If we’re being totally honest, I think some books are just easier to pitch in 140 characters (or easier to pitch in general). I have two novels nearing the querying stage. One I have three elevator pitches that I think are pretty good. The other novel I have one okay short pitch.
But there are some tips I’ve found that have been helpful. I’ll be using examples for a pitch of a dream I had recently (though I’m starting to think maybe it should actually be a book).
The X meets Y Formula
Who doesn’t love blending two wonderful things into a new, even wonderfuller thing? It’s like the book version of slutty brownies (you know, the ones where you have the chocolate chip cookie layer and the brownie layer with a bonus Oreo layer in between?).
This is sometimes a cross between two books. Lisa McMann’s Unwanteds series is being sold as “Harry Potter meets Hunger Games” and that works for that book.
But a lot of my favorite pitches are more to the effect of one concept meets another. Example: My book is a zombie apocalypse, but in space. (45 characters) People like zombies and space, so why not both together?
But, this formula doesn’t work for all books. So let’s talk about some alternatives.
Every pitch (regardless of length) you want to focus on the one most unique thing about it. This can be a unique feature of the plot, character, or setting (though I think setting is the hardest to pull off).
For my space zombie novel, I might specify how the character is unique: Cyn never liked her prosthetic leg. Until it saves her from being taken over by body-snatching parasites. (105 characters)
Or plot: Humans enjoyed exploring space until body-snatching parasites began exploring them. (83 characters)
Personally, I find the ones focusing on the uniqueness of the character are often my favorite.
This generally takes the form of an if/then statement. Basically, though. What does the character stand to lose?
Example: If 17yo Cyn can’t stop the body-snatching parasites invading her ship, her friends may end up as alien puppets. (111 characters)
I will say I see a lot of “The world will end” sort of stakes. Not that those aren’t important stakes, but I like seeing more intimately how the main character will be affected. That’s why I chose to focus my tweet above on the friends rather than how actually all humanity would be screwed.
This is sort of a bonus thing, because it’s hard enough to get the basic information down, much less the voice. But if you can, great. I think this is easiest with sort of sassy characters, but that I might just be because always write sassy characters (they can say things that I’m too polite to say).
Example: Body-snatching aliens are possessing all of Cyn’s friends. Jerks. (65 characters)
Genre and Age Group
Hopefully, this is somewhat clear just from the pitch. If you can say something like “17 yo Cyn” it’s implied that the story is YA, but if I have room I usually put that it’s YA (that’s only two characters).
“YA SciFi” is only 8 characters and would fit onto any of the example pitches with room leftover for whatever hash tag you need. I usually just tack it on to the end or the beginning.
I do try to stay away from abbreviations as they make the tweet seem less professional. But I don’t mind them for establishing age range and genre. PB, MG, and YA are fine. If you don’t specify, I usually assume it’s adult.
These example pitches aren’t perfect. Like I said, they’re from a random dream I had, and I sort of just came up with them on the spot. But hopefully they give you an idea of some of the possible directions you can take your Twitter pitch.
If you’re still struggling, consider purchasing a Twitter pitch critique. See special deals on my Editing Services page.