To Retweet or Not to Retweet...

I address the recent debate over whether or not people should participate in RT swaps by looking at the statistics.

To Retweet or Not to Retweet...

Are we having FUN yet?

The last 24 hours have been interesting as people gear up for #SFFPit. Maybe it's because of the loss of #PitMad or maybe I didn't notice last year, but there seems to be a lot of activity and stress for this competition.

The largest debate has been over whether or not people should participate in RT swaps. I'll promise to RT yours if you promise to RT mine. Together we will support each other into an agent!

I entered the fray yesterday, posting my original analysis on the subject from September's PitMad.

I had no idea how sensitive the topic was, but it turns out that post was a great way to keep tabs on the discussion. I found the tweet reposted many times in different contexts. It was interesting to see how it was used by both sides.

Clearing the Air

I normally don't get involved in the Twitter drama. I don't want to be on one team vs another. But, I feel like this is a good time to go ahead and speak up.


The reason I started analyzing pitch parties is because I came across contradictory subjective tips and tricks on Twitter. It was really hard to know what was correct. So I decided to look into the statistics and see what the numbers told me.

What better time than now to clear the air around a discussion that is full of subjectivity and personal experience?

Into the Woods (if the forest was made of data)

For those interested, I'll break down the analysis. For those not interested, scroll through to the next section.

First, I'll recap what I found after the September PitMad.

On the matter of engagement, it should be no surprise to anyone that there is indeed a positive correlation between engagement and receiving agent likes - be they Retweets or Comments. This is a fancy way of saying what most of you already know - if someone gets more engagement on their pitch from the community, they tend to get agent likes.

(See the two threads below.)

As I share in one of the threads, they prove correlation but not causality. This means that while the chances of getting an agent like goes up with RTs and Comments, these charts can't tell you whether or not the agents like the pitch because of the engagement, or if the pitch received both engagement and agent likes because it was a good pitch.

The first thread that I shared at the very top tried to address this very question. Are agents influenced by engagement, even when it's manufactured?

I started with a premise - the idea of a "golden ratio". In my analysis, I noticed that the correlation of Engagement to Agent Likes was very similar for both RTs and Comments.

Especially with the upper deciles, the data shows that Comments and RTs for tweets with agent likes tend to maintain a certain ratio.

I decided to test this theory more aggressively. I calculated the difference between Comment and RT Decile and graphed it based on the likelihood of getting a like. What you see is that it's not just about getting either Comments or RTs...but getting both at the "golden" ratio.

Tweets whose Comments and RTs share the same percentile are twice as likely to get an agent like!

But how do you know if yours has that quality? How do you know at any given moment if you need more Comments or more Retweets?

Answer: You don't.

That's the key. You can't manufacture the golden ratio because you don't know what it is unless you look at all of the tweets in aggregate.

What Does All of This Mean?

Pitches with agent likes tend to have higher engagement.
This does NOT mean that high engagement caused the agent to like the pitch, BUT I'd be foolish to say that it has nothing to do with the agent liking the pitch. Why? Visibility.

  1. Engagement makes it more likely for an agent scrolling through Twitter to find the pitch. I know that some agents are more diligent and use Tweetdeck and thoroughly scroll through each and every pitch for a certain hashtag, but I doubt ALL agents do that. Chances are some of them are just like us - they pop on for a few minutes to scroll the hashtags they care about and leave. They will more likely see the popular tweets and miss the others.
  2. When an agent sees a bunch of Comments and RTs on a certain pitch, I bet they read it a little more closely. I know when I go through profile descriptions to label agents, editors and publishers, I pay close attention if the account liked 35 pitches, but by the time I get to the accounts that liked a single pitch, my eyes are glazing over. I'm sure it happens with agents too.

Agents do NOT like a pitch just because it has lots of engagement.
I know it's a bit contradictory to say this after my last point, but I feel like the data is fairly conclusive here. Agents like good pitches, not popular pitches. This is seen in the golden ratio. Some accounts have enough followers or build big enough lists to get hundreds of Retweets, without real merit (I'm not pointing fingers or suggesting anyone in particular). On top of that, we've all seen the generic Comments that people post without any real punch behind them.

But at the end of the day, if someone is manufacturing their engagement, they will likely not have the "Golden Ratio", and their chances of getting an agent are cut in half. Am I suggesting that agents are studying ratios? No. I'm suggesting that while engagement might increase a pitch's visibility, only a good/relevant pitch will get the agent to click on the 'like' button.

What This Doesn't Mean

The "algorithm" doesn't like RTs.
I don't know anything about Twitter's algorithm. Does it track the golden ratio and penalize anything that doesn't fit? Then we're all screwed because I've never seen a viral tweet with hundreds of RTs, dozens of comments and a handful of likes. I highly doubt that Twitter has an exception in it's algorithm to penalize RT swaps in pitch events. (Though tech companies do regularly surprise me with their attention to minutia, so I don't really know.)

This means I should get those on my list to do a mix of Comments/RTs.
If you learn this lesson, you're learning the wrong lesson. Please don't double down on a tactic that's been proven to fail. Even if you are able to manufacture the right ratio, that won't win you an agent. You don't need more elaborate lists - you need the right pitch!

RT for RT lists are evil!
Even with everything I've said above, I don't think it's wrong to build a list and get friends to Comment and RT your pitches. Every virus needs a 'patient zero' and every pitch needs an initial fan base. πŸ˜‰

I think it's a great idea - for visibility - to build a base of support for your pitches.

Disclaimer: Yes, build that base of support, but don't do it at the cost of a great pitch. Spend the majority of your time and resources on writing your pitch. If your pitch isn't good, it doesn't matter how many friends Retweet it - you won't attract an agent. I'd much rather see the writing community help each other create the best pitch possible instead of RTing pitches they haven't even read or writing the same comments on dozens of tweets.


As I write these things, I tend to write quickly, and I'm sure I forgot a point or two, but the essence of everything I'm trying to say is this:


At the end of the day, it's unlikely you will find the agent of your dreams and land that big publishing contract because of your pitch. Has it happened? Yes. Will it happen again? Yes. But it's an extremely rare event. And it didn't happen by accident. They had a relevant story, a great manuscript, a solid query, and an awesome pitch!

Focus on these elements first, and the pitch contest will take care of itself.

Do you enjoy reading pitches and supporting other writers? Then do it. Retweet, Comment - whatever you enjoy. Do you want to ask people to support you? Go for it.

But I think we can all agree that we don't have fun when events gets annoying and stressful. I'm going on a limb here, but I'll say it: Please don't blindly RT a hundred pitches just to receive blind RTs from people you don't know. And please don't leave generic comments on dozens of pitches.

Let's give and receive quality engagement, and we'll have a quality pitch contest - one that both writers and agents enjoy participating in.

Notice of Hypocrisy: I've participated in RT swaps in the past. My lists were never large, partly because I couldn't manage a heavy load and partly because I wasn't sure how I felt about the activity. But that was before my analysis. Ever since seeing the data, I've felt free to back off the lists. Now I only commit to supporting a few people, and I enjoy the contests a whole lot more.

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