Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Critiques #2

Thank you everyone for your kind words. Continental did not come through so we're home for Christmas. I'm over pouting though and looking forward to a different holiday then what I had planned, but something magical nonetheless.

Here's the link to the original post. Once January 5 hits I'm done with critiques so if you want to see the other critiques I've done simply follow through from 1-? (we'll see where we end up).

Have a wonderful holiday, whichever you celebrate and on to the critiques...

Melinda Leigh said...
A gutsy, divorced high school teacher and an emotionally adrift Iraqi war hero confront an internet predator - with some unexpected help from the family ghosts.

85,000 Romantic Suspense with light paranormal elements.
And to answer your question Melinda Leigh, yes it's too short. This is a tag line, but not the pitch. Want to know the difference? The tag line often appears as one eye-catching sentence on the cover of a book. The pitch is, more or less, your back cover blurb. the tag line grabs a reader's attention, the pitch is what makes them want more. This is too vague and too soft. You say this is a romantic suspense, yet I don't feel the suspense in the pitch. This should be less about who the characters are, especially since it's a suspense, and more about what is happening, what the suspense is. Who is the predator stalking and what is he doing that makes it suspenseful? How do the ghosts get involved?

Crystal said...
Siren has a perfect family; two adoring parents, and a sister who teases her, as sisters do. Being Princess of Sylia makes her life perfect. She can do what she pleases and lives a lavish life. The life that is her perfection however, was simply ignorance gifted to her by her Father. Unbeknownst to her, Siren's Father and Mother have both been keeping evil at bay. When this evil takes her parents lives and turns her sister against her, Siren is thrust into the role of Queen. Now quickly, she must learn how to handle ruling an entire kingdom and lead a nation into a war she didn't even know could happen.

Siren Chronicles explores how quickly a human being can mature when they are forced to do so by circumstance and what changes they must go through, both internally and externally to except this change into their lives.
What's difficult here is that the first paragraph feels very awkward to me and would make me concerned that the entire book is awkward. I think you're trying to squeeze too much in. Is it really necessary that we learn how perfect Siren's life is? Isn't it better that we get right into the heart of the conflict? Something more along the lines of, "when evil (what?) destroys Siren's perfect life by killing her parents and turning her sister against her, this once quiet princess is now thrust into the role of Queen and forced to lead a nation to war or...." Obviously that's rough, but I think it gives you a better idea of how you can jump right into a story and grab the reader's attention. As for the second paragraph, dump it. It's useless. I don't ever want to know what themes or message a novel explores. That's not why anyone buys a book, except maybe a parent buying YA to teach a teen something, but that should still come through in the story.

Julian Meteor said...

Doing Honeys - My Autobiography - Julian Meteor

Julian Meteor is somebody EVERYONE wants to BE!!! lol
He sleeps with a DIFFERENT woman every night and is in THE best band - The Argyle Style - in South-West England.
Read and prepare to be VERY jealous!!!!!!! lmao
A pitch like this would never work. Is your book really about you sleeping with a woman every night? I can't imagine anyone would want to read that. Most people read books, and even memoirs to learn about how other succeed despite the struggles they face. You call this an autobiography, I suppose there is technically little difference between an autobiography and a memoir except that unless you are hugely famous (and maybe you are and I just don't know you) it's really a memoir. I think of autobiographies for people like Mick Jagger, Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher or Paris Hilton (god help us all). Memoirs are usually the unique stories of everyday people told in a very fiction-like manner. What upsets me most about a pitch like this (and it might be a personal thing) is that you don't seem to take your pitch and therefore my job seriously. I'm not old fashioned and I'm certainly not a prude, but to say something like "read and prepare to be VERY jealous" and especially "lmao" is a bit insulting. It's like applying for a job and saying in your cover letter, "I rock! Hire me!" It just doesn't sound like you really take it seriously enough to understand what it takes to get published or to get the job.

Crimogenic said...
When Katherine Rice’s son is murdered, she doesn’t trust the system to punish the killer because twenty-five before, the same man got away with slaughtering her brother. She hunts for the killer but gets more than she bargains for when she discovers that he’s part of an online network of pedophiles called The Convent. Now Katherine’s dream of fading into oblivion is put on hold as she sets out to rid the world of these child predators.

(Crime Fiction)
This had potential in the sense that the length is perfect and I just thought maybe, maybe this is the perfect one. Unfortunately you're telling and not showing me your story. Wouldn't it be much stronger to say something like, "Katherine Rice is hunting a killer, the same man who (brutally slaughtered?) both her son and her brother twenty-five years earlier. Not trusting a legal system that has failed her before, Katherine stumbles upon The Convent, a network of pedophiles that has..." That could still be stronger, but I hope you get what I'm thinking in terms of making this more active.

Annette Gallant said...


The last thing Jill Sullivan intends to do is fall for her sexy new co-worker, Andrew Chisholm. She's already committed to Jamie O'Rourke, the son of her father's best friend. He's safe, in need of her support after the sudden death of his parents and is the only boyfriend her family has ever approved of. But one night Andrew kisses Jill on a crowded dance floor, which throws her emotions into complete turmoil. Finding she can no longer deny her feelings for Andrew, Jill becomes increasingly torn and soon realizes she's in love with both men. When she's eventually forced to decide which one, if either, truly owns her heart, Jill discovers that sometimes you have to give up the things you want, in order to gain the one thing you really need.
This pitch, and therefore this book, just doesn't feel that special to me. As it reads here it feels like nothing more then 80,000 or so words about a woman trying to make a decision. What makes it different? What's the hook? Other then the choice of two men what other challenges does she face? It feels to me that you've written the set-up here, but not the real story. The real story is really giving up the things you want is it not? When I read this I thought of movies for some reason, movies like 27 Dresses or Sweet Home Alabama. "Chick Flicks" are almost always girl meets boy love stories and often the girl needs to choose between two men, but what makes it stand out and what differentiates them?

Again, I'm picking these randomly and reading none of them before making a selection. You are certainly welcome to keep posting your pitches until January 3 when I can guarantee I won't be selecting any more. If you do post make sure you do so in the original post from December 19. I am always looking for one that I can say "that's it!" about and will keep you updated.



Chicki Brown said...

What happens when seven African-American singles rent a New Jersey beach house for the summer?

For the third year in a row, writer Shontae Nichols plans a quiet summer in Beach Haven sharing a rental house with friends – a drama instructor, an accountant/realtor, a cosmetologist, an aspiring actor, and a hip-hop video-dancer. The friends learn the truth behind two age-old questions: Can men and women ever just be friends? Is it possible for women peacefully co-exist in the same house? Their quiet summer is shaken to the core when one of their housemates ends up in the hospital in critical condition. The hospital vigil acts as a catalyst to the already growing tension in the house and ultimately defines their relationships.

Hot Fun in the Summertime, is a 100,000 word fun, sexy multicultural story I would compare to The Big Chill in black or Why Did I Get Married? featuring singles.

Anonymous said...

Jessica, I agree w/ your comments. Plus using the wrong word in a pitch is def a mistake, i.e. "except" instead of "accept" (Siren Chronicles):
"...both internally and externally to except this change into their lives."
Also isn't Julian's autobio meant as a joke? Jessica, I hate to see you wasting your time on what I hope is just a jokester having fun at our expense. C'mon people--there are too many writers who are serious about their craft and need the help...

theartgirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bowman said...

"Also isn't Julian's autobio meant as a joke?"

I can't imagine otherwise.

Anonymous said... need to post your entry in the original post if you want Jessica to read it! Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I think it was a joke, but I'm guessing Jessica has actually gotten similar sent as actual submissions and therefore saw some value in providing a crit.

Just a guess.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

I'm afraid I can't be sure it's a joke since I do receive many similar submissions and have always received similar submissions. I often see posts like this on writer message boards where the writer is skewered for being a troll. My advice to writers is be careful. It could very well be someone who just doesn't know.


Anonymous said...

Let's hope this is a joke cuz why would anyone pay to read such a farce, unless the guy is Hugh Hefner or Gene Simmons (ugh!)?
With so many sincere entries, it seems a waste of time to critique this guy when so many of us are dying for your words of wisdom--seriously. Thanks for your advice and iput!

Anna Claire said...

Thank you SO much for doing this. I know we all appreciate your taking the time out of your holiday schedule to help us. I realized today it doesn't matter whether you randomly choose my pitch or not; I've taken TONS of notes on what you've already said to the other authors and it's been so helpful. Thanks again!

About Me said...


Thanks so much! Your critique is very helpful. I knew I was missing something critical in writing the pitch, but I simply couldn't pin point it. Now, I get it, and the example you gave sealed the deal. Thanks again for this fantastic opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Jessica, you go straight to Heaven on the express escalator for doing this 2-week class on how to write a pitch. Thank you!

Anonymous said...


Thanks so much for your advice. It really helps, now I have to re-vamp my pitch! I felt that the opening line was a bit off, but I didn't know how to fix that. Now I do, and thanks so much for helping us writers with the harder part of writing a novel.

Happy Holidays!

feywriter said...

I'm assuming this is why Continental flights were canceled:

Continental flight skids off runway in Denver

Karen Duvall said...

The pitch queen continues her reign! Jessica, you're a genius at these crits. I remember the last pitch workshop you gave, I think it was November last year? Maybe December? Anyway, your crit of my pitch helped me SO much! Thanks to you, I managed to craft a pitch that helped get me my agent last May. You're the best!

Robena Grant said...

Wow! I hadn't expected your critiques so soon. Fabulous. Your comments are extremely helpful. Thank you.

Hope the cookies turned out well, and sorry to hear about your change in holiday plans. You've had some nasty storms back east. My ex M-I-L and good friend, who lives in Manhattan said everything is snow covered. Brrrrrrr. I'm going to wait until spring to visit.

Jessica Nelson said...

This is so cool that you're doing this! Thank you :-) Merry Christmas.

Unknown said...

Nice of you to do this. I just finished reading P&W's "Agents & Editors" article and found it quite depressing. Ok, I get the annoyance with pink stationary and foodstuff, but still….

So, under full disclosure, I have submitted this to your agency, but not to you. I e-mailed a query to Kim on 11/07/08 but have not heard back yet. So I hope that allows you to consider my query for a critique, especially if you follow that “break the rules” theory. I have altered it quite a bit anyway after reading your other critiques. Capsulizing your own work is so much harder than the work itself. I do believe that elevator pitches require a different skill set than novel writing. Anyway, here goes:

Take a pretty, thirtyish American teacher vacationing in Paris, add a twenty-four year old handsome Italian, place them in a café on the Île Saint-Louis and you have the makings of the quintessential love story. Or do you? Cosimo and Megan's relationship starts to unravel almost as quickly as it began. Megan, who values her simple, unassuming life, becomes pregnant and finds her world growing increasingly more complicated. While Cosimo never intentionally deceives her, he simply fails to mention the fact that he is wealthy or that he suffers from an assortment of mental disorders, including a mild case of schizophrenia. Their relationship is further complicated when Megan discovers that Cosimo is also the last prince of Italy whose wealth and love life (an impending arranged marriage) are under the control of his mother, Princess Maria-Beatrice (a cross between Donatella Versace and Benito Mussolini.) When Cosimo dies in a car crash that isn't exactly an accident and isn't exactly suicide, Megan is faced with the greatest challenge of her life, convincing the regal and diabolical Maria-Beatrice (a woman as emotionally unstable as her son) to recognize the infant as the prince’s heir. Both comic and tragic, this story’s uniqueness is derived by dealing openly and honestly with the prince's psychological demons and his struggle for sanity. And should the plot line sound a bit farfetched to you, consider the following; this 68,000 word literary novel, The Pedestrian Prince is based on a true story.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Congrats to those chosen! Jessica, you've done an awesome job! So nice of you to do this for your readers. :)

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with AC, just reading your crits of the pitch's helps me with mine. For instance before this pitch contest I had no idea what a pitch even was, I was always under the wrong assumption that it was the main body of the query. Everything pertinent to the book sans the paras dedicated to the authors writing credentials. Clearly I was wrong. lol.

But reading your breakdowns of each individual pitch has also been invaluable.

Thanks again Jessica! And so happy to hear your Christmas is gonna be wonderful regardless. :)

Anita said...

Mystery Robin:

For what it's worth, I love your pitch!!! If it was on a book jacket, I'd be buying that sucker.

Anonymous said...

I guess what I fail to understand is when people don't follow directions. One paragraph pitch in the comments section of the original post.

One paragraph pitch.

Original post.

The original post also clearly states not to do this if you've queried the agency, if I remember correctly. (which perhaps I do not)

I make mistakes daily (my kids will attest to that) but if you want to be taken seriously as a debut author -- professionalism must be paramount, don't you think?

I also must note, unfortunately, that I see many typos and misused words and grammatical errors on agent blogs. It makes me wonder and shakes my confidence in the world of literary agents.

Anonymous said...

A severe pinch on the arm at a very young age taught Paulette Palinsky not to mention the people who talk to her that no one else can see.
In 1961 mom dies and, encouraged by her dead dad, Pauly strikes out to start a new life. She finds an apartment in a wonderful old brownstone owned by a handsome police detective who is renovating the apartment next to hers. Finding he has forgotten to give her keys, a very different looking Ben Roitelli gives her one. Over the next week her contact is with two very different versions of the same man.
When bones are found behind a wall turn out to be Roitelli's father, missing from the same day in 1947 his aunt and uncle were murdered in the apartment he’s renovating Pauly must pursue ghosts to discover a murderer still alive and determined to keep his secrets.

Evangeline Holland said...

Ah ha! I'm learning from this critique already. Pitches, being back cover blurbs, need to be strong; use actiony words. It needs to be immediate and snappy. Don't focus on "emotion" but emote!

I'm going to look at back cover blurbs that snagged my attention, as well as blurbs for movies that I love and work on my pitch.

DL said...

Thank-you, Jessica, I'm learning so much from this exercise. Not just from the critique you gave me, but from all of the others too. I know I’m not alone in my appreciation of your time and expertise. Have a wonderful holiday.

Annette Gallant said...

Thank you for your comments regarding my pitch, Jessica. I really appreciate the feedback, and now I know what to work on to make it stronger.

I'm sorry your travel plans got messed up. Hope that despite this setback, your Christmas ends up being a good one!

Julie Weathers said...

"With so many sincere entries, it seems a waste of time to critique this guy when so many of us are dying for your words of wisdom--seriously. Thanks for your advice and iput!"

She said she was choosing at random. I had to assume, and she confirmed it, she receives serious queries like this. I rally can't imagine someone including LOL, LMAO, cuz, ROFL in professional correspondence, but it, apparently, does happen.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is why some agents will take the time to critique unsolicited pitches (and obvious jokes like this), but only send form rejections to requested mss? How about a few words of wisdom or a short critique to us serious writers with requested partials/fulls? If I received a pitch like that, I wouldn't bother replying at all, much less give it a thoughtful critique. After all the work serious writers spend trying to craft the ideal query or novel, it's insulting to have your writing ignored or tossed out like garbage. Yes, I know--life is unfair. Happy holidays!

Corinne said...

Anonymous 12:28, while I can absolutely see where you're coming from, you have to keep in mind that it's Jessica's time. She decides what to do with it, and none of us are in any position to say what she should do instead, however fairer you think it would be. This is just the business.

Besides, by doing this, she's helping everybody who reads the blog, not just those whose pitches she critiques. As you can see from the comments on both this post and the former, a lot of people whose pitches didn't get critiqued (yet) or who didn't even submit theirs are very grateful that she's spending her time on this.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:28, and what make you think that the people who submitted their pitches aren't serious writers?

You're obviously having some 'problems' with your agent and you're frustrated, but the tone you take makes you sound like you think that you're above 'other writers', that's a bad attitude to take. Talk to your agent, don't lash out on blogs against other writers.