Once in a while, there’s a “Twitter pitch” party online. I just went through my first one March 29th (details here.)

The basic rules: the pitch for your book has to be 140 characters or less, including the hashtag for the party (“#PitMad” in this case)

I pitched two books. I didn’t get any requests or “hits” from agents, but fortunately there are still a lot of other things you can take away from a pitch party.

You learn things. Not least is developing the skill of distilling your concepts down to minimum length while (hopefully) maintaining maximum punch.  Since I am a complete Twitter noob, I also learned a lot about how the system works.

You get exposure. Your name, your books, and your ideas get out there. Every re-tweet can get you into a wider universe. If you’re on Twitter, make sure your personal Twitter page has your website on it! Who knows who might come poking in there?

You discover new agents and publishers, and learn more about ones you knew. When agents or publishers popped into the feed, I pulled their individual Twitter pages off into browser tabs of their own, and then moved out into their websites. I found out more about what familiar agents think, and what they’re looking for. If an agent I don’t know shows up, they may be a potential target for a conventional query later. Remember, the feed goes by so fast, there’s little or no chance that your pitch was seen by every agent, so you really have nothing to lose and maybe something to gain by pitching them through normal channels later on.

A couple of days later, Carissa Taylor came out with a detailed list of pitches that got “hits.” This is useful information if you’re trying to get a broad idea of what’s attracting agents out there.

These contests and others pop up periodically. I have a pretty good record of discovering them by accident about two days after the entry deadline, but I lucked out on this one. To find things like this before they close, you could do worse than checking out Brenda Drake’s website now and then, and following up on links you find there. Kimberly Gabriel’s website also tracks contests. I’m sure there are others.

The long and mysterious road of social site promotion

One thing I’ve observed about successful self-published authors is that most of them move comfortably through the vast nations of online social networks.  Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and many others.  While quality of writing is important to success, exposure and participation on these networks seems to be important too.  The ultimate word-of-mouth.

A lot of people are social network experts.  My kids are.  So how hard can it be?

I’ll tell you how hard.  I’m like a fish that has just been informed that he has to become an expert bicycle rider.

I’m already on Facebook.  Barely.  I have exactly sixteen “friends” (mostly relatives) and almost everything on my page is restricted to “friends only.”  I mostly joined to keep track of my college kids and other relatives and friends.  Certainly I’m not getting a wide audience, and the idea of opening the page up to more of the world makes me nervous.

I have yet to Twitter.  Or is that “Tweet?”  I hope it’s not “Twit.”

I do post now and then on Litopia, and a few other forum sites for writers.  I started writing this little blog, too, but all of this is more for fun than any kind of organized promotion.

Today I started gingerly stepping into Goodreads, and I’m still finding out about other places.

Wish me luck out here in Networking Noobville.  I’ll need it.