feel like it shifts the focus from the long game–having a career and looking for the right person to help develop that career–to the short game–winning a contest. I’ve seen so many writers lose their confidence because they didn’t get their pitch or query finished on time for a contest, or because so-and-so didn’t star their tweet, or because Author X got loads of requests and they got zilch. Obviously their books suck to the core so there’s no need to query them. Wrong! If you want to query someone, query them. You don’t have to wait for a contest or pitchfest to give you permission–just do it. The worst they can say is no.

  2. I completely agree, Emily. I think the same goes for conferences–you don’t have to wait for a conference to pitch to someone (well, at least, not an agent), just send a query.

  3. In terms of an agent’s point of view, I totally get this sentiment. Truly, a tweet won’t tell you much, and certainly not enough to make a decision. But as for the writer, one of the most difficult things to come by are professional opinions and feedback concerning our query/project. You may reject it, but we’ll never know why, since you’re so bombarded with queries it’s impossible to expect feedback every time. In comes a Twitter Pitch contest however, and suddenly the possibility of receiving feedback is very real! I know that’s why I participate, because of course, if I want to query, I can just query. But for me, that isn’t the purpose of a Twitter Pitch Contest. As a writer I participate to make new connections and understand how my manuscript settles with agents or editors. I’ve had success on both fronts. What editors and agents get out of this is beyond me. Maybe there’s a premise they’re dying to find and this would be the chance for that. Otherwise I agree with you, not sure what’s the big benefit for your efforts to shuffle through tweets. But whatever the reason for those agents and editors who participate, I am grateful for their feedback! Hopefully I’ll learn enough to make a stellar novel and query! (And then I’ll hit you up.) Until then, off I go to the tweets.

  4. Agents dangle the proverbial carrot. Hungry writers are leaping for a bite. If a pitch contest is where the food is that day, then off to Twitter it is. But you make some excellent points and I think it’s very interesting to hear why agents do or do not participate in such contests.

    That being said, I’m blown away by the number of agents looking for “retellings of a familiar story!” All right. If you say so, Twitter.

  5. First thanks so much for this post! Second I agree with Emily. I have been wondering lately if Twitter Pitch Contests are going to eventually replace queries. I’ve made comments and asked on Twitter about it and dedicated a blog post to it. It seems to me lately that more authors are getting asked for submissions at these contests, while I and other writers have spent months, even years perfecting what we hope is the perfect query according to everything we’ve read. Maybe I’m old school as well, but I find it impossible to condense the plot of a 95k word novel down to 140 characters.

  6. On a whim, I decided to participate in a Pit Mad contest. I had what by all outward appearances should have been a very successful day – five ‘likes’ by agents on my 140 character blurb. The result: An agent who requested the full right away but then disappeared. An agent who had no submission guidelines or email addresses on his very prestigious agency’s website (which basically said, do not pitch us) and who when I DM’d him how to submit, never got a response. An agent who sent me a form reject on my query, and two agents who ignored my query. So, yeah, doubt I’ll be doing that again. I’ve had much more success querying the old fashioned way.

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