Twitter Pitch Etiquette #SonOfAPitch

March 6th there will be a #SonOfAPitch Twitter Pitch Party! What is a Twitter Pitch Party? How do you pitch? Why do you pitch? Here’s the quick and dirty details for all the Twitter Pitch debutantes out there!

What is it? A Twitter Pitch Party is an online event organized by writers, editors, and agents around a date and hashtag. During the event authors post a pitch (or logline) for their book with the appropriate hashtag. If an agent or editor likes the pitch, they’ll let the author know. The author will then send in a query along with requested pages. These queries will get top priority from agents and editors.

How do you pitch? It’s as simple as putting your pitch on twitter with the right hashtag! Going to be away from the keyboard all day? Use Tweetdeck to schedule tweets!

Why do you pitch? Did I mention that editors and agents give pitching authors priority when reading queries? It’s nice to get feedback fast. Over 60% of my full manuscript requests came from pitch parties. Even though I wound up with an agent I found through a traditional query process, the feedback from other agents helped me refine my early query.

Do’s and Don’ts:
Do use the hashtag.
Do be polite to other authors and anyone on the hashtag (but feel free to report spam).
Do keep a positive attitude.
Don’t spam the hashtag. As a general rule, tweet once every two to three hours (4 total tweets for the event).
Don’t tweet more than one book.
Don’t tag agents with your pitch.
Don’t pitch on twitter unless you are participating in an event.

Etiquette for authors on Twitter:
There’s a lot that can be said here, but let’s keep it simple: your twitter feed is part of your brand. Everyone – from potential agents to potential readers – will see your feed. So put your best foot forward. Make sure that someone reading your feed finds the same tone there that they will in your books. You want to keep a nice balance of book-related tweets (NASA tweets for the SF crowd, Teen Vogue tweets for the YA crowd, archaeology or Victoria tweets if you write historical fiction, ect), personal-tweets (pets… people love pets), and promotion (actual ads for your book should take up less than 10% of your feed).

Even before you publish, you want to make your Twitter feed (or whatever social media feed you use as your Home Base) a place that reflects you, your style, and welcomes new readers to stop by and say hi.

What you do put on Twitter: a real avatar (no eggs!), a good bio, a link to your website/author page, retweets of things that interest you, conversations with other authors, pictures of pets, pictures of your bookcase, pictures you, information about cool stuff in your hometown (I’ll be tweeting about the Iditarod this week), information about the research you’re doing for a new book, #WIPfire with a sentence from your latest story, fun stories about two people sharing a found wine bottle on the sub ride home.

What you don’t put on Twitter are things like: your address, your phone number, nude pics, complaints about how slow an agency is responding to your query, rants about how you could do so much better in self-publishing while querying, brag posts about how you’ve never read a genre but are totally going to rewrite it because you are a genius, or hate-filled screes against anyone (with exceptions for football season and March Madness… sports rants can be forgiven).

What if an agent or editor starts chatting with me on Twitter? Be friendly and keep talking. I’ve met some fabulous people who offered me stellar advice for free just because we happened to be Twitter-friends. Done right, social media can be an amazing networking tool, especially for people who live in remote locations (like me!), are anxious in crowds, can’t get to cons, or otherwise wouldn’t be rubbing elbows with people in the publishing industry on a regular basis.

Got questions? Hit the comment box and let me know what you’re worried about.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the How-To Write A Pitch workshop, and post yours for feedback.


You vs The Apocalypse

My last house was a pretty little ranch-style home located on the block were Hurricane Central and Tornado Alley share a summer home. We spent more than one night sleeping in the closet because a tornado rolled into town. While I was there dodging strong winds and the occasional flying cow I was part of the emergency preparedness group for the area and often gave classes and lectures on how to prepare for disasters.

I like to pretend that everyone knows how to handle an emergency, but I woke up to the news of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan (you’re in my prayers and thoughts), and @Kat_tastic tweeting:

kat o’keeffe

I am so unprepared for the apocalypse.

No worries, we have a post for that.

Let’s start with the basics. You don’t need to be a hard-core survival buff to get through an emergency. Usually, a 72-hour kit will get you through the worst of it.

Grab a bag, a big one, think camping back-pack or hockey duffel bag. Then hit the 72 website for a list of what you need. The most important things are something to start a fire with (waterproof matches or flint for preference), water, or something to purify water with, food (including sugar), photos of family and pets, copies of birth certificates and important paperwork, s first aid kit you know how to use, and a change of clothes.

Why a 72 Hour Kit?
In most cases it takes three days for help to arrive, get set up, and start doing good. For the first three days of a major emergency you should plan on being on your own. Hopefully it will only take hours, but if you planned for three days and it only takes hours than you can turn around and help other people.

For food I recommend the lunch packs of tuna or chicken salad, MREs (meal-ready-to-eat available from military supply stores and some camping stores), camp food, and granola bars. Rotate the food out of your kit every six months (Halloween and Easter) along with changes of clothes (because the seasons change and kids grow). Don’t forget over-the-counter medicines like antacids, Tylenol, and antihistamines.

Take the checklist, pack your 72-hour kit, and if you can keep it near by. The front hall closet works if you have one, under the bed with a pair of running shoes is recommended for anyone old enough to carry their bag and everyone who lives in earthquake or tornado regions.

The idea here is that if the tornado siren went off RIGHT NOW! you could grab your bag, head to the designated safe place, and be fine even if your roof went missing. Pack mini kits for your kids, and keep some extra kibble for your cat or dog in your bag.

Back Up Your Data

You know that beautiful computer you’re reading this on? Without electricity you aren’t pulling up pictures and printing. You are definitely not working on your novel. Forgive the writerly aside, but I recommend double or triple back up.

1- Cloud or off-site storage in the form of Dropbox, OfficeLive, or something similar. Even e-mailing it to yourself is good.

2- Hard storage. Save a copy of all relevant data from your computer on CD, thumbdrive, or external hard drive and put it with your 72-hour kit. A 6-month back-up disc won’t save your writing, but it will save the family photos.

3- Send it to a friend. In case natural disaster means the end of life as we know it in whatever country you’re in, consider e-mailing your work to an overseas friend. This is more for people in very unstable countries, but my crit buddy in Australia e-mail our work to each other. It’s just a nice safety net to have.

Sugar and First-Aid
Not everyone has the benefit of knowing more than rudimentary first-aid. Even if you don’t have training (see the EMTs cringe) there are some things you can do.

– Have a first aid kit. Most kits have a little booklet with instructions for how to handle splints and CPR. Hum “Another One Bites the Dust” and you have the right tempo for CPR.

– If you don’t have to, don’t move anyone with a neck or back injury. Obviously if a wall of water/fire/rock is about to crush the person, pick them up and run. Otherwise, leave them still until professional help comes.

– Clean out cuts. This is very, VERY important. See all the beer getting looted? Alcohol kills germs. Dump alcohol on open wounds, or hydrogen peroxide, and live longer. Don’t drink the alcohol, however, you don’t want to get dehydrated or stupid until you are safe.

– Sugar makes everything better. Most first aid kits don’t have emergency blankets or sugar, and most survivors of a major disaster need warmth, and glucose because they are in shock. Drop some Starbursts or other easy-to-keep candy in your 72-hour kit and first aid kit. If you have kids, or know kids, or have seen a kid, add some bright fun kiddy bandages to your kit. Remember, they just watched their home crumble and may have lost a parent, if a Dora the Explorer bandage makes that okay, that’s a good thing.

– Light and heat are necessary for survival. Go down the hunting/camping aisle at your local store and grab some foil emergency blankets, flashlights, and the chemical hand warmers. Even if your disaster strikes in summer it gets cold at night when you’re wet and it’s raining. Store batteries for the flashlight in a plastic bag taped to the flashlight, not inside. Your batteries last longer that way.

Anyone who followed the disaster in Haiti knows that the majority of the death toll wasn’t because of the initial quake, but because of illness. Clean water is essential to you living a long and happy life.

If you can, store gallon jugs of water. Don’t use milk jugs, but the plastic juice bottles are perfect for water storage. Clean the jug out, fill with water, and exchange water every 6 months.

I wash every juice bottle we empty, fill it with water, and use it six months later to water my plants before refilling.

If you can’t store water for whatever reason, buy some bleach. The water will taste horrendous, but you won’t die. Ask yourself which is more important. You can suffer through some bad tasting water for a few days if it means being hale and healthy in the long run.

Coffee filters and boiling can also be used to purify water, but won’t get everything.

Treating Water with a 5-6 Percent Liquid Chlorine Bleach Solution
Volume of Water to be Treated Treating Clear/Cloudy Water:
Bleach Solution to Add
Treating Cloudy, Very Cold, or Surface Water: Bleach Solution to Add
1 quart/1 liter 3 drops 5 drops
1/2 gallon/2 quarts/2 liters 5 drops 10 drops
1 gallon 1/8 teaspoon 1/4 teaspoon
5 gallons 1/2 teaspoon 1 teaspoon
10 gallons 1 teaspoon 2 teaspoons
Disasters hit everywhere eventually. Plan ahead. Be a survivor.