Monday, February 11, 2008

Pitch Critiques Round 25

I’ve critiqued the first 150 pitches that came in and I want to thank everyone who participated. I know there are closer to 250 entries, but there’s just no way I can do them all and do them justice. Here are my final, randomly picked, pitch critiques. I noticed a few of you resubmitted, and in most cases I tried to avoid critiquing the same person multiple times. I also apologize to all of those I wasn’t able to get to and thank you for sending them in. If I ever find the energy to do this again, I would encourage everyone to get your submissions in early and fast.

Here’s the original post . . . Perfecting Your Pitch. And please feel free to use the comments to critique those pitches I missed on your own or tell me what some of your favorites were. I’ll follow up tomorrow with a recap of the entire experience.

151. Ken McConnell
Two of the four members of programmer Joshua Jones' web team are dead. Killed at their computers without a mark on their bodies. How were they killed and by whom? Only Joshua and his odd assortment of geek friends are capable of finding out how the murders were committed. Can they succeed before Joshua and his coder girlfriend become the next victims of a psychotic hacker?

Your first two sentences are enough to grab my attention. You lose me after that, I’m afraid. How were they killed and by whom is what nearly every mystery/suspense is about, so it seems redundant to put that in the paragraph. Instead I want to know about the desperate time constraints Joshua and his team are up against and what unique tactics they need to use to solve these crimes. Other questions that come to me, though, are why can only Joshua solve the crimes? What about the police?

152. Karen
Murder was the beginning of Hope’s short life together with Ian, but before that, she had a past; as a priest, a homeless person and a Broadway dresser. Now she has a different life, as a 64 year old single mother of a 16 year old replica of herself. But what will she do when the actor she turned away for love walks back into her life to claim their daughter and her reason for living?

The opening line is great, but the rest I don’t care about. The opening line grabs me, but then you mention nothing about murder and instead it turns into what sounds like a very typical love story—nothing special.

153. Mystery Robin
Anya Swanson knows broken—whether bodies or hearts. As an insurance adjustor for the perilous fishing industry, she's seen her share of hurt. But when she probes too deeply into one suspicious claim, the casualties hit closer to home than she ever imagined.

It appears to be just a tragic accident—an inexperienced deckhand washed overboard in the Bering Sea. But when another deckhand on another boat goes over in a similar manner—and dragging a woman along with him—Anya takes it personally. They had dinner plans.

But before she can file the death claim, Anya discovers he may not be dead at all. In fact, he may be behind both deaths. And wouldn't you know…he intends to keep that date.

Almost every week I receive a submission for an insurance adjuster or claims adjuster or something similar, so my first question would be how yours stands out. As you have it written here, this doesn’t stand out enough for me to ask for more. Although, that being said, it is a great pitch, I enjoyed reading it, and it does pique my interest, so there’s a very good chance that if you catch me on a good day I might request more. In the end, though, I just don’t think your hook is quite strong enough.

154. Kath
A fear of flying sounds normal enough – unless you have wings. Already a misfit within her tribe, it is certainly not aiding Lani’s ambitions to live up to family tradition. When a cursed stone comes into her possession, Lani’s greatest fear transpires. No longer able to fly, how will she heed the Seer’s warning and travel across the ravine to a friend in danger? As Lani fights to unravel the curse of THE BLACK LUCK STONE and draw from her true strengths, a life hangs in the balance.

Love this! Great pitch, great idea. Really well done. Congrats!

155. anon 3:58
Toni Tutoro just wants to go home…to the city where she died, where her human family was murdered, and to a dangerous man she’s never met, who’ll love her in ways she thought were lost the day her heart stopped beating.

This has potential. I like this pitch a lot, but would want to know more. What is she if she died? Honestly, I hope she’s not a vampire. There are so many of those it’s hard to sell another now. But this is a great example of a short pitch.

Thanks again to all who participated!



Anonymous said...

I read every one of your critiques, and I thought I was starting to get you, but the two you like today leave me scratching my head. Soooo many plot devices... However, you did a nice thing by critiquing so many pitches and it made a difference for a lot of people trying to perfect their pitches.

rt said...

#153 - This is the one I'd be most likely to pick up. It has the feel of a book to me. Funny, the comment on lots of insurance adjuster stories. I don't think I've ever actually seen one in print.

#154 - I'm pretty clueless as to what this is actually about. Same with #155.

Phoenix said...

Thank you for providing this learning opportunity for us all, Jessica! My takeaway is just how subjective this whole business really is. It really does just take one, doesn't it? Or, actually, two. An agent and then an editor. Oh, and then an entire publishing house staff to give the final nod... :o)

151: Too many unanswered questions, I think, for a pitch. If it turns out that the hacker is somehow doing the killing virtually, I think that would be a good hook for making this stand out from the mystery crime crowd.

152: Agree with JF. How does murder tie into the rest of the story?

153: RT says this one has the feel of a book to me. I wonder if that's because this strays from pitchland into queryland. Longer queries will always feel more fleshed out because, well, duh, they are more fleshed out. But JF doesn't seem to distinguish between the fast pitch and the slow ball, so use whatever technique works for your situation!

154: Sorry, I'm with the first two commenters. I don't understand what this book is about or who the intended audience is. Middle grade? YA? It doesn't "feel" adult. Lani is afraid to fly, but then her greatest fear (apparently greater than her fear of flying) is realized: that her ability to fly is taken away. Sounds a bit contradictory. And then she has to heed a warning and make it across a ravine? I don't understand why it's a warning then. But you caught the attention of the person you wanted to, so good job!

155: It's evocative, but I get no sense of conflict. What's keeping her from going home? And how can she want to go home to someone she's never met? It seems like you have a couple of different ideas that shouldn't be tied together tied into this one sentence. Again, JF liked it, so despite my confusion, you captivated the right audience!

Karen Duvall said...

I also really liked the insurance adjuster story and found it very unique. I've never seen one on the shelves, but I'll start keeping my eye out for them. Jessica, do you have so titles you could recommend? Oh, and I really liked that the overboard guy isn't dead and plans on keeping their date anyway. Talk about intriguing! I'm hooked.

Regarding the black luck stone one, I like the idea of a character with wings, but the rest of the pitch lost me. How does the stone make her fears come true? I assume the fear of flying comes true because of the stone, but I'm confused as to how and why. And what's the main conflict? What's at stake? And what IS the family tradition?

Deborah K. White said...

I'm yet another person that was confused by what the stories for #154 and #155 are actually about and for the same reasons that where stated in previous comments. I really liked the pitch for #153, especially that last line.

I agree with Phoenix: the main thing I learned from all of this is just how subjective the publishing business really is.

Vicki said...

Really, you see insurance adjuster stories? I'm not thinking I've ever read one.

#154 sounds great and something that I would buy reading the back cover blurb.

Thank you so much for doing this. Although mine was not one of the ones you made it (slow close :D)
I have truly enjoyed reading what you like and don't like. Things that can be left out or need to added. All in all this has been great!

Anonymous said...

I liked # 153 and was surprised that Jessica gets a query for a claims adjuster every week, since when I read this, I thought, Oh, how original and fun! Shows you how much I know.

I loved reading all the pitches and Jessica is a brave soul for doing this, but I have to say I'm still at a complete loss as to what makes a good pitch. The pitches that are plain confusing or seem to not have any plot to speak of are easy to pick out, but barring that... I'm beginning to think EVERY pitch could have ANY agent saying, "Well,this isn't different enough." Or, "This doesn't stand out enough."

But if something is truly different its often called over the top.

I'm a bit blurry-eyed from reading so many pitches, but I wonder how many good books never get requested for pages simply because the agent is tired, has a headache, has mail stacked to the high heavens and just plows through the queries, saying, "not different" enough?

(I'm not targeting you specifically, Jessica, but agents, and even more importantly, editors, in general?)

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Re: "but I wonder how many good books never get requested for pages simply because the agent is tired, has a headache, has mail stacked to the high heavens and just plows through the queries, saying, "not different" enough?"

Also: because the writer is tired, has a headache, has bills stacked to the high heavens, and just plows through the writing of their query, not caring if it is "different enough?"


I too liked the insurance adjuster pitch. I liked the rhythm as well as the plot of #155.

154. Kath said...

Thanks, Jessica, for your comments on my pitch. And for getting this far - I feel really lucky to have had my pitch critiqued. I am sorry for those who just missed out...

For those wondering, my story is aimed at a mid-grade audience. I did put that on my post, but it must have been missed when Jess pasted it into this one.

I guess you are supposed to have questions after reading a pitch, as there is no way you can cover an entire book in such a small space. It is the questions that hopefully make an agent / publisher request a story. And of course it is subjective - we all have different reading tastes, and what inspires some doesn't even register with others. It's certainly a tough industry in that sense. A little unpredictable.

My favourites in this round were 153. and 155. Well done guys - great pitches. You got my interest!

wplasvegas said...

One last thank you for a tremendous effort, for me it was the cherry on the cake.

Southern Writer said...

Thanks for all your hard work. It's good to see what does and doesn't make it with you, and of course, how subjective it all is.

ver: aarrgj

The sound I make knowing you will never get to mine. :-)

brimfire said...

I liked #155, and I hope it was a vampire. I think I might be the only person left in the world who still wants to find a good vamp book.

animaldancer said...

Title: Crystal Wolves

“Can ya see them, Rayne?”
“If you’d get your fat head outta the way, I could.” Dirt pushed up Cory’s nose and through his lips, scraping against his teeth, as Rayne shoved his head into the ground.
Spitting out dirt, Cory hissed, “Can ya see them?”
Rayne nodded his head, peering through the branches. “I see them. They’re looking for us. Quick! Duck!”
Both boys ducked their heads deeper behind the brambles while trying to watch the other kids.
“Okay,” Rayne whispered, “They’re turning around…and…going back. Let’s get outta here.”