How I Got My Agent

Here it is, the traditional, ginormous, over-the-top, all-the dish, “How I got my agent” post!

I’ve included my successful query letter at the end. I’ll also break out individual pieces into future blog posts as well, going into more depth with the strategies that worked for me. Please note that no one path to publishing is going to be right for everyone. I have a great deal of privilege going into this process, along with some big disadvantages, and that affected my approach and results. The goal is always to build a big toolbox, then use the most effective tools for the job in front of you.


I always had plans to be a writer, from the short story I wrote in kindergarten about a ghost who was really bad at scaring people, to the truly tragically, hilariously awful fanfiction I wrote in my teens about Star Trek (big crushes on Chekov and Worf) and Batman Forever (Hellooo Chris O’Donnell!) I still have those fanfiction notebooks, by the way, and do solemnly swear that if I ever make it to NYT Bestseller lists, I will release pages of it every April Fools Day to show that writing skill can be acquired through practice, and doesn’t have to exist as an innate trait. So if you’re curious, then buy my books and recommend me to others.

After my meandering path of career changes into my 40s, my partner earned his doctorate in mathematics and got a job offer that we could both live on. With his support, I had a rare opportunity to take my filing cabinets full of bits and pieces of half-formed ideas and unfinished scenes, and set out full-time on a self-directed study of how to be a writer.


I wrote my first full book, Punch Drunk Magic, in the summer of 2018, after searching endlessly for a certain kind of book I wasn’t able to find. It was a not-so-cozy suburban mystery about witches, romance, and identity within a generational community. In the meantime, I started brushing off old social media accounts and joining online writing groups for advice, reading voraciously, and searching for resources on the business end of writing. I learned about the query trenches, synopses, beta readers, and comps. I devoured every piece of advice I could find, sifting through it for patterns so that I could figure out which to follow. I believed so hard in this book. It was everything I wanted to read – sexy, angsty, magical, and subversive. When I sent it off to beta readers, they loved it (except for one who said there was too much kissing for a mystery, but I forgave them).

Then it was time to enter the dreaded query trenches.


It turns out that writing a book and writing about a book are two completely different skill sets. So if you’re struggling with your query letter, you are not alone, or a bad writer. You are trying a new writing form for the first time, and it takes practice.

Luckily, I found The Query Shark at Agent Janet Reid runs the blog were she takes queries submitted for critique, and shows us the editing process, often through multiple iterations. To this day, the number one advice I offer any querying author is to go to the Query Shark blog, navigate to the archive, and read ALL 300+ query critiques. After every 20-30 critiques, stop and revise your query letter with what you’ve learned, so the new tips don’t get lost in the shuffle.

That sounds like a slog, right? But again, you’re developing an entirely new skill set, and this blog is a master class in crafting a tight, dynamic, voice-driven query letter. There’s no shortcuts to learning a new skill. Put in the time. Do the work. You can start as soon as you have a rough draft or outline of your book and pick away at 20-30 critiques and one revision a week. Once you have a finished book, you have a polished query letter ready to go.

Note that some agents have specific requirements for query letters that don’t match Query Shark’s (e.g. loglines, housekeeping info at the top). Always defer to the individual agent’s requirements, and poke around to see if that agent has posted sample queries you can use as a guide.

I’ve included my successful query letter at the end of the post.


Again, writing a book and writing about a book are two very different skill sets! The synopsis is the most hated step of the querying process for a lot of authors. And no, that’s not a typo in the section title. You need two. One is a 1000 word version for agents who either don’t specify, or ask for a 2+ page version. The second is a 500 word version for agents who request a one-page synopsis.

Start with a “however long it takes” synopsis. Stick to ONLY your main character’s story and the central conflict. For each chapter or major scene, write out one sentence saying what happens, one sentence describing how the character’s choices or actions led to that event, and one sentence describing the effect of the event on the character or central conflict. Once you have an outline, you can smooth it down to just the major turning points of the story instead of every scene, eliminate any side characters who crept in there, and eventually, make sure it reflects your narrative voice. Then chop it down to just the absolute critical events (inciting incident, midpoint, all-is-lost, ending) for the 500 page version.

If you’re struggling to identify the major plot points that go into a synopsis, I recommend starting with the beats described in the books Save the Cat, and Save the Cat Writes a Novel. For Romance genre, I recommend Romancing the Beat.

I’ll go more into query letters and synopses in future blog posts.


I do use Query Tracker, but the interface wasn’t intuitive enough for me for tracking and hid some information I wanted to see at a glance. I created a separate spreadsheet using Google Sheets to create a master list of agents. To start, have one sheet in the workbook that serves as a master list of all agents you’re interested in. You’ll do a separate sheet to track querying for each project.

I’ll do a separate post to go into more detail, but you’ll want to start with Query Tracker and search for anyone who reps your genre. For each agent, use their agency wishlist, the Manuscript Wishlist site, and social media (especially Twitter) to determine whether your book would be a good fit. Take notes as you go, as it will help you personalize your query letter later and make good choices. Save links to interviews or blog posts they’ve made. I then scored each agent 1-10 based on how well my book fits their wishlist.

Once you have a complete list, my next step was to subscribe to Publishers Marketplace for one month. I went through each agent and agency and took extensive notes on what they’ve sold in my genre (or if they’re a new agent, what the lead agents that might be mentoring them have sold), who they sold it to, and when. If you start with a complete list, you can cram this work into a month and then cancel the subscription if you can’t afford to maintain it. You’ll want to resubscribe if you get an offer, though, so that you can get recent information and dig more deeply into the offering agent(s). Then, of course, you’ll want to re-subscribe long-term once you’re published, to maintain an author account and your book listings.

You can do some of this work for free through Query Tracker, the agency website, and individual authors’ acknowledgment pages, but it is a lot more time and effort. If you can afford the month of PM at this stage, it’s a good investment.

Now you should be ready to sort your agents into A, B, and C tiers based on how much you want to work with them, as well as flagging (not deleting—always keep your research) anyone you absolutely do not want to work with. An A10 agent is a dream match. A C1 agent might not be worth querying, at least not until much later.


When I set out to be an author, I found a lot of advice and resources through social media, including several of my most trusted beta readers, free workshops and courses, and advice. While the primary focus should always be on writing the best possible book and refining your craft, all three offering agents mentioned my social media following as a positive factor in their decision.

I currently keep a Twitter account that’s primarily a professional writing account, and a Facebook account where I participate in a lot of writing groups and workshops. I’ve switched a lot of my Facebook activity to an author page to build interaction, and linked it to my Instagram, which I’m still building and figuring out how to use effectively. (Right now I just post writing quotes and dad jokes).

Before 2018 I barely used my Twitter account for anything and only had a couple of followers. I set out to deliberately build a writing community around me before I queried my first book. It took almost four years to pass 14K, so it’s worth starting early so you don’t have to have a crash course in social media in the short time between signing an agent and going on sub. Trust me, you’ll have enough to do then!


I sent out my first batch of query letters to a mix of A and B tier agents in January 2019, and mixed it up with Twitter pitch parties. I got a few requests from DVpit and SFFpit in 2019. Overall, I sent 38 queries for Punch Drunk Magic between January and May 2019, with 8 requests for partial or full. Then I declared it dead.

This was a brutal process, and I have absolute sympathy for anyone who quits, goes indie, goes straight to publishers, etc. Those are valid paths, but didn’t fit my own long-term career goals. But the querying trenches are harrowing, without a doubt. I was even playing on easy mode, not having to wonder if my race or ethnicity was a factor in the rejections. I knew it came down to my story and the market, and I didn’t make the cut.


What kept me going, aside from sheer stubbornness, was that I had already started a new book. Once Punch Drunk Magic was out there and I only had to occasionally send an email or update a spreadsheet, I took some excellent advice and turned to a completely unrelated story. By the time Punch Drunk was ready to be shelved, A Witch in Wine Country was ready for beta readers, and I started the whole process again.

The thing is, once I had finished writing and revising the new book, I picked up Punch Drunk just to read for fun. With the benefit of more experience, I could see the problems in that first book that I could not see when I was querying it. The characters were underdeveloped. There were some plot holes. The line-level writing was choppy. I used cliches, like starting with the character waking up and describing herself in a mirror. If I had thrown it out there on Amazon as a self-pub, I’d be a little embarrassed of it now. It’s still a good story, and I hope to dust it off and revise it in a few years, but it wasn’t ready.

Overall, I sent out 45 queries for Wine Country and participated in Twitter pitch parties between February and July 2020. I immediately noticed a pattern compared to the previous book. My rejections took longer and were more personalized, so I was hitting more “maybe” piles. I received 6 requests for more material, but more full requests than partials. Then, in September 2020, I hit the next marker in what I considered progress in my writing craft—a revise and resubmit from an agent I really wanted to work with. The feedback was sparse, but I took the bit in my teeth and ran with it, doing a full re-write, adding depth to characters and re-shaping the plot. Unfortunately, I revised it too far away from the agent’s wishlist, and they passed. While I think it ended up a much stronger book, it also ended up a much different book, so I don’t blame them for deciding it was no longer a good fit for them.

In 2021, while struggling with a new project along the same lines, I sent Wine Country back out to beta readers, including, this time, a published author I met through a Facebook group who was able to give me higher-level professional advice. In short, the feedback was that I was trying to do too much in one book. It had a central romance plot, but also a women’s fiction plot, a murder mystery, and paranormal elements, all competing for equal billing. The blend of genres was similar to gothics, but it didn’t have enough of the gothic tropes and vibe to market it as such. I needed to pick a central plot and let the others take supporting roles if I wanted the book to be marketable. I had the same issue with my current WIP, which was stuck at the midpoint.


So to focus myself and recover from the disappointment of querying, I set out to write a pure, single-genre contemporary romance. My goal was to really nail down the romance plot with all the genre beats, and narrow in on the character development around that plot. I needed to make writing fun again, so I picked something completely out of my wheelhouse and as different from the previous books as I could get—a lumberjack romcom. It was such a cliché that it begged for a revival. So I put my lumberjacks on the set of a reality TV show and cast it all through a queer, gender-subversive lens. I also put some craft books to work (Save the Cat, Save the Cat writes a Novel, and Romancing the Beat) sketching out each chapter and matching it up with genre beats before beginning the first draft. Hats off to my poor partner, who watched three seasons of Axe-men with me for research, and then listened to me info-dump everything the TV show got wrong according to the behind-the-scenes articles and forum threads from real loggers.

I started querying Timber in October 2021, picking up whoever was still open over the holiday season. Then in 2022, I took a few weeks and just blasted queries, hitting an agent at every agency on my list by the end of February. From 71 queries sent, I received 13 requests for more materials, and, in June 2022, an offer of representation.

I had, at this point, given up on Timber and was ready to shelve it and move on. It hit hard, the rejections on this third round. My partner was talking me out of quitting writing and looking for a job every month or so. I was researching self-publication marketing in earnest, even though it didn’t fit my career goals. When the email asking for a phone call came in, right after a rejection on a full, I had to read it three times to understand that it wasn’t another rejection.


The phone call was like a miracle. Not only did she love my book, she GOT my book. She understood what I was going for (a m/f romance through a queer lens, kicking off an eventual series of various queer pairings) in a way that made me feel seen. She loved my characters for the same reasons I did, and her editorial goals was to make my book more of what we both loved about it, not turn it into something else. She supported my interest in writing in multiple genres in the future, and had ideas for how to map that kind of career. Most importantly to me, she’s an editorial agent, and writing the best book I can is as important to me as selling it.

I immediately contacted everyone who had a Timber query and hadn’t responded yet, even those that were six months old that technically would be considered timed out. This resulted in two additional offers and an outpouring of personalized, supportive rejections congratulating me on my offer (in case anyone though agents didn’t care, the good ones really do want to see authors succeed).

My next step was to weigh the different offers. I reviewed the agency sample contracts with my partner, who is one of those people who reads court briefs for fun. Yeah. I don’t get it either, but it sure comes in handy when reviewing legal documents.

In the end, the deciding factors will be different for everyone. For me, it came down to:

  • The editorial approach and this agent’s background in editing that would make this book shine in a very crowded market
  • The contract that seemed the most fair and balanced with an assumption of good faith
  • A boutique agency where agents had a strong cooperative working style, experienced mentors, and a mission of inclusion/diversity in publishing that I feel strongly about
  • The connection this agent had with my book and her enthusiasm for working with it!


A few things to keep in mind that I haven’t seen passed around as advice for a newly offered author, and should be:

1. You can request changes to the contract. Probably not something extreme like fee percentages, but if you see a clause in one agency’s contract that you wish existed in another, don’t hesitate to ask for it. Do they specify caps on multi-agent fees for subrights? Do they have a clause that ensures you can be paid directly from the publisher in case of agency bankruptcy or dissolution? They might say no to your request, or ask for a different wording, but they’re not going to rescind your offer for something like that. If they do rescind, you dodged a bullet. You wouldn’t want to suddenly find out your agent has a touchy ego once you’re already in a business relationship and you rely on them to get your checks.

2. If you get an offer, ask around your whisper network. Post in private writing groups on social media asking if anyone has heard good or bad things of the agents, and if someone wants to DM you about it, let them. People in the industry get to know the bad actors, but won’t say anything where it will come up in a search and risk retaliation. Check WriterBeware. Get 2-3 references from the agent, preferably at least one writer that has sold a book and one that hasn’t. Email them to ask how it is to work with the agent.

3. Plan for a crash. You’ve spent a lot of time, either months or years, enduring heartache, rejection, exhaustion, and burnout. You’ve had an adrenaline soaked couple of weeks of fielding life-changing phone calls and decisions. Give yourself time to fall back to earth after you’ve signed the contract. If you can take time off work, do so. Don’t throw yourself into a new project. Play video games. Go for walks. Breathe. Feel your feelings. Process the trauma of this journey. This moment, between your acceptance and either an editorial letter or a submission plan, is the last and best moment to breathe in your career.

4. If an agent refuses to give you references, pressures you to make an immediate decision without giving you at least two weeks to consider other offers, or won’t provide a sample contract from the agency to look over, I would consider those red flags. This is supposed to be a mutually beneficial business relationship. If it isn’t starting out with mutual respect, transparency, and good faith, it can only go downhill from there. You are in a vulnerable position and maybe a little desperate, so you’re perfect for predators to pick off and take advantage of. As much as we want an agent, it is absolutely true that a bad agent is worse than none. This is why your whisper network may be your most valuable tool.


The most helpful lesson I’ve learned through the process of querying three books in three years was that I have more than one book in me. I’m able to let go of scarcity thinking going into revisions with my agent because I know this isn’t “THE BOOK,” It’s one book. It’s my first of many books. If I need to cut a character, plot, or theme, I can re-use it somewhere else. If it fails on sub, then I’ve already started outlining the next book, and it will be even better than this one.

Related to this, the best skill I’ve picked up in this process is the ability to receive critique of my work. As much as I love my characters and story, the fact that this isn’t “THE BOOK” means I can take a step back and consider them objectively. That isn’t to say all criticism is useful, since it’s often highly subjective and sometimes delivered so rudely that it overshadows any useful message buried beneath the jerkiness. But I’ve learned that my real goal isn’t to preserve this story–it’s to make it better. Even if that means tearing it down to the studs for a complete re-build. That doesn’t mean critique is easy to hear, but accepting it is a skill worth cultivating if your goal is to become a better writer.

Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this, and good luck in the query trenches! If you have questions or need specific advice, feel free to reach out to me in the comments, or on Twitter @JoGeekly.


This was my base query letter, which was personalized and modified according to each agent’s guidelines and interests.

Dear (agent full name):

Aspiring producer and secret idealist Anna MacKenzie needs this reality docudrama on Oregon logging to launch her career. She expected the studio executives and her ambitious ex to fight her dream of making sympathetic, positive television. She wasn’t expecting the biggest fight to come from a giant, grumpy, backwoods lumberjerk determined to sabotage her show.

Henry West is not about to let some Hollywood slimeball come in with pretty promises and throw the private lives of everyone he cares about into the national spotlight for public ridicule. Not even for the cash infusion his family’s logging business desperately needs. Not even when said slimeball comes with eyes like the shifting shadows on mossy stone, and reminds him of the poems he stopped writing so many years ago.

In their war of contract loopholes and Disney princess theme songs, the line between fighting and flirting quickly blurs. But a cease fire proves even more dangerous. Giving in to the pull of attraction would risk her career, his family’s reputation, and both their hearts.

TIMBER is a contemporary, dual-POV, enemies to lovers romance of 83,000 words with strong series potential. It was inspired in part by the History Channel’s docudrama Ax Men and the Lifetime series UnREAL, and should appeal to readers of Tessa Bailey’s It Happened One Summer, Lucy Score’s Mister Fixer Upper, and readers of Sally Thorne.

Thank you for your time,

-Jo Conklin

3 (More) Tips for Twitter Pitch Parties

In addition to the basic tips I set out in my last post on pitch parties, I saw a few things that clearly hurt people’s exposure and chances during the March #PitMad and April #DVpit events.  I paid close attention to who was getting the retweets and likes, and who wasn’t.  A few definite patterns emerged as the day went on, and I learned some lessons to tighten my own pitches.

1.  Don’t Sacrifice Technique for Space

I saw a few people who were clearly frustrated by the limitations of describing their book in 280 characters.  Instead of re-wording their pitches, they crammed their words together in an ungrammatical hodge-podge of missing punctuation, misspelled words, and sometimes skipping articles like “a” and “the” where they were needed.

The pitch isn’t just selling your story, however; It is selling your writing.  If an agent sees a pitch that’s a mess of spelling and grammar errors, they’re going to assume that your manuscript will be full of the same.  It doesn’t matter how unique or interesting your story is, if they think you’ll write it badly.  So do the work.  Re-frame. Cut unnecessary characters, names, and sub-plots. Cut it down to the bone, and make it fit well.

2. Know the Rules of Pitching

Who is your character, what do they want, what are the stakes?  These are the key elements of your pitch. Leave out side-characters, extensive world-building, and lists of fun fantasy elements. Don’t worry about themes.  The core of the pitch answers the three questions first, and adds flavor details second.

The pitches I saw receive a lot of attention from agents and publishers had several common elements beyond the three questions.  They were written in third person, present tense. They were written in prose. They focused on the primary plot and MC.  They had clear, relatable stakes. Not all of them had comparable titles (X meets Y) but most did.

Yes, many writing rules are really recommendations, and every now and then someone comes up with a brilliant pitch that throws all the advice out the window and blows up with agent likes.  But these are outliers, not the norm.  Luckily, most pitch parties give you multiple opportunities to pitch, so if you’re really set on that pitch that’s a list of weird fantasy elements in iambic pentameter, put at least one traditional pitch in your rotation as a backup.

3.  Know the Rules of the Party

Most pitch parties have a website you can find with a quick Google search for the party’s hashtag.  The website lays out rules for participation including times, number of pitches, and who the party is for.  A few things I see consistently in pitches that receive few or no retweets/likes include:

Leaving off hashtags:  Agents are maximizing their time by searching for the tags they’re interested in.  For instance, an agent looking for YA fantasy during Pitmad will enter #Pitmad #YA #F.  If you have a young adult fantasy and don’t include ALL of those tags, the search results will not include your pitch.  I know they take up real estate you’d desperately like for your story, but if your pitch isn’t seen, it doesn’t matter how well it’s written.  Always include the party hashtag, the market, the genre, and any other applicable tags (like #LGBTQ and #Own).  They will do more heavy lifting than anything else in your pitch.

Posting too often or outside of hours: Agents are pros. They see a hundred pitches and queries a day.  They remember when something looks familiar.  So when an author pitched a dozen times during #Pitmad instead of the three allowed, I noticed and I’m sure agents did as well.  Ditto for deleting your pitch and re-posting to make it look like you were within the limits. What that tells agents is that either you feel like you’re too special to have to follow rules, or that you’re unable to understand them well enough to follow.  Either one makes a bad client, no matter how good your book may be.

Including photos or links: Because popular hashtags are targeted for spam, agents specifically filter out posts with photos or links.  There may sometimes be exceptions for picture books, but including concept art or a link to your website may doom your pitch to oblivion when it doesn’t even show up on agents’ searches.

As I’ve said before, pitch parties are just one way to get an agent’s notice.  Old-fashioned querying is still how most authors find representation.  So don’t despair, and take what you can from the experience to make your writing shine!


Twitter and the 5k Follow Cap

There are two camps when it comes to followers on Twitter.

Camp A believes in following back anyone who follows them. I’m in this camp myself, with a few exceptions. I won’t follow back accounts I believe to be bots, or accounts that only promote a product, for instance. Sometimes I’ll pass when the person following has zero connections to writing or books, as I want to keep my feed writing-related. But if a person is clearly a person and their interests are writing-adjacent, I’ll follow back.

The others group, Camp B, wants to limit their social media to meaningful interactions. They only follow back people who interact with them a lot, or who post interesting content. Their platform tends to be more intimate, restricted to those they consider friends.


I see many folks in Camp B express something like, “I don’t care if people unfollow me right after I follow them because I’m not in the numbers game,” and I completely respect that.

However, if you follow a lot of people, Twitter might make you care. I’ve had three mutuals run into the dreaded 5K cap in the last week. Essentially, they follow 5,000 people, hoping for follow-backs, or maybe just interesting content. Then, without warning, Twitter cuts them off. They try to follow a new writer, even one who follows them, and they get an error message.

To avoid spammers, Twitter allows anyone to follow up to 5,000 people, regardless of how many followers you have (with daily limits). HOWEVER, once you follow 5,000 people, a cap kicks in, and you cannot follow more than 10% more accounts than follow you. So if you want to follow 5K, you have to have 4,500 followers or more, or you’ll be unable to follow anyone else. To reach 6K, you need 5400 followers, etc.

There’s no cap on how many can follow you, and you’ll see really famous people with millions of followers who only follow a few dozen. But once you follow 5K people, you need to watch your margins.

This is the point where unfollowers padding their own numbers can hurt you. I have two tips to address this.

First, cull your following list. Every now and then go through the list of folks following you on a laptop or desktop (the mobile version of the app won’t let you see the full list). Consider unfollowing the folks who unfollowed you. There are apps to track this as well, but I’m not a fan of their privacy policies. They’re collecting all of your Twitter activity to sell to marketers, and not offering much in return.

Secondly, consider letting spammers and bots follow you. Don’t follow back, and mute them instead of blocking. They’ll pad out your follower numbers and muting keeps them off your feed. Unless your DMs and posts are locked, there isn’t much they can do as a follower that they couldn’t already do to bother you.

Now if you plan to keep your following list tight and cozy with people you know, this isn’t an issue. But if your goal is to build a big platform and all the connections and creative knowledge thereof, this is something to pay attention now, before you hit the 5K cap.


There are obvious advantages to a large Twitter following for indie-press and self-published authors who have to do their own marketing. It’s an easy platform to build, and once you find that fine line between spam and self-promotion, it’s a great way to drum up interest and reviews! But for traditional publishing, the opinions are mixed.

Some people in the Twitter writing community have said that an agent turned them down for having fewer than 5k, or even 10k followers. When asked, most literary agents I’ve seen offer an opinion on the matter say it isn’t necessary to have a large following, but given two equally good books, a publisher may prefer the author who can build a social media platform.

What it comes down to is that the best way to sell a book is to write a really good book. No amount of social media presence will make a poorly-written story better. If you’re writing between family and a job and only have time for one thing, focus on the writing. But once you have that really good book, a social media platform might give you an edge to get it out into the world. And in an intensely competitive industry, an edge is an edge.

3 Lessons from #Pitmad

Since my post giving A Basic Guide to Twitter Pitches, I’ve been back in the trenches with the March 2019 #Pitmad pitch party.  It’s a much larger, more general event than #SFFPit, with books pitched from all age groups and genres.

But even though I came away without an invitation to query an agent, I came away with a lot.

Three Lessons from #PitMad:

1.  Pitch Parties Have Multiple Goals

Sure, we all want that like from the dream agent or publisher!  But a pitch party is also a great networking event.  Use the day to re-tweet and comment on the pitches of others, and follow those you think you want to interact with.  I didn’t snag the interest of an agent, but I interacted with almost 200 new followers, growing my mutual support network of writers online.  I also got to tighten my pitch, which in turn helps me write a tighter query letter.

2.  Every Pitch Party is Practice

There’s another #Pitmad every three months, and more specialized pitch parties in the meantime.  If you participated in practice-pitch events beforehand (like #pracpit) you probably got valuable feedback on your pitches.  Whether or not you reached your goal during the pitch party, it’s important to do an analysis afterwords of how your pitch could be improved next time.

3.  Bigger isn’t Always Better

#Pitmad is a big event, but  even though I got a lot more attention for my pitches (over 225 retweets and 30 likes on my 8am pitch), all of that attention came from non-agent participants. By contrast, my most widely-boosted pitch in #SFFpit had only 39 retweets, but I had four respectable agents like my pitches, and subsequent queries turned into two requests for full manuscripts.

Because Pitmad is larger and encompasses all genres and age groups, some agents might not consider it worth their time to comb through the thousands of pitches to find what they want.  A targeted pitch party does the screening for them.  You also have a lot of competition for a few, overwhelmed agents, and only three pitches per project.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t do ALL the pitch events. But consider using the larger event as a practice round, and focus your attention on the smaller, targeted event. And always remember that pitch parties and contests are only one way to get an agent.  The majority of writers still get there through traditional querying.  Your success may be through the slush pile, if you don’t give up!

A Basic Guide to Twitter Pitch Parties

If you’re a writer on Twitter, every now and then your feed is going to blow up with book blurbs for a day. If you’re wondering what the heck is going on, the answer is…a pitch party. This is an event where writers share a one-tweet length description of a completed book, in hopes of attracting an agent or publisher.

I’m not pitching..what do I do!?

It may sound counter-intuitive, but DO NOT LIKE PITCH PARTY POSTS. Agents and industry professionals use the like button to indicate interest in a pitch. YOU, as a friend, should show your support with comments and retweets ONLY. Re-tweeting raises the post’s visibility, and it becomes more likely to catch an agent’s eye. It’s also a great way to make new friends and build your following.

I want to pitch!  What do I need to get ready?

Remember, a pitch party is a way to catch an agent’s attention, but it isn’t the ONLY way.  So don’t rush your novel to catch a pitch party if another round of edits will make it better. Only completely polished, finished manuscripts should be pitched. Generally, only unpublished books should be pitched. Follow industry guidelines to format your manuscript and have it ready to send.

Now, if you do get a like from an industry professional, it isn’t an offer of representation; it is an invitation to query. So you should also have a polished query letter, synopsis (1 page version and 2 page version), short author bio, two comparison books similar to your own…essentially everything you would need for querying, all formatted and ready to go. Pitch parties are a jump-start, but not a shortcut!

Most pitch parties will allow multiple postings (e.g. the last #SFFPit allowed one per hour per book, up to 10 total). Prepare these in advance. Polish them. Post them without the hashtag and ask for feedback from your followers. Make sure each one is a little different, to avoid being caught in Twitter’s spam filters. Have them ready to copy and paste on the day of, or schedule them using social media software.

Google the pitch party hashtag to get the rules for participation. There will be a website that lays out when the pitch party is open, what works are accepted (e.g. SFFPit is just for science fiction/fantasy) and what hashtags you should use to indicate genre and audience, or special features (e.g. #ownvoices or #lgbt).

What should be in the pitch?

A pitch is a very short query. You should focus on showing your premise, your MC, the stakes the characters face, and your narrative voice. It’s something that takes practice!  Use your followers to get feedback, or reach out to one of the writing communities for help. Or, watch a pitch party play out and see what other people do. You don’t have to include comparables, although many do.

Your pitch’s only REAL job is to make an agent want to read your book.

Use the hashtags specified by the pitch party, even though they take up valuable tweet space. Agents are using them to narrow their search, and won’t find your book without them.

Do NOT include images unless the party specifically allows them (most agents filter them out to avoid spam). Do not thread tweets. It all has to go into a single tweet of text.

Remember to pin your pitches as you tweet them! It makes it easy for followers to find and re-tweet. You can always put your regular pinned tweet back up afterwards.


You got a like…or multiple likes…and from actual agents instead of well-meaning friends who don’t know how to act during a pitch party!  Now what?

IMMEDIATELY research the agent to see if they’re someone you want to work with. Google them; don’t rely solely on their website. Find out who they represent and where they’ve placed books recently. Check Writer Beware for scams. Search for them online and on Twitter to look for complaints or endorsements.

If you think the agent is someone you want to work with, go to the agent’s feed and look for instructions on how to submit. Some will direct you to their website or standard submission form. Some will offer their email. Follow the instructions in the tweet, regardless of any instructions on their website. If their tweet for the pitch party says to send an attachment, do it.  The exception is if you get responses from multiple agents at the same agency; check their website to see whether you should choose one to query at first.

The usual rules and wait times for queries apply. Don’t wait for responses before you begin the next book!

I didn’t get a like 🙁

Again, pitch parties are a way to get an agent, but not the only way. It shouldn’t discourage you from sending out those queries! Be sure to read the Query Shark archives to make sure your query is as enticing as possible. In the meantime, keep polishing those pitches, because there’s another party just around the corner!

When’s the next party?

#PitMad is a general pitch party, held four times a year.

#DVPit is for marginalized authors and illustrators (October and/or April)

#PitDark is for horror and mystery manuscripts, and held twice a year (October/May)

#PBPitch is for picture books, and held in February

#SFFPit is for science fiction/fantasy and takes place twice a year (variable)

#KissPitch is for romance writers, and takes place in February

Three Twitter Tips for New Writers

Whether you are traditionally or independently published, a strong social media presence is widely considered an asset for a writer.  Marketing aside, connecting with writers, agents, and editors online is a great way to learn how to navigate the writing ropes. However, a focused approach can help you make the most of your Twitter presence, and keep it from taking up too much of your valuable writing time!  Here are three tips for making the best of your Twitter time.

#1:  Communities

captureCommunities on Twitter are much looser than the more formal Facebook groups.  To be part of the community, simply search for the hashtag.  Then engage in conversations with those posts, and use the hashtag on your own posts.

Some of the writing communities to start with include:


As you get involved, you’ll find more focused communities, like #AmWritingSciFi, #AmWritingFantasy, and #AmWritingRomance

#2: Lists

captureThere’s an unspoken (and often spoken) expectation that, unless you’re Stephen King famous, you’ll follow people back who follow you.  That’s how everyone builds their numbers together and supports each other in the writer community.  The problem is that once you have thousands of followers, it becomes really difficult to prioritize engagement.

Sorting your followers into lists helps ensure you catch your favorite follows, no matter how far down the twitter feed their posts end up.  I like to make specific lists for people who post good writing tips, agents, people who engage with my posts regularly, and family/friends.  I can then click on those lists to just see posts from those people.

#3 Games

captureHashtag games are a great way to engage, and in some cases help you grow your following.  For instance, on Fridays, the writing communities light up with #FollowFriday posts.  These posts list accounts that other writers might be interested in following.  Sometimes these are recent followers of theirs in need of a boost, or people who have recently engaged with their posts.  Give them a follow, and see who follows you back!

#vss365 is a daily writing prompt.  Each day, you can search for #vss365 #prompt to get the word of the day, and use it in a one-tweet length VSS (very short story).  This is a good way to engage with and interest other writers, show off your skill, and hone your craft.

#1lineWed is used to share a line from your current work in progress every Wednesday.  Again, it’s a good way to promote your writing without advertisements, and engage with other writers.

There are dozens of games, so keep an eye out on community posts, and don’t hesitate to ask someone the rules!  The writer communities are generally helpful and eager to include everyone.