Every PitMad event, I feel compelled to tweet this sentiment like I have some sort of top-down command over others: If you’re someone who tweets offers to retweet PitMad pitches, please stop.
I don’t expect anyone to care what I have to say, and I’m not mad at anyone who does it, but I want to make the case anyway and hope just a few people will agree with me and stop doing it. So if you’re willing to hear me out . . .
Here’s why you should stop tweeting offers to retweet PitMad Pitches.
Literary agents who participate in PitMad go about doing so by choosing a small period of time out of their day to search or click on the PitMad hashtag, select the Latest Tweets tab–maybe the Top Tweets tab, too, which we’ll get to in a moment–and start browsing through pitches in reverse chronological order.
Again, each literary agent has a small window of time in which to browse pitches that were tweeted from now to, say, twenty minutes ago. Part of succeeding in PitMad is winning the lottery of tweeting your pitch during one of these pockets of time. After all, with hundreds of thousands of PitMad tweets appearing over the twelve-hour window, and not many agents participating, it’s inevitable that there are plenty of dead periods in which writers are pitching into a complete void, a period when no agent is browsing and no agent ever will retroactively.
The other part of succeeding in PitMad, of course, is the writer’s ability, with 280 characters, to make an agent stop dead in their tracks and feel momentarily captivated.
And it’s not so much about the concept. High and low concepts both take turns dominating the bestseller lists. Your pitch doesn’t have to be sly or over-the-top imaginative or a perfect mashup of two popular comp titles.
No, a good agent responds not just to concept but to the simple mastery of words, the writer’s ability to turn a phrase, to organize thought, to properly convey their story, whatever it might be. I’ve edited tons of PitMad pitches, and I’ve seen both loud and quiet pitches get agent likes.
Which brings me to the topic of the Top tweets section, which is largely influenced by the writer’s engagement level on Twitter–hence the retweeting of pitches–and perhaps the “highness,” or “pitch-ability,” of their concept. The Top tweets section of the PitMad hashtag is like a mix between a popularity contest and a sales floor. On the surface this can seem unfair.
However, there is something to be said for the Twitter user who is able to captivate a following large enough that they’re able to garner the retweets and comments needed to appear at the top of the Top Tweets tab. Twitter is a platform of words, after all–the only one left, actually–and that makes it a landscape of wordplay. It goes without saying that someone who manages to acquire a following on Twitter on some level has very good communication skills. To an agent, this might indicate a capacity to captivate beyond the 280 character limit. Popularity alone might be an indication of a good writer–not the only indication, of course, but an indication nonetheless.
Therefore, I would argue that both the Top and Latest Tweets tabs have practical use for literary agents who participate in PitMad, but the Latest Tweets tab is where you come in, ye who tweets offers to retweet PitMad pitches during the event and uses the hashtag to do so. As Seth Bullock says to the soap peddler in Deadwood, “Front your game away from our tent.”
You, my friend, are clogging up the PitMad feed.
Let me put it another way. You, and the countless others who do this, are contributing to a significant limitation collectively being imposed upon agents, and they’re seeing fewer pitches because of it.
An agent with only twenty minutes to browse pitches might be able to read, say, 100 tweets during that time frame. If 100 of those tweets are PitMad pitches, then the agent will read 100 PitMad pitches. If, however, 20 of those tweets are non-participants tweeting out offers to retweet pitches and using the hashtag in order to do so, then the agent will only read 80 pitches, which cuts every author’s chances of their tweet being read by 20%.
If that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, you’re not experienced in querying literary agents. That’s a devastating percentage. Go tell an author that you’re cutting their full manuscript request rate by 20% and watch them stare off into the distance while a subtle expression of horror slowly forms on their face and memories of rejection sound off in their head like wartime explosions.
I kid, but you get my point.
If you truly want to support participating writers during PitMad, you actually have the opportunity to provide a great benefit to the event. Imagine if every supportive bystander of PitMad took some time out of their day, much like an agent, to browse pitches, but only retweeted those of true interest to them personally–and did not ever use the hashtag themselves for any reason but to pitch a book.
What would the effect be? Think about it. This voluntary system would challenge the Top tweets tab with a meritocratic influx. The Top tweets tab would become a healthy mix of pitches upvoted on the basis of fans accrued as well as potential fans should the book prove worthy of representation and go on to see the light of day.
This sort of participation among PitMad bystanders would add a whole new dynamic to the event. Agents would get to read more pitches, overall success rates for writers would increase, and the event would get flooded with new agents who heard PitMad is one hell of a fishing hole for potential clients. Everyone would win. Rather, everyone would have a greater chance of winning.
So I beg you, don’t tweet offers to retweet PitMad pitches using the PitMad hashtag during the event. I know there’s guaranteed engagement there, but you’re not gaining anything from it, and you’re taking away from someone else’s opportunity.
Just read pitches and quietly retweet the ones you like.