Have Yourself a Merry Little #PitMad

Whether you’re a #PITMAD regular or are new to the online pitch world, have we got a post for you! Today I’m extremely pleased to have Sub It Clubber Nilah Magruder and her agent Michelle Witte here to talk about how they connected through #PITMAD.  This is such a great, infomation-filled post that we’ve got to hop right to it! It’s time to HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE #PITMAD with author/illustrator Nilah Magruder and agent Michelle Witte…

Nilah Magruder

Nilah Magruder

The end of 2015 is nigh, and with it approaches the last #PitMad of the year! For the uninitiated, #PitMad is a quarterly manuscript pitch party that takes place exclusively on Twitter. Writers with completed, polished manuscripts of any genre and market are invited to pitch their stories in 140 characters, including the hashtag #PitMad (so really it’s 132 characters). Using the hashtag, editors and agents can search pitches and add a heart (or a “like”) to the ones they’re interested in. That’s the writer’s cue to query that agent or editor!

#PitMad is a great opportunity to practice the art of the elevator pitch, read and support other fabulous pitches, and be involved in a global event with thousands of writers and artists. But deep down, every writer participates in #PitMad with the hope of catching the eye of an agent or editor. Last year I joined #PitMad on a whim, and the unbelievable happened: it led me to my agent! Michelle Witte of Mansion Street Literary Management requested my picture book manuscript after reading my pitch, and the very next day she offered representation. After a stressful two weeks of deliberation, I accepted her offer. Just a few months later, Michelle sold my manuscript, HOW TO FIND A FOX, to Feiwel & Friends.

michelle witte (426x640)

Michelle Witte

With our one-year anniversary quickly approaching, we’ve banded together to help you prepare for the upcoming pitch party. #PitMad has grown in popularity since its inception, and with its growth some rules have changed. RTing other writers’ tweets is no longer allowed, and writers can pitch no more than three unique pitches per project. These changes aim to reduce the number of pitches agents and editors have to sift through and make the event a little more manageable, but they also make crafting a strong pitch even more crucial. I chatted a bit with Michelle about the agent’s perspective on #PitMad and what she looks for in a pitch.

How did you notice my pitch?

MW: The first thing I noticed about HOW TO FIND A FOX was the illustration. I immediately fell in love with that sneaky little fox. And the accompanying pitch sounded good as well, so it was a no-brainer.

Nilah tweet

Original #PitMad pitch for HOW TO FIND A FOX.

Why do you participate in #PitMad?

MW: I like the potential in #PitMad to see different kinds of stories that authors might not ordinarily query me with, mostly because I’m not a well-known agent, so a lot of writers haven’t heard of me or Mansion Street. So it’s a quick and easy way to let writers know that I’d be interested in seeing their work.

Have you had any other successes from #PitMad or other Twitter pitch parties?

MW: I found another author-illustrator I now represent during a subsequent #PitMad, the fantastic Denise Gallagher, whose vibrant illustrations wowed me. There have been others I was interested in, but when you’ve got numerous agents favoriting a tweet, it can become a bit of a feeding frenzy, with authors receiving multiple offers of representation. But there are several pitches I faved from other Twitter pitch parties sitting in my inbox now that look very promising, so that might change in the near future.

What do you look for in a pitch?

MW: Twitter pitch parties are great for finding manuscripts with a strong concept. Those are often called “high concept”, i.e., a book idea that is easy to explain in 140 characters or less. Sometimes voice comes through in the pitch, but tweets are brief by nature, so there’s not a lot of nuance. So even if agents don’t favorite a pitch, it doesn’t mean that those same agents wouldn’t love the manuscript itself. That’s why it’s also good to query agents who are participating even without a “like”. Besides, the feed goes by so quickly, it’s impossible to see everything (unless you spend several days scrolling through the feed).

Include the genre or age group hashtag in the tweet, because I and a lot of other agents filter the feed based upon genres/age groups. For example, I’ll search for: #PitMad #ya. So if your tweet doesn’t include that second hashtag, it has a good chance of being missed by most agents and editors who rep your kind of book. I will also search the feed by tweets that include photos or illustrations, which is why it’s necessary for illustrators and artists to include an image with their pitch.

The important thing when crafting a Twitter (or any) pitch is to highlight what makes your book different than every other manuscript out there. If your story isn’t high concept, don’t focus on the plot. Instead, base your pitch upon the strongest element, like character or plot twist, or even how your story subverts common tropes so that it doesn’t seem like just another post-apocalyptic paranormal romance with zombies.

One final note: Always always always do research before sending materials to any agent or editor who requests. It’s common for schmagents and schmeditors (inexperienced, scam, or incompetent agents or publishers) to trawl the feed, so if someone doesn’t feel legit, trust your gut. It’s important to do it before sending because the moment you get an offer of rep or publication, the temptation to accept it is huge, even if you know in your gut that it’s not the best fit for you and your writing.

Thanks Michelle, this is really helpful insight! So helpful in fact that there’s only one more thing I can add: do take time to get feedback on your pitches. Go to friends or critique partners and groups. Pitches will be scrolling very quickly, and it’s imperative you get another pair of eyes on your pitch before the event to know how well it stands out. In preparing my pitch, I ran it by a couple of friends who gave me excellent suggestions, and then I took it to the Sub It Club group for one final review.

Kyra Nelson also hosts an event called #MockPit, which is kind of like a #PitMad prep party. The latest #MockPit has already passed, but be sure to keep your eye out for the next round.

Michelle Witte will be participating in the next #PitMad, but if you feel that she’s the right agent for you can query her directly. Visit her website to learn about her preferences and submission guidelines. She’s even made some really neat visual lists for what she’s looking for in picture books and young adult fiction. (*Please note that Michelle is closed to queries until the New Year. She’ll update her blog and Twitter when she’s ready to open back up so be on the lookout! – H.B.)

The next #PitMad is on December 4. Now go my friends, your pitches await! But be sure to check out the links below for more information on participating!

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Official #PitMad Website

How #PitMad Helped Me Get a Literary Agent (And Tips for The Next One)

Flip That Pitch!

5 Easy Steps to Being a Twitter-Pitcher

The Ultimate Writers’ Guide to Twitter Pitch Contests 

Wow, wasn’t that an amazing post? Thank you so much Nilah and Michelle for taking the time to share with us!

You can follow Michelle Witte on Twitter @michellewitte.

You can find Nilah Magruder at her website nilahmagruder.com and follow her on Twitter at @nilaffle. Look for Nilah’s debut picture book, HOW TO FIND A FOX coming November 2016!

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About Heather Ayris Burnell

Full time mom. Part time librarian. Author of BEDTIME MONSTER. Creator of Sub It Club. Curator of the Monster Lists of Picture Book Agents & Publishers. Always fooling around on Twitter @heatherayris. KICK! JUMP! CHOP! coming fall 2017 from Sterling Publishing.
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8 Responses to Have Yourself a Merry Little #PitMad

  1. That was excellent advice! Thanks, Heather and Michelle! Also, I love Nilah’s illo. 🙂

  2. Yay, Nilah! HOW TO FIND A FOX looks awesome–congratulations!!

  3. Kaye Baillie says:

    Nilah’s post is so great to read. I can see why her Fox story was snapped up. Great pitch and fab illustration. Your advice on entering #PitMad is really clear and helpful. I never enter because although I don’t have an agent that reps all my work, she does rep me for one picture book. She does repping book by book. So I still send things out on my own to various publishers if the right opportunity arises. So I would be interested to do #PitMad if Editors were looking. Do you think that would be okay?

    • Kaye, editors participate in #pitmad as well, so I would definitely recommend entering your other manuscripts there (I can’t vouch for how many are accepting PB manuscripts since participating editors change with each event!). The basic rule is, if you’re subbing a manuscript to agents and publishers anyway, then it’s acceptable for #pitmad. Good luck!

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  7. Randi says:

    I could watch Sch’dnleris List and still be happy after reading this.

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