Thursday, May 04, 2017

Twitter pitching

I don't participate in the manuscript cattle calls that happen on Twitter, so I hadn't heard about this problem until a colleague mentioned it.

Writer A, in whom she was interested, had participated in one of the many Twitter #Pitch events, gotten some bites from editors, and then sent the manuscript being considered by my colleague to the editors.

All of us at the bar listening to this groaned simultaneously.

Once you've sent your manuscript to an editor, that's mostly game, set, match for the editor and the publisher.

In other words, you may pick the wrong editor to send to (cause you have no way of knowing) and instead of getting interest or an offer from the right editor, you get a pass from the wrong editor.

If you send the entire manuscript that needs work, instead of a strategic submission of a partial 100 pages, you get a pass from an editor who sees only the problems, not an offer from the editor who sees possibilities.

In other words, the reason you query agents first, is our job is to strategize submissions, not just shotgun the manuscript all over town.

I understand how enticing it can be to get interest in your work is, particularly if you've been laboring on it for years, alone in your attic.

Don't shoot yourself in the foot by jumping the gun.

Always always always query agents first: at conferences, and now with #PitchFests.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Because meeting the right partner is difficult at a watering hole, Bible group or AA meeting, I’m thinking, (always a dangerous thing), this is sort of like finding one through vs your neighbor’s, sister-in-law’s, cousin’s, nephew.

Leave it to the experts. The uninformed may call it pimping, I call it professional.

Theresa said...

Interesting. I knew about the agent Twitter fests, but not about the editor ones. It's helpful to understand why to participate in the former.

Unknown said...

Theresa, Some twitter pitches include both agents and editors. If you get a request, you have to ask/research which one the person represents.

Donnaeve said...

All I have are questions...

Why would editors participate if they know (?) they're actually the cart before the horse?

Are editors at small presses the ones who do this, or do editors at large publishing house participate too?

But yeah. I'd find it hard not to send too! Timely advice if one of these is about to happen!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

This always made sense to me. If you want an agent for your career, you don't want to eliminate editors your agent will want to shop by sending unpolished works. I do get how hard it is to be patient if an editor wants to see your work and you are shopping agents.

DLM said...

Donna, thinking about why editors would participate - the word leaping nimbly to mind is "fodder."

Editors don't have the need for agents that authors do, so maybe there are those who see this as a direct line to the talent. It's a little quease-inducing to contemplate there may be those who also see this as a way to get content on boilerplate contract without pesky professionals negotiating bits of it to the advantage of the author and so forth ... But it's hard not to think that is a possibility in this scenario.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Good information... Thank you.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

It took a couple reads for me to see what the difference was as I'm not a twitter person. Got it. One pitch is for agents. The other is for editors.

So maybe that author is a newbie and doesn't understand the distinctions between agents and editors? I'm so grateful for the education we receive here.

BJ Muntain said...

Often, both editors and agents participate in Twitter pitch events. Usually, though, the editors are from small presses. And there's a lot of the small presses participating in Twitter events that I'm kind of leery about.

I don't know if this is limited to science fiction, but I've had a few agents tell me they have to pass on my novel for now, but if I ever get an offer, to keep them in mind. And some of these were very prominent and successful agents. I got the feeling that science fiction is a hard sell these days, and sometimes an author can sell what an agent can't. Or something like that. I'd love to be set straight, here.

AJ Blythe said...

The temptation to take any opportunity is strong when you are unpublished. You don't want to have any door close on you, but I guess you have to choose the right one to walk through.

There are a number of big publishers (eg Harlequin and Kensington) that don't require the author to have an agent. Harlequin has run online pitches for years to find new authors, so it does happen. As these publisheres don't require an author to have an agent, it may not occur to them some authors might actually want an agent and pitching to the publisher might be shooting themselves in the foot.

Unknown said...

This is something that has perplexed me over the years. Because editors and agents often participate in the same author events - Twitter and also conferences. It's possible to ignore an editor request from Twitter, I guess. But what happens if an editor requests material after, say, a roundtable discussion? Are conferences different from Twitter?

Janet Reid said...

ClaireAB There's a link to a previous post about editors at conferences in the last line of the post. Click on that for the answer to your question (I hope!)

Megan V said...

I agree. And yet...

The silence on the agent end of the trenches seems more protracted and more common nowadays, and not just at the query stage. There's a lot more ghosting.

(Don't get me wrong. There are still many amazing agents who respond to nudges and material. I had an awesome experience not long ago where I nudged because my e-mail has a tendency to be the king of eating the important emails, and got an immediate response that the material had been eaten. Although it ultimately ended up as a rejection, I appreciated the agents willingness not to ghost on me and she's definitely on my list for future.)

Plus, there's all those mixed signals in Twitterverse vs. Queryland. I think that's part of the reason why more and more writers are jumping at any opportunity.

Lennon Faris said...

Thank you for the post!

Janet, is there any way to bold that link? I see it now that you mentioned it but only when I hover my mouse over it. Otherwise (at least on my computer) it looks just like the rest of the post.

Donna, I imagine a lot of things can go in an editor's favor if the person on the other end isn't publishing-savvy. Unlike an agent, the editor is on the other side of the contract!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much, Janet, for the link to answer the conference question! Like Lennon, I missed it (and the original post, unfortunately) and it's very helpful.

Janet Reid said...

I can't bold the link but I changed the color to red.
Hopefully that will work.
Let me know!

John Davis Frain said...

This is comforting to hear.

I participated in one Twitter pitchfest. All of the "likes" I got requesting my ms (see how I used "all" in that sentence? In this case, "all" was TWO, but it sounds like so many more, doesn't it? <<<---Now I blew it!) were from editors. And they were both -- sorry, all -- from small presses. So I opted NOT to send either my ms, and in fact, decided then not to participate in twitter contests until I've done a better job going the traditional route.

I've heard success stories of writers landing an agent through a twitter contest, so I wouldn't discourage anyone. I'm in a different place now, so it wouldn't make sense for me... yet.

John Davis Frain said...

And yes, Janet, the red link works.

Unknown said...

As someone who loves Twitter Pitch Parties, this is what I would do if I found myself in this situation. (And FYI, because the universe is funny, my agent is actually not on Twitter and I found him through a cold query after I noticed his name on Publisher's Marketplace as someone who sold a lot of children's books.)


I would send a nice note to Editor. At the top I would put a copy of my Tweet. Then I would thank her for favoriting my Tweet and let her know I was in the process of querying agents. I would say something like "I hope to sign with an agent soon and will definitely let them know you are interested in seeing my manuscript."

Hopefully, when you do sign with an agent, that editor will remember your note and your Tweet. I would guess Agent would be happy to put that connection in the letter she sends along with your manuscript.

The only complication I can see is if Agent sells a lot of books to Editor Ann at Big Publishing and the editor who favorited your Tweet was Editor Michael. Agent might not want to burn her bridges with an editor she has a great working relationship with.

Hmm. I would probably still send the note.

Donnaeve said...

Thanks for the replies, y'all. Contract was definitely one of the things I thought of, but then I also thought it would seem to create more work for an editor. As in fresh new writer starts asking questions about this point and that, and what does it ALL MEAN?

They might wish they had that agent then. And, I mean the editor. :)

Lennon Faris said...

My link is blue instead of red but yep it shows up!

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I've had nibbles from both agents and editors.

1. Always research anyone who favourites your Twitter pitch.

Agents weren't schmagents so i followed up.

Editors were from small presses. Very small presses. So small, there was nothing they could offer that I couldn't do myself.

2. Know what you want from an editor/agent so you can make wise business decisions.

Getting published is a business plan. The more you know about your desired outcomes, the more likely you'll succeed.

I can self pub. I can win over a small press. To win over a random penguin, for that I need help.

Colin Smith said...

Lest anyone think I was avoiding this post, I’ve been out of town these past few days. Back now, but I did read the article this morning and had the same thought as Donna: why would editors bother if Janet’s advice to writers is don’t respond to editor requests from Twitter pitches? Since this has been addressed, I have nothing to add.

Trying out the 100 word thing. Still short by a few. Umm… hello! How are you all? Who’d’ve thought 100 words would be so hard to write? Oh, yes… everybody! :) And I think that just about does...

Anonymous said...

I know we've had discussions before about how the romance genre is different in this regard, and Janet has said she's less familiar with that. As an example, here's PART of an email I received, one that gave permission to share widely. It's from the Tampa Area Romance Writers chapter of RWA, promoting their 2017 TARA Contest, a well-known contest that has been around a long time.

Final judges:
Category (Series Contemporary) Brenda Chin, Entangled Brazen / Scorched;
Contemporary Single Title, Lexi Small, Grand Central Publishing / Forever;
Specialized (Paranormal, Futuristic, Fantasy, Time Travel), Tera Cuskaden, Entangled Otherworld;
Historical, Gabrielle Keck, Avon / Harper Collins;
Inspirational, Giselle Regus, Harlequin Love Inspired;
Romantic Suspense, Alison Dasho, Montlake;
Women's Fiction, Alexandra Schulster, St. Martin's Press.
See website for further updates.

None of the final judges are agents, which is only slightly unusual. As far as I can tell, they're all editors (many of whose names I recognize) from big publishers.

I know, contests are not twitter pitches. I know Janet is giving good and experienced advice. I'm not going to make any assumptions about what motivates editors to judge, but this is not a new thing.

It leaves me feeling conflicted on this issue. And wondering why the romance genre is different.

Peter Taylor said...

In 2008, before many of the current social networking sites existed, I asked an editor from a well-known international publisher for virtual friendship on When she accepted, she also asked if I'd consider a project (it turned out to be two sections of a six section ring-binder nf book for children), and I accepted what was offered - my first traditionally published children's book. When I sent in the last of the text, I addressed the envelope in calligraphy.

"Oh," they said, "we've been thinking a about releasing a book on that..." and a phone call suggested a sum and a contract arrived. But I didn't actually agree to the figure on the phone - just said, "Thank you for that offer." Or similar. Maybe I should have been more explicit and said "I will be pleased to forward it to my (non-existent) people..." - they obviously thought I had accepted it.

What should I have said?

When I met an agent at a talk, I asked her if she'd negotiate the deal whether she wanted to take me on or not. She got me double what I was offered (work for hire - enough for a decent secondhand car, which I needed), but she said she would have got close to four times what I was offered if she had been involved in the deal from the start.

It was messy, it would have been far better if I had an agent from the beginning, but I didn't have a proposal to pitch. I actually wonder if the publisher would have made an offer if they knew I had an agent ...but I guess all negotiations are just business and the publisher always controls the final price. (But there's far more to a deal than just the money - lots of clauses were changed in my favour.)