The Dark Side of Twitter Pitch Parties – The Need to Research Who Bites Your Hook

I remember a saying, it goes something like this: if you’re prepared to cast your fishing line, you better be prepared for what (or in this case, who) bites.

Hook

I think it applies well to twitter pitch parties. You know, those intermittent pitch contests where authors post hooks of their manuscripts to agents and publishers in 140 characters or less? Agents and publishers “like” the posts they want to see more of i.e. in a subsequent query. It still may not get you representation, but these queries may get fast tracked through the query slush pile if the author mentions that the agent saw the hook in a pitching contest.

I recently entered such a contest. I am by no means a regular participant, having only entered once before. I see it as a way to force me (with gritted teeth) to condense my story into a single sentence or two. Another way to hone my pitching skills.

Anyway, I received one “like” from a fellow author (even though the rules stipulate that “liking” should be kept for requests). And I received a tweet from a publisher requesting me to submit. Submission was to include my full manuscript. There was no corresponding “like” of any of my pitch posts, just a tweet that looked suspiciously like one of those automated DM’s you get when you follow some people (the fact that the wording of the tweet did not correlate to the hook in my pitch may have also had something to do with rousing my suspicions.) Real personal, it was.

Now I am someone who tends to research the death out of something. I have been known to research something until the cows come home (I did live on a dairy farm for part of my youth), so I researched this publisher and found some very interesting comments from authors who have dealt with them over the last two years:

  • The contracts sent to these authors read more like a vanity publishing contract, stipulating added costs to the author, although there is no indication from the publisher’s website that they trade in this manner;
  • If they questioned or attempted to negotiate anything in the contract prior to signing, it was immediately rescinded. Some were not even advised of this, but only found out after repeated requests for an update on negotiations. Others have not been advised at all;
  • There were authors approached via twitter pitch parties who received requesting tweets IDENTICAL in wording to mine i.e. a generic statement regarding our MC’s. This led me to wonder: did the publisher even read my pitches?

And, to me, the worst discovery of all:

  • There were authors who submitted their full manuscripts to this publisher upon request, who have since seen their private contact details and their work up on a third-party website without them granting permission for this to occur, and without signing any contract with the publisher.

Say what?!

It’s fair to say I did not submit to them. As far as I’m concerned, no contract is better than a bad one. But I did decide to research (yep, here I go again) other agents and publishers who attended the contest in question. While there were many reputable names and organizations involved, I was amazed at just how many names popped up who have received negative assessments by groups such as AbsoluteWrite and Preditors & Editors.

So, if I have any advice to give, it’s to DO YOUR RESEARCH on any agent or publisher who “likes” your post in one of these contests BEFORE submitting to them. After all, you should be doing this any way to ensure they are a good fit for you, as well as your manuscript.

I’m glad I did. I have put too much time, effort and love into my manuscript to have unscrupulous hands on it.

Happy writing,

Rebecca

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A Tense Choice – Past or Present?

I recently gave my YA manuscript to my two beta readers for comment. This is the second time they have read my manuscript, but the first time they have seen it since I made a huge calculated change, a change they were unaware I was making. I switched my story from past tense to present. Yep, I kept my third-person multiple points of view but re-wrote my story, for the most part, in present tense.Present Tense Blog

I did this for a number of reasons. I didn’t want my story to sound like a history lesson, a re-telling of events. That didn’t sit well with me, especially considering its contemporary setting and the age of its targeted audience. I wanted it to read as a story happening NOW, to enhance the feel of the immediate. I wanted to up the pacing, increase the sense of anticipation and escalation. I wanted to imply that my characters’ fates and my story’s conclusion were not decided. That all will only happen by reading to the end. This is how I see this story in my head, playing out like a movie, evolving, unravelling. I’m experiencing it as I write. Present tense felt like the best way to convey this sensation.

And one more thing: many of my favorite YA books are written in present tense. I love the way they read.

Anyway, back to my beta readers…

My greatest fear was that writing in present tense might disrupt the flow of narrative for readers. Not so with Beta A, as I shall call him. He “didn’t even notice” (the best comment he could have given me, I might add).

On the other hand, Beta B did notice. And didn’t like. Flow interrupted big time for him. I learned that he prefers stories written in past tense and had difficulty getting his head around my present tense narrative.

Regardless, both beta readers gave me constructive feedback on many other aspects of my manuscript. And I will keep my story tense as is. For I don’t believe it is simply a case of “this is the right way to do things, and this is wrong”. Everything is a matter of opinion and taste, and we are all entitled to our own, including choice of tense. Until next time…

Happy writing,

Rebecca

Would love your views on writing in present tense, or past. Has anyone disagreed with you over your choice?