Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pitmad Pitch Analysis: What did Lit Agents Like?

PitMad was a great opportunity to pitch our novels, meet other writers, and make connections. It also offers us writerly folk a rare insight to what agents and editors are snapping up. 

I posted a roundup of successful PitMad pitches earlier this week, and if you're working on your pitch and feeling stumped, check out my mad-lib style Pitch Generator. Likely Fictions also posted a great Pitch Wars analysis and spreadsheet.

But how about a little more PitMad analysis?

Also note that I'm totally biased here, so I only ran the stats for YA manuscripts earning requests, although you might be able to persuade me to run them for the others. I'm not immune to pleading/bribes  ;)

What were the most coveted genres in YA?

From the looks of things, Fantasy (faeries, genies, magic), Sci-Fi (including dystopian) and Paranormal (ghosts/seers/spirits etc) seem to be dominating the list, with 13, 12, and 11 books earning requests in those genres, respectively. Notice the nearly even split!

Fewer contemporary novels and re-tellings were snatched up, and eerily absent from the list were historical fiction or overtly steampunk stories. 

Are fewer agents seeking these things? Are there  fewer of these manuscripts out there, or (as some folks mentioned in the comments below) are they simply harder to pitch? It's difficult to tell from this data. What do you think?

Note that I'm a firm believer in writing stories that you're passionate about, not leaping on the next genre bandwagon. But I also think that as writers we can often be inspired by listening to what our audience is craving. And one of the best ways to see where the gaps are is by knowing what the lit agents are looking for.

What themes, settings, and character races were requested?

Romance-focused and thriller/suspense were the most common themes (8 requests apiece)*, but alternate universes, alter-egos, alternate histories, dystopians, genie, and ghost books were relatively popular too.

After that, there was an enormous variety. Look at that list! Edgy subject matter, fairies, genetic manipulation, Hamlet retellings, hitgirls, insane asylums, reincarnated beings, seers, superheroes, folkloric underworld, and witches each had two book pitches that fit the bill.

Not pictured are the themes that popped up in one pitch each: aliens, circuses, demons, dreamspeakers, elves, gargoyles, gothic, monsters, Snow White, video-gamers, wizards and zombies!

The most interesting take home message for me here was the sheer diversity in the peoples and worlds populating our stories. Clearly agents are ready for something new, and we're delivering! Way to go people!

*I probably underestimated the number of romance and thriller/suspense-heavy books pitched, but it's sometimes difficult to tell from the pitches!

What's absent?

Almost as interesting as what's there is what's not. As I mentioned before, I didn't see any requests for YA historical fiction or steampunk. Also no vampires, werewolves or mermaids (but those are sort of obvious, no?). Zombies, angels, and demons also seem to be slowing down. No requests for anything that overtly said "angel."

                     Which genres do you think are tired? Which are up-and-coming?

What words did we use / overuse when pitching?

As a parting thought ... this is a word cloud from the successful pitches. No surprise that the most commonly occurring words involve things that reveal the conflict or intrigue, and the stakes:

 love //life // family // boy meets girl // 
 must // save // find // uncover // fight // discover
 murder // problem // secret // society // war // stranger // black

The genericness (is that a word?) of some of these terms is helpful, but it also shows an opportunity for spicing the language up a little, so that our loglines give the agent a taste of the unique flavor of our book.

On a random note, looks like several of us share a love for the names Jude, Luke, Jane, Liza, Mazie, and Emma for our characters ;)

What about you? See anything interesting or noteworthy in these graphs?


  1. This is awesome, thank you!

    I loved reading the pitches and retweeted a bunch I wanted to read. They were various genres and all ages. I really hope they all land agents because I must read these books!!!

  2. Thanks for breaking this down. Very cool to see it in graph form! It's confusing what this really means...maybe that those things read as more "shocking" or grab you more in a short tweet? Contemporary seems to be what a lot of agents want right now, but it may not come off as striking in a short pitch. Just a thought. Thanks for this post!

  3. Mazie? Who knew?

    I think that contemporary is a lot harder to pitch in <140 characters. I notice that a lot of the pitches that stood out in YA to me were SFF or mystery/thrillers. Although I did comment on someone's historical, even though it's not a genre I read.

    But one thing I found that was amazing was that every picture book pitch I saw sounded amazing. I guess when your book is that short, it's easy to find a way to sum it up in such a short space ;)

  4. I think you're absolutely right about that! Contemporary YA writers have an uphill battle when writing loglines because there aren't those pithy, revealing terms available to them like "amateur dragonslayer" or "newly-spawned cerberus"

    It seems like there have to be tricks available to them too, but it's much harder when the hook of the story is more about the writing and the character arcs than the plot and the flashy scenery.

  5. Hmmm. Might have picked a bad time to finish up my YA "vampire" novel.



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