Monday, February 04, 2008

Pitch Critiques Round 23

I’m winding down. Hoping to get to as many as possible, but just can’t agree to do them all. So here we go again . . . Perfecting Your Pitch.

137. Paul Lamb
Why does an inept burglar keep trying to break into a lonely bed and breakfast in rural Iowa? Could it be for the antique Christmas ornaments? Or is a thug for an unscrupulous land developer trying to harass the innkeeper into leaving? Does a peculiar guest have a hidden agenda? Or is there a different reason? And how is this connected to a mysterious death in the snow a decade before? The answers may lie locked inside the mind of an old woman with Alzheimer’s.

When two guests are awakened by another of the sorry burglar’s attempts, they decide to set a trap, as much to see what the burglar is after as to catch him. Not only are they surprised when the burglar is unmasked, but they discover a family treasure nearly lost for all time.

I hate to say this, but the premise of your story does not grab me at all. If the inept burglar is really inept, it seems to me that after a second attempt he’d probably be pretty easy to catch and more of an annoyance than anything really interesting. I hope there’s more to the heart of your story, something bigger and stronger. Maybe the family treasure?

138. Renee Lynn Scott
A Highlander turned English border warden discovers his biggest challenge is fighting the overwhelming desire for the delectable Border Hellion who insists on becoming his mistress in exchange for her murderous brother.

This doesn’t feel quite different enough. I think you have to focus on more of the plot outside of the romance to make this stand out. Fighting overwhelming desire is the basic thread in almost every romance novel. What about this story or plot line makes your book different? Usually it has nothing to do with the romance.

139. honey
When a presidential nominee is among the dead in a series of attacks on US seaports and natural gas terminals, Caro Wilson, a retired CIA Security manager, enlists a group of unique former spies to avert potentially devastating political and economic consequences.

Caro survived the Honey Project, the CIA’s counterpart to the notorious Soviet sex spies. She and the other former agents, her close friends, have hidden their sordid past, married well, and overcome their emotional scars. Caro wears the bland mask of a competent bureaucrat until she nearly dies in the attacks. She’s collected scraps of ambiguous evidence, enough to launch an investigation, and she’s scared. The friends she turns to for help, who also dread exposure, are suddenly dangerous: one is the widow of the slain politician, and the other two are married to men in the conspiracy, confederates of Caro’s own husband.

I like this. I think it needs some tightening, but Caro and the Honey Project really grab my attention. The opening paragraph, though, is a little confusing. If a presidential nominee is dead, why would it be up to a retired security manager and her friends to solve the problem? It seems like the working CIA would be on it already. I think you should focus more on your second paragraph. I like Caro’s background a lot and the fact that she’s now being sucked into a new political turmoil. I would stick with the second paragraph and add one sentence at the end to wrap it all up. Good work. Very interesting idea. I probably would request based on this. You’ve got my curiosity piqued.

140. Michelle
In this historical romantic suspense novel, set in Victorian England, young Minuette Sinclair is swept into an illicit affair with a reformed thief, Bryant Westley, and becomes entangled in the search for a priceless necklace with a bloody past.

I like the setup immediately only because I am a fan of historical romantic suspense. I like the twist. However, the pitch isn’t there for me. Even your opening, “In this historical romance,” tells rather than shows and gives no sense of your voice or your story. I also don’t see the suspense in your description and don’t feel that the way you pitch the book makes it stand out. Would the search for a priceless necklace really be enough to get you to spend $10 on a book? Your pitch has to be thrilling and enticing and enough to make readers want to spend money.

141. anon 10:20
Two ancient alien races, in war of annihilation are heading toward Earth. Terrorist Adiak Peller seeks power and revenge for a son's death. 18 year old
Del Baldura is the flash point where it all intersects.

The way this pitch is written, I don’t see the connection between any of your stories. This doesn’t tell me anything about your book, but instead tells me about three different plot lines in your book. My other concern is that if your pitch is this disconnected and rough, what does that say about your story? It’s important to remember that a pitch isn’t just telling readers about your story, but is representative of your book, your writing, and the tone of your book. So in these few short sentences I should get a sense of your voice as well as the energy of your book.

142. lllQuill
After someone begins assassinating L.A.'s most depraved criminals, former drug-runner, turned cop, turned millionaire playboy, Hale Parrish, is asked to use his special talents to investigate. By "gleaning," Hale can relive the final moments of the dead, often leading to indisputable evidence against murderers. When Hale and the vigilante cross paths, their lost family ties are revealed, forcing Hale to contend with the darkest shadows from his past.

This is another situation where I don’t feel the connect between the stories. What is this book really about? Is it the assassination of depraved criminals (and if that were the case, would the police really be concerned enough to bring in a special, probably really expensive expert)? Or is the book about Hale and the killer crossing paths? Make sure you focus on the key plot point of the story. I don’t think it’s necessary in the pitch to give us Hale’s background. What we need to know is who he is now and why he would be brought into a high-profile case and what happens next.

143. Christyne Butler
A single mom ranch owner desperate to save her land. An ex-con cowboy running from his past.
She needed a hero . . . what she got was him.

Maggie Stevens only priority is keeping her Wyoming spread afloat. With a neighbor stealing her cowboys, a long list of repairs and a loan payment due, she’s running out of options. Cowboy Landon Cartwright is fresh from prison on an overturned conviction for a crime that robbed him of all he cherished. Broke, he’s forced to take a job working for the lady rancher.

How long can Landon run from the horrifying memories that always find him, and will Maggie be able to overlook the dark sensuality she finds in a cowboy’s eyes when she hires THE RIGHT KIND OF WRONG.

I like your opening sentences. A great tagline for the cover of your book. In fact I like this pitch a lot. You give us a great look at your story and the perfect description. In fact, I could see a publisher using this verbatim on the cover. My only comment is that this sounds perfect for category romance (something I’ll discuss in more detail in another post), so if you intended that, my suggestion is to figure out which line you’re targeting and get it into an editor’s hands. If, however, you see this as a single title you’ll need to do some tweaking to your pitch and possibly your story. As written, it doesn’t sound multilayered enough for a single-title romance.

Okay, readers, it’s up to you now (and no slacking off on me!). I want to hear what you have to say. . . .



DeadlyAccurate said...

While I wouldn't read #143, simply because I don't read category romance and have a strong dislike of cowboys and anything "country", I think the pitch was magnificent.

#140 could be interesting, though I think you could drop the word "historical" since that's evident when you say it's set in Victorian England.

#137 sounds interesting to me, especially if the story has some humor in it. But I don't think the pitch really works as is.

Unknown said...

I definitely think the Honey Project sounds interesting... helps set the book apart from others in the same genre.

For some reason, I really love the name Minuette Sinclair. Not sure whether that sort of thing should matter in a pitch, but it does to me.

Deborah K. White said...

#137: When you said that the burglar was inept, I immediately thought he had been caught and put in jail, time passed and he tried again with the same result, etc. Perhaps you should replace "inept" with some other descriptor or describe what makes him so inept.

#138: "Border Hellion who insists on becoming his mistress in exchange for her murderous brother." Um, I'm confused. Does she want him to capture her brother, or is her brother Highlander's current "mistress" and Hellion wants to replace him, or what? It took me about four reads before it occurred to me you probably meant she's saying, "I'm your mistress, so you owe me. Release my brother from prison."

#139: I must be unusually tired today, because parts of this pitch also had been confused during the first read. However, it was questions like "why is a retired lady the one to take on this job when it's a serious enough situation that there are potentially devastating political and economic consequences? And what are those vague consequences, anyway? If Caro retired, why does she wear the bland mask of a competent bureaucrat and how was she anywhere near the presidential nominee so that she was nearly killed in the attack that killed him?" I think it would help if you could clarify this information.

#140: "becomes entangled in the search for a priceless necklace with a bloody past" is a bit vague. How does she become entangled (i.e. why her?) and what's at stake for her?

#141: I have no idea what this is about, though I'm guessing from the alien races that it's Sci-Fi. As Jessica said, connect the plots.

#142: I highly admire the police, but I must be cynical because I also wondered why they'd bother to try too hard to catch a criminal killer. The reason seems a stumbling block, so maybe you should at least hint at the reason. Unlike Jessica, I can see the reason why you included Hale's former professions and how it probably ties into what he finds. Maybe it'd be better to mention that past, though, by somehow tying it into the "what he finds" sentence.

#143: "for a crime that robbed him of all he cherished". This is cliché, not to mention a bit vague. I'm not sure if this means he was put in prison for killing his family and setting his house of fire or if it means that being convicted of a crime broke his family relations up. The "horrifying memories" could equally be memories of prison or memories of the crime I'm assuming he witnessed.

Heidi Willis said...

#137 - The inept burglar also threw me for a loop. The idea of a burglar leading people to a discovery is interesting, if it can be well written. I attempted to rewrite your query:

The Sticky Fingers Bed and Breakfast may be sitting on coveted land and filled with priceless antiques, but it's greatest asset has yet to be discovered. When a burglar attempts to break in, not once, not twice, but three times, two guests decide to set a trap. Not only are they surprised when the burglar is unmasked, but they discover a family treasure nearly lost for all time.

I think what might make it better though is to have some sort of feeling for the characters. When I think of a bed and breakfast I think of old people (sorry!). If the characters in the story are unique, funny, scheming, larger than life, etc, the story becomes so much more interesting. Get that through in the pitch. (also, why is the owner not hot on the trail or setting traps? Why the guests?)

#143 - I like this pitch too, especially the first line. If I saw that on a shelf I'd pick it up. The only thing that bothered me at all (picky, picky) is the last sentence. Technically it is a question, and yet there is no question mark and it ends as if it is a statement. But really, I like the pitch.

I agree with Jessica on the rest as well. Most of them I just didn't feel like I knew anything about the book when I finished reading (with the exception of Honey). It wasn't that the ideas couldn't be interesting, it was just that there wasn't enough to know.

Continued thanks to Jessica!

Julie Weathers said...

137. This intrigues me, but a series of questions grates on my one remaining nerve. I am curious as to why two guests, who are irritated about being awakened are the ones to set the trap.

138. I have to agree with Jessica about this. Aside from that, I detest women being described as delectable. Having said that, this could be a really interesting book if you go more into the plot. Is her brother a murderer she is trying to save? If she's really that delectable why she does have to insist on becoming a mistress?

139. I agree with Jessica again, no surprise. I do think you need to focus on how she gets pulled into this plot, otherwise it sounds like a bored housewife, looking for adventure. This could be very intriguing.

140. Interesting. I haven't read romances in a long time, but this could be a nice story. I am curious as to why she is swept into an illicit affair. I'd like to see more details.

141. I know pitches need to be short, but why is one person the flash point for two races at war? I'd like more details on this. Perhaps the reason for the war. Definitely the reason for Dal Balura's involvement.

142. I like this premise. I would start with his gift and the crossing of paths and leave out his past. Definitely something that would pique my interest.

143. I know this is probably a popular plot, but it makes me cringe. I come from a ranching background. You say she's a mom. Unless the children are very small, most of the ranch work could be done by her and the kids and the practice of neighboring.

I've fenced, gathered cows, farmed, fed with a team of horses, broke colts and all the other things that go with ranching.

Unless it's a big place she most likely wouldn't have many cowboys hired and stealing cowboys would be kind of difficult.

I'd focus on the fact she needs help and he needs a job and leave out the neighbor stealing cowboys. Build the plot from there. It's hard enough to make a living on a ranch, you don't need a cowboy-stealing neighbor.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jessica and everyone for your comments on my pitch.

Yes, THE RIGHT KIND OF WRONG is a category romance and the full manuscript is currently with an editor at Harlequin / Silhouette.

I'd like to thank Julie especially because of her background in ranching. Much appreciated!

Julie Weathers said...

Christyne, much luck with your manuscript. I have no doubt it will do well. Cowboys are popular and dang do they make good romance fodder.

I neglected to mention, and will blame it on being tired, the opening was fun. "What she got was him," struck a chord.

I'm just waking up so can't remember the exact name, Pioneer Woman, I think. Anyway, it's a blog about a modern ranching family written by the mom. It's a blast. I have it linked in my favorites on my site.

Julie Weathers said...

Yep, it's Hopefully, Jessica doesn't mind me mentioning it here. If so, my apologies and please remove it.

Anyway, it's a fun site for anyone wanting a glimpse into ranching life.