Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pitch Critiques Round 22

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.

131. Anon. 8:38
John Calhoun IV scandalizes prim Swanson, Mississippi, when he learns his late father was a philanderer, the abandoned urchin Mary Swann is his half sister, and he is the only one willing to rescue her.

Immediately I see a conflict, and not in the plot. How does John Calhoun IV scandalize this prim town? Is it because of what his father did or because he rescues a half sister? Why does she need rescuing and what is the big deal about rescuing someone who needs help? Do you see where I’m going with this? You need to get to the heart of the story and not dance around it. Tell us exactly what is up with Mary Swann and why John Calhoun gets involved. As this pitch stands I have no clue what type of book this is—historical what? Fiction? Romance? Mystery? A pitch should make it fairly clear what genre you are targeting.

132. Christy
The life of a Las Vegas call girl doesn’t allow Athena Hamilton time to ponder memories of her first love, Isaiah Martin.

Lydia Martin never wanted to move to Las Vegas, but she goes for her husband, believing in Isaiah’s call to start a church in Sin City.

Athena and Lydia become unlikely friends and with Lydia’s help, Athena might find true salvation. But when Isaiah discovers his wife’s new friend, it’s not Athena’s soul he’s worried about – it’s his own.

My concern with this is that I never get a feel for who is really the protagonist. I see three different protagonists and each of their personal conflicts, but not necessarily how their stories (not lives) interact. Is the story really about Athena or Isaiah? What about Lydia? I think I need to know more about the plot to get me to come to this book. You do have an interesting premise, but I’m not sure what genre it’s in or what is really going on. I feel like I’m getting the setup and not the actual book.

133. anon 10:20 (Stephanie)
It’s 1668 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Reverend Dean needs pure of faith Calvinist women to marry the men in his village if he hopes to maintain his hold on his tiny fiefdom.

Jayne, cast out by her father for her strange ways, is sent across the ocean to be given to a man she does not know.

After spending time with the savages, William isn’t a favorite of the Reverend’s but when the lottery draws his name he’s granted his first choice of wife. Two outcasts struggle to live among the repressive village, while at the same time work to understand the strange and fascinating attraction between them.

This is another case where I feel I’m getting backstory and not the actual book. Is the book about Rev. Dean? Or Jayne being cast out? My gut tells me it’s really about Jayne and William, two strangers trying to make their way in an unwelcome world. And no, that shouldn’t be your pitch. What should be your pitch is how they are making their way and what the true conflict is. Is it the attraction or the repressive village? Is this a Scarlet Letter for modern times or a historical romance?

134. Lost Like Secrets Unseen
Every time Braden takes his sunglasses off, it brings him closer to death. The visions he sees make him a formidable witch – traces of old magic, remnants of dark emotions, and glimpses of the past – but also strike him down with seizures that make it impossible to fall in love. Being gay is only the icing on the cake of his abnormal life. When he’s drawn into a feud between two rival witch families who each want to use him, seeing the truth isn’t as easy as unshielding his eyes. His friends are on opposite sides of the war, the guy he’s falling for is becoming his enemy, and thanks to Braden’s arrival, tensions in town are escalating. Choosing a side means accepting his role in the unfolding events, and deciding which is more important: the things he can see, or the things his heart covets.

Your opening lines are great . . . up until the seizures making it impossible to fall in love and that being gay is the icing on the cake. These feel very anti-climactic to me and I’m not sure how one relates to another. In other words I’m not sure what being a witch has to do with falling in love and being gay. I would suggest you take that out altogether and stick to the plot points that will excite the reader. Stick to his powers as a witch and the war. The love story is really just “icing on the cake,” but I would avoid the cliches if I were you.

135. Anon 10:58 (Brigitta Schwulst)
Take yourself back in time. Back to Africa – deepest Africa. 1855. The British have just begun their invasion. White men are a scarcity in Zululand. Tales of their magic abound in the villages. Izi, the King’s trusted medicine, knows that the time of the prophecy draws near. Chosen by the Gods to deliver the message, he must ensure that the Zulus remain faithful. Summoned to deliver the Queen’s first child, the daughter of the prophecy is born. Will she lead her nation to freedom, or will her Gods abandon her?

I feel too distant from this. The way it’s written, “taking myself back in time.” What I’d rather have you do, in the pitch and in the book, is take me back in time. Instead of telling me to envision what it was like in Africa in 1855 I would like you to take me to Africa 1855. And don’t end with a question. What this entire pitch should be is the answer to the question. You should show us whether this daughter will lead the nation to freedom and how she has to go about doing that. In other words, we need to be taken into the heart of the story, not the setup.

136. anon 11:53 (Gabrielle)
"The Mask of Zorro" meets "Ella Enchanted" as Prince Charming narrates this dark Cinderella.

When his older brother is murdered, Berto changes from Second Son of Savana to heir apparent on the run. He moves from orphan refuges to governor's palaces, working to keep his identity secret from all except his orphan friend Ella. But as he falls in love with Ella and discovers his mysterious enemy is closer than home, the choice between "happily ever after" and saving Savana is one Berto will have to make-- unless someone kills him first.

Skip your first line. I suspect that was meant as your short pitch and the other your longer description, but the first line tells me nothing and doesn’t grab me at all. The dark Cinderella story might work, but I would leave the rest. I’m confused by the age of your characters. Initially I would assume they are adults, until I read that they move from orphan refuges, then I suspect they are children. I would also suggest you try being more specific. Focus on the mysterious enemy and the fact that he’s on the run. Why was his brother murdered and why does that mean he’s running? Who is the enemy and what does he have to do to save himself? Those are the points that will strengthen your story.

Okay, readers, it’s up to you now (and no slacking off on me!) . . .


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Defining Genres, Part Deux

We did a post last year defining different sub-genres, and not surprisingly I got a lot of flack. Interestingly enough, the questions keep coming.

The first is what qualifies a book to be a thriller or suspense versus a traditional mystery, and what differentiates a thriller from suspense? I consulted Jacky and Kim on this and here’s what we came up with . . .

I think that in the most basic sense a suspense story is one in which a reader is waiting for something to happen. In my mind, the most obvious suspense is done as romantic suspense. In this case we’re always waiting for that threat to finally come to fruition. We know someone is after our heroine and we’re just frightened that she will in fact be next. Often we even have a sense of who the killer might be (we may see or hear his voice) and we have an idea of what exactly is happening.

A thriller is a mystery with fear. There’s usually no fear in mysteries. Mysteries are about the reveal of clues and the methodical solving of the crime. Thrillers include the clues and solving the crime, but also the fear that it’s starting to hit close to home. That someone else will be next. A thriller is usually more about the fear of not solving the crime fast enough. The threat that if you don’t find out who, worse things will happen. A mystery is simpler than that. It’s really about the hunt and deduction.

The other question I received was about the difference between erotic romance and hot romances. Unfortunately, this is even tougher to answer since it differs from publisher to publisher. What one might publish as an erotic romance another would merely consider a highly sensual romance. And of course rules will and have changed on this.

In general, though, it’s not about the amount of sex or when the sex happens, at least not in my mind. I think it’s more about the type of sex and/or its placement and importance to a story. Usually hot romance focuses primarily on the hero and heroine, whereas erotic romance might also include other characters or toys. Of course that’s not always the case either.

Maybe someone else can help me out here. Erotic romance tends to have more sex in it, more dreams, self-pleasure, that sort of thing. In hot romance the sex is usually not as much or as frequent, but it's just as steamy and sexy.

If you have a better definition of any of these I’d love to hear it. I’ve never been good at defining things. I usually say I just know. Which is of no help to you.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pitch Critiques Round 21

Continuing on. I vow to end this before summer. So here we go again . . . Perfecting Your Pitch.

125. ASN
Amy never expected to get divorced, let alone sit Shiva for her ex-husband in a house with a Christmas tree, yet there she was. Just two years after her divorce when she had hit her stride having every-other-weekend to herself when her kids and the dogs went to stay with her ex, Amy was no longer a co-parent, she was an only parent. She now had two fatherless children, her ex's pregnant widow, an intimate relationship with probate court, but no weekends off.

Your last line is your pitch, or at least the beginning of your pitch. I think you have a lot of potential to garner interest here, but the key is that Amy’s life has been turned upside down in a new and different way. I think the entire second sentence could be deleted and/or rewritten. We don’t care so much what Amy has done, we care more about the mess she’s in now. “Two years after her divorce Amy has finally hit her stride and life is good. But enter her ex-husband, whose goal always seems to be ruining her life, even when he’s dead. Now with two fatherless children, her ex’s pregnant widow, and . . . Amy suddenly finds that . . .” I think something along those lines is sharper and more dramatic.

126. Ann Hite
Where The Souls Go is the story of three women and their art, strengths, madness and legacies. Can the youngest generation, Leigh, daughter of Grace Jean and granddaughter of AzLeigh, break the cycle of dysfunction passed forward for too many years and survive the insanity knocking at her door?

Great title. That’s really intriguing. Ditch the question. I think it weakens your statement. Also ditch the generalities. What is the insanity knocking at the door and what are these two women going to have to do to stop it? That’s your pitch.

127. anon 2:27
A deadly boating accident took a young boy's life the summer before Lani Jones’s body washed ashore the little island along the Susquehanna River. Small town newspaper publisher, Fay Cunningham scrambles to find the connection between the two when a second recovering heroin addict’s body turns up and Fay’s daughter insist neither died by accident or suicide and she could be the next one dead. When Fay questions how she knows this, she confesses to being in recovery and had spent time with the victims. Stunned and terrified by her daughter’s confession, it doesn’t take long before Fay’s deeply involved in the investigation. Her persistent snooping leads to answers and lands her on a jet ski trying to outrun a killer who wants to permanently silence her before she reaches shore and exposes the truth.

Where an earlier reader needed to watch commas, you could add some. Your first sentence had to be read twice because I found it too much of a run-on and confusing. I didn’t get at first that there were two bodies, and why is a newspaper publisher on the case? This pitch leaves me with more questions than it does answers, and of course leads me to worry about the strength of the plotting of your book. So here are the questions I have: Is this an amateur sleuth cozy mystery series or something bigger and darker? The tone doesn’t come through clearly. Does Fay really get involved the minute the bodies turn up or to protect her daughter? What is Fay’s personality? Is she no-nonsense? Tough? A calm, nice, sweet grandma type? How old is Fay? I am confused by the name. The name Fay to me is a nice, quiet grandma type. If this is a darker mystery, you might want to consider a tougher name. Believe it or not that can define how readers think of your character. I think you need to work on building the tone and also start at the end of your pitch. “When Fay’s daughter is threatened to be the next victim in a series of grizzly murders, it’s up to this small-town newspaper publisher to do some sleuthing of her own. . . .”

128. anon 3:08
Västerbotten, Sweden – August 1947.
A series of killings plague the small town of Övranäs and its surrounding areas. When married local chief of police finds the woman he loves dead and their baby missing he has to find both child and perpetrator before he himself is framed for the murders. What he unravels forces him to choose between the justice he craves and the love he cannot live without.

Real potential here. I like the first sentence, but I’m concerned about the next. Is the woman he loves his wife? If so, why can’t you just say his wife? If not, can’t you just say his mistress? In other words, sometimes fewer words can say the same thing, and in a pitch that can be important. I would also get more into some of the facts and specifics. What does he unravel that he’s up against, because that’s what the heart of the story is.

129. Caroline Smith
Sometimes white picket fences can become iron bars. And no-one is baking Sandra a cake with a file in it. Realising that "happily ever after" is a target, Sandra sets out to bake her own cake. A feminist fable that give the lie to the adage that feminists have no sense of humour.

I vaguely remember your first one, but luckily for you not enough to do a direct comparison. There’s not a lot of punch here. I like the idea of your first sentence, but wouldn’t it be stronger and more powerful to say: “Sandra used to think the white picket fence in front of her house was charming, now it feels like iron bars. When . . .”? The problem is that you are using a bunch of clever lines, but telling us nothing about her story. Why does she feel that she needs to bake a cake with a file in it? I would also skip the entire line about the feminist fable. I’m not looking for books that teach a message. I’m looking for a good story, and that line could definitely turn some people off.

130. anon 5:23 (Kylie)
“An exotic fantasy full of fire and shadows.”

Magic winks it deception through the rainforests and rice fields of Sunda, like dancing glints of light leaving in its wake the terrible absence of animals.

Fifteen-year-old Amirah may be quick to temper and often opens her mouth before thinking, but she will do anything to redeem her family from social exile, even travel to the wilds of Rindu – where the animals now reside. She plans to return in triumph with a surga (winged horse) for the king. However, Rindu is a place of chaos and unpredictability and her recent goddess-given gift of connecting with animals becomes bitter-edged when she hears the song of a dying phoenix and a promise becomes an impossible burden.

Drop your first two lines. You’re getting bogged down in trying to have a tag line and/or trying to be clever. The paragraph, though: Brilliant! I absolutely love this and would absolutely request it. You get it all in there . . . your voice, a feeling for who Amirah is, the central conflict, as well as the ability to clearly give us an idea for the world. Really, really good work!

Okay, readers, it’s up to you now (and no slacking off on me!). . . .


Monday, January 28, 2008

The Agent Submission Process, Nonfiction

I never intended this to be a series of posts, let alone a three-part series. Amazing how things can take on a life of their own. I was asked if I could show what my pitch might look like for nonfiction and how much I would stress the platform, etc. Keep in mind this would be a pitch for non-narrative nonfiction. A narrative nonfiction piece, like a memoir, would be pitched more like a piece of fiction.

So here we go (and you’re really stretching my creativity with these).

My short pitch first:

Dear Lenny:

Spring is finally here. I hope you were able to get some skiing in before the thaw began.

I’m really excited to be querying you today about an amazing new book by Mama Love, the premier authority on crazy brides and their equally controlling mothers. In addition to a web site that receives over 1 million unique hits a week, Mama Love has been featured in, among other things, The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Today Show and on Howard Stern.

I would love to send you Mama Love’s newest book, Mama Love’s Guide to Surviving the Bride, a book that goes well beyond any other bridal book by discussing, in Mama Love’s folksy style, everything a bride needs to know about love, sex, flowers, and even unfaithful men.

I’m putting a tight turnaround time on this exciting new project. I have no doubt that Mama Love fans will go out in droves to buy the first book by the expert on weddings.

As soon as I hear from you I’ll be happy to email the proposal out.



Query with proposal attachment:


I’m thrilled to hear from you and get Mama Love’s proposal into your hands. As I already told you, receives nearly 1 million unique visitors each month and has become internationally known as the mother of the bride. In addition to an incredible web presence, Mama Love also receives constant press in such outlets as The Today Show, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, and Playboy.

After years of doling out advice through her web site, Mama Love has finally decided to put her words of wisdom into a book.

Mama Love’s Guide to Surviving the Bride goes well beyond other bridal books and gives the real scoop on what it takes to really survive this thing we call a wedding. Using her own brand of folksy wisdom, combined with straightforward—but it might hurt—honesty, Mama Love says it like it is and she’s a force to be reckoned with. Just like in her web site, Mama Love will advise brides on everything from sex on the wedding night to the dance with her father. She’ll give tips on dealing with drunk guests, rowdy guests, rude guests, and those you just didn’t want to invite in the first place. And lastly, Mama Love will do it with a caring wisdom that will make every bride want to send her an invitation to the wedding.

Attached you will find the proposal as well as a fabulous list of press information for Mama Love.

I can’t wait to hear what you think of Mama Love and her advice. I am asking all publishers to respond to me with initial interest by February 12.



In this case I did something a little different. Because I think this particular project is a hot commodity, I’ve put a “respond by” date on the material. This means that I expect all interested publishers to get back to me by a certain date with their interest. There are a couple of reasons why I do this, and there are reasons why I don’t do it with every submission I send out. I only put an RSVP on a proposal when I think it’s a truly hot commodity, something I suspect multiple publishers will express interest in, and I want editors to know that I know this is a hot commodity. I am cautious, however, to limit my RSVPs. Editors know when they’re being scammed, and no one appreciates an agent who feels the need to auction or RSVP every book simply because they think it’s the best way to get through submissions quickly. In addition, a quick response isn’t always the best response. Sometimes having a book that an editor likes, but doesn’t love, sit around for a while can benefit both author and editor. You never know when suddenly someone in-house asks for just that book or when a slot on the schedule opens up for just that type of book. If the book was rushed to rejection you’ve lost out. If the book was put into the “think about it” pile you might win in the end.

As you can see, my most important factor with this book was to stress the author’s platform. Wedding books are a dime a dozen (as are many nonfiction subjects), so what makes this book shine? The author. From there I lead into the book. How is this book different? I focused on those things I thought made it stand out—rude guests and sex talk. In all likelihood that editor is not even going to read past Mama Love’s platform. That’s enough to make him want to take a look. From there, though, the proposal is going to have to stand on its own.


Friday, January 25, 2008

BookEnds Talks to Kathryn Lilley

Kathryn Lilley
Dying to Be Thin
Publisher: Signet/Obsidian
Pub Date: October 2007
Agent: Kim Lionetti

(Click to Buy)

As a preteen, I had two passions: Nancy Drew mysteries and Pralines 'n Cream ice cream. So it was perhaps inevitable that I grew up to write a mystery series called The Fat City Mysteries. And like my protagonist, Kate Gallagher, I once worked in TV news, and had to lose 90 pounds in order to land a job on camera.

Awards: IMBA Bestseller for October 2007

Web site:

In Dying to Be Thin, TV news producer Kate Gallagher enrolls in an exclusive diet clinic so that she can get a job on camera. But when the head diet guru turns up—murdered and fondued—Kate loses her appetite. And now that the menu features murder, Kate has a breaking story on her hands!

BookEnds: What is your favorite thing about this book?
Kathryn: One of the things I love about Dying to Be Thin is that the protagonist, Kate Gallagher, who is “a woman of a certain weight,” is presented as something of a man magnet. This quality is unusual in mass-market fiction. Usually, women who are struggling with their weight are relegated to the back row, in terms of career and sex appeal. But Kate is gorgeous, and she knows it! By the end of the novel, she has not one but two love interests!

BookEnds: What else are you working on?
Kathryn: In addition to the next book in the Fat City Mysteries, I have a paranormal thriller that I’m working on. It’s very uncozy and unchick-lit. The story is so dark, it scares me.

BookEnds: Do you see yourself in any of your characters? If so, who and how?
Kathryn: Kate Gallagher is very much like me, only stronger and quicker with a comeback. She’s like my Bionic Woman sister. If Kate were really my sister, I’d love her to death, but I’d really hate that fact that she’s so much cleverer than I am.

BookEnds: Many writers have stories of rejections. What are yours? What was your most memorable rejection?
Kathryn: Fortunately, I didn’t have many rejections. But my most memorable one came from an agent who had requested an exclusive. She took a while to read the manuscript, and then she eventually sent me an email along the lines of, “Dear Kathryn: I really wanted to like this story. But I just didn’t like the character; I didn’t like the story; I didn’t like the voice. In fact, I just didn’t like anything at all about it.”

Sigh. That rejection was really tough.

And one time there was a critique group that wouldn’t accept me as a member, and then someone in the group copied me on a sarcastic email. That bummed me out.

I should say at this point to wanna-be authors that you should never take rejection or criticism personally. And you should never be bitter. And you should never say, “Neener, neener!”

BookEnds: Do you have a manuscript that you’ll never let anyone else read? Tell us a little about it.
Kathryn: I wrote a screenplay called First Lieutenant that was optioned multiple times by a major celebrity’s production company. It was based on a true story about the first African American to graduate from West Point Academy. While the story itself had many merits, looking back on it, I feel that my screenplay was not blockbuster material. If I had to drag it out of my desk drawer today, I would have to do a Page One rewrite on it. No one sees it again until then.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Agent Submission Process, Part Deux

Yesterday I gave you some idea of how an agent submits your work to publishers. A couple of you wondered what my pitch would be if the author were unpublished, since my pitch so heavily stressed Linda Lou’s previous publishing credits. A great question, so here we go. . . .

With a previously unpublished author I would go about my pitch in much the same way. I would start with a shorter pitch letter and follow up with my query. In many cases I will probably talk up the author with editors over lunches or while on the phone. Of course I do that with my published authors, too, especially if I know it’s an editor who is already a fan.

So here’s an example of a made-up pitch letter:
Dear Betty Sue:

Happy New Year! I hope you were able to take some time to relax over the holidays. I’m thrilled to start off 2008 with one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

I Heart Cookies by Marla Merryweather is one of the funniest books you’ll read this year. A cross between Jennifer Crusie and Rachel Gibson, I have no doubt this book will take the romance world by storm and very quickly find its way to bestseller lists.

No one ever thought Lil' Sal Simpson would amount to much; her mother didn’t and neither did her grandmother. So when she announces to all of Groundwater Falls, KS, that she’s opening the Demonic Detective Agency, everyone simply rolls their eyes—that is, until the Demons moved to town. Trey Demon was nothing if not sexy, but sexy is never going to be enough when your baggage includes a 345-year-old grandmother, a centuries-old curse, and a black cloud hanging over your head. All Trey is looking for is peace, quiet, and a dry day, but that’s never going to happen as long as he’s living next door to Lil' Sal. The gal who’s been hired to chase him, and his kind, out of town. But when Lil' Sal does what everyone in Groundwater expects and botches things up, it’s up to Trey, the extremely delicious demon, to save her.

I know you’ll love this book and can’t wait to get it to you. Please let me know if you’d prefer I send it via snail-mail or e-mail.

When putting together my query and my query pitch, my first plan of action is to get the pitch together, and for that I always go to the source by asking the author to send me a one-paragraph pitch for her book. Sometimes the pitch is dead-on and I can use it verbatim. Other times it’s my starting-off point. By having a pitch in front of me I’m able to run with it and create something that’s truly spectacular. In this case I was trying to make up an entire story in one paragraph, which is why you’re getting something less than spectacular.

The beauty of getting the pitch from the author is that often her voice will shine through, and in many cases that’s what will grab an editor’s attention first, whether she knows it or not. No matter where the pitch comes from, however, I always try to make sure it highlights the key points of the story and shows the drama, the comedy, or the suspense. It will also show the editor what makes the book stand out from others.

Just like before, once the editor requests the book I send a more detailed letter along with the full manuscript. Usually I like to have a full manuscript for unpublished fiction. However, if the hook is really strong and the author’s three chapters shine, I will be more than happy to try to sell on proposal.

With unpublished authors the second letter isn’t much more detailed than the first, especially since we need to give them a lot of story material up front. But it might go like this:

Fabulous news! I can’t wait for you to read this.

Marla Merryweather’s debut novel, I Heart Cookies, is bound to become a romance favorite the minute it hits the shelves.

A southern girl with sass, Lil' Sal has never led a charmed life, unless you consider her ability to “see” Demons charming. After failing as a waitress, rodeo clown, and even crossing guard, Lil' Sal decides that it’s finally time to use what charms she has and opens the Demonic Detective Agency. This seems like a great idea, except that no demons live in Groundwater Falls—that is, until yesterday. Trey Demon and his family—a 345-year-old grandmother, Zombie sister, and blue nephew—have just moved in next door. Finally Groundwater Falls sees some use for Lil' Sal and she has the opportunity to prove herself by chasing the Demons out of town.

I Heart Cookies is the first book in Marla’s proposed Demonic Detectives series and I can’t wait for you to read it.

Attached you will find this hilarious manuscript as well as synopses for the next two books.

So there we go. A really poor pitch for an unpublished author. Needless to say I don’t have hope for Marla’s book.

I had also mentioned yesterday that in many cases a book will sell in a matter of days or just a few weeks. And that’s true. Typically I find that a sale is made fairly quickly. However, we have many, many stories at BookEnds of books that had been nearly everywhere, and rejected nearly everywhere, when the call finally came. In fact, we have one book that had been sitting for two years when we got an offer. The key is enthusiasm. As long as we still believe in our authors, and still think there are viable places to submit to, we will continue sending that book around. And sometimes we will even consider pulling it to wait while the market changes. I have a few books now that I’m just waiting for their time to come. And when it does, trust me, I’ll pounce.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Agent Submission Process

I’ve been asked before how an agent, or more specifically, I guess, how I submit a client’s work? I believe I’ve done posts on this before, but it never hurts to repeat or to delve a little deeper into the process.

Once a work is ready to go, my first job is to draft my query letter. I usually have two letters. The first is a shorter query pitch that I e-mail out to editors telling them about both the author and the book. The query pitch is usually no more than three paragraphs and goes something like this:

Dear Francie:

I had an amazing time at lunch the other day and can’t stop thinking about that baklava. I might have to make a trip in just to get some more. I know you’re probably packing up for a summer trip, but I didn’t want you to miss the exciting opportunity to read this new book proposal by Linda Lou.

Currently published with Avon for her erotic romance, Linda is looking to break into paranormal romance with the delectable Call Me Flannery, the first in a series featuring shape-shifting military police officers. Think Suzanne Brockman meets Christine Feehan.

I’m so excited about this series. I truly believe it is Linda Lou’s best work yet. Please let me know if you’d prefer I send this via snail-mail or e-mail.

There’s a couple of reasons I e-mail this query. The first is that most editors hate phone calls. No one has the time to waste on the phone, and I’m horrible at a verbal pitch. It always sounds so canned to me. Therefore the e-mail pitch is sure to be stronger, it entices the editor into asking to see more immediately, and, more important, ensures that the editor actually wants to see what I’m sending rather than getting blindsided by it.

Once the editor requests the proposal, which they almost always do, I send a more detailed letter along with the proposal (full manuscript if it’s a previously unpublished author) as an e-mail attachment. On the rare instance I will snail-mail it, although when an editor asks me to send it snail-mail I’m usually convinced they weren’t that excited in the first place and mentally rule them off my list.

The second letter is more detailed and will go something like this:

Fabulous news! I can’t wait for you to read this.

Linda Lou has been called “a rising star,” by PW and “one of the genre’s best” by Romantic Times. And of course I know they’re right. This is the book that will allow Linda to transcend the erotic romance market and gather the fans she so deserves.

Carl Flannery is one of Zorban’s elite military police. Trained from the time he was a teen, Carl is a machine, fighting to protect his world and the people in it at all costs. That is, until he meets Sophie Jin, his high commander’s daughter and the woman he’s been ordered to protect. For the first time in a long career Carl’s emotions are involved, and Carl is concerned that unless he learns to control them he won’t be able to save the one woman he’s grown to love.

Linda plans to continue writing erotic romance for Avon, but hopes to establish a strong relationship with a new publisher for her paranormals.

Attached you will find this amazing proposal. The story gave me chills and I can’t wait to hear what you think.

Please note that I totally made these letters up off the top of my head (pitches too), so please be kind.

And then we wait. Hopefully not too long, but we do wait to hear back from editors. In my experience, if a book sells, we usually sell it in a matter of days or just a few weeks. If we start to go too long after that we usually don’t sell it. Of course that’s not always true either, because in this business nothing is always true.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Agent Research Sites: An Agent's Perspective

Let’s face it, there are a ton of Web sites, books, and magazines devoted to finding an agent. Just type into Google “finding a literary agent” and you’re sure to come up with hundreds of hits. So where should authors begin their search? That I can’t tell you for sure. Not having been in your shoes, I can’t verify which sites have the most up-to-date and accurate information and which ones should be ignored altogether. What I can tell you is this . . . other than Publishers Marketplace, I do not think it’s necessary in this day and age to pay anyone for information on agents. Publishers Marketplace is the recognized industry site for finding contact information and deals. Now of course not every deal is listed, but a great number are and these deals can give you great insight into what agents are currently selling.

What many of you don’t realize about those sites is that they can be a bit of a popularity contest and/or require some work from an agent that she might not feel she needs to do any longer. When BookEnds opened our doors in 1999, one of the first things we did was apply to every possible listing known to man. We submitted interview forms, collected referrals, and contacted Web sites. It was imperative that we let the world know we existed. Now we’ve let a lot of that fall by the wayside. You would probably know better than me, but I don’t think we’re listed in Writer’s Market anymore and I’m pretty sure we’ve been removed from the most recent or the next Jeff Herman guide. I also know that a number of paid agent research sites have removed us because we were “uncooperative.” In one case we refused to have our phone number listed and were therefore told we couldn’t be on the site. The truth is that we don’t need to be. We are recognized by both RWA and MWA, we attend roughly 10 to 15 conferences each year, we are in the LMP, and we regularly post deals on Publishers Marketplace. In other words, the listings aren’t as important to us as they used to be.

Why would agents let these things slide? Because what most of us have found is that requiring authors to do a little bit of work and digging to find us usually means higher quality submissions. If an author finds us through RWA or MWA, we know she is serious enough about her writing to join an organization. If a writer finds us by searching the Internet, reading the Web site, and the Blog, she has some idea of exactly who we are (not just a name and address). There was a day when we could tell by submissions exactly when Writer’s Market was released. The quality of submissions took a serious dip and we would get everything from poetry to children’s books to handwritten manuscripts.

What’s the point of me telling you this? I’m not really sure anymore. I guess it’s to say that the Internet is your best source for agent research, and to find the best agents it’s not going to be easy. You can’t just buy one book or pay someone $50 for a list of agents you could probably get yourself on another site for free. That being said, you should all be familiar with Writer Beware and of course Preditors and Editors. Both Web sites will give you the tools you need to properly research agents and make sure you aren’t going to be ripped off.

So that’s how agents view these many sites, but what about you? What have you found helpful or a waste of time and money? If you have an agent, how did you ultimately come across that person’s name?


Monday, January 21, 2008

Pitch Critiques Round 20

There was a point when I assumed 20 critique rounds would be the end. But no, you kept adding your pitches! So here we go again . . . Perfecting Your Pitch.

117. Deborah K. White
The Queen of Santor is well-protected from physical harm by her god, but agents from Karella are spreading rumors that discredit her rule and threaten to tear her country apart. Queen Serrica devises a plan to force the Emperor to withdraw his agents, but she must confront the Emperor face-to-face for the plan to succeed. Her advisors are convinced that even their cunning, god-touched queen won't return from Karella alive, but that doesn't stop Queen Serrica from her Fool's Resolve.

I think the problem here is it’s all too general. Using the word “plan” doesn’t really tell me anything about what the Queen is really trying to do. I would also caution about calling her two different things. Queen of Santor and Queen Serrica can easily confuse in a pitch. Why not just call her Queen Serrica throughout and get right to the point. "Queen Serrica is facing down rumors that threaten to tear her country apart. She knows she only has one chance to prove herself and save her country, but will meeting the Emperor face-to-face succeed, or will it be her downfall?” Okay, I would need to know more about what happens to really write a good pitch, but I hope this gives you a place to start. What is her plan and what must she do? A lot of queens are forced to save their kingdoms. I want to know how Serrica’s challenge differs.

118. Wendy
Efosa is raped at the age of fifteen, turning her hitherto idyllic life upside down. The perpetrator is Emeka, her brother's rich and handsome friend.

When they meet again twelve years later, Emeka has had a conversion experience and is a Christian, while Efosa is bitter and suicidal.

Can she love the man she blames for ruining her life? And can a former rapist really redeem himself?

I’m sorry. There’s no way I could represent this book. The fact that it’s a love story with a victim and her former rapist is going to be enough to immediately turn off a great number of readers. I think a book about a reformed rapist trying to redeem himself might work, but putting the victim in the position of falling in love with him won’t fly for me. I think for me it becomes a greater issue. Do we really want to glorify people who rape and allow them to think that it’s all okay if you just find religion? So that would be my immediate reason for rejecting your book. As for the pitch, however, I just don’t think it has life. Do away with the questions and show me what Efosa is really confronting. “When they meet again . . . Efosa is forced to confront her own bitterness and anger. In doing so . . .”

119. Marcia Santore
When 12-year-old Carlo’s family loses its orchard to a blight, his father leaves to find work. Soon his mother falls ill—as she lies dying, a strange old woman appears and tells Carlo that it’s up to him to save her life. She sends Carlo to the end of the world in search of a magic seed. Carlo is helped along the way by several new friends: Rolf, an erudite dog; Marguerite, a laconic cow; and Jenny, a pirate girl, looking for a new life. In the classic quest tradition, Carlo must use his gifts—especially his gift for music—to overcome many obstacles. He fights off pirates, crosses the prairie with pioneers, gets swept up into a tornado. Only Carlo can write the song that makes a magical bridge appear. In the mysteriously empty city of Progress, Carlo becomes a cog in a terrible machine, one of countless people endlessly turning inside its gears in the futile pursuit of gold. He is saved only when his friends, waiting outside, try something they already know is impossible. When they at last reach Mount Tallest-of-All, one by one, Carlo’s friends can’t climb any higher—he must find his way on his own. Or does he? Using his last gift, Carlo discovers the hidden route to the seed that will save his mother’s life. Carlo and his friends are ready to return home in triumph, until Carlo learns he must face his greatest fear and return to the factory—to free his father.

This is another case where this feels more like synopsis than a pitch. You could shorten this significantly. Take a look at some of my earlier critiques, but I think you’re trying to fit everything in here and not everything needs to be in here. I think instead of focusing on every single fantastical creature Carlo comes up against you need to look at what his real conflict is. Is the book all about his need to save his mother? Is time ticking? Or is there more to it? What else does Carlo need to confront? What is his greatest fear? I think the problem is that I don’t really understand what happens. It sounds like a great magical journey, but it doesn’t sound like anything really special or different.

120. Kevin
Previously published by PublishAmerica, I withdrew my book from publication. I need not say why. Here's my pitch:

Anna's Blood is a horror-science fiction novel about a homeless woman who takes temporary shelter in an abandoned house in Providence and gets volunteered to help save a gentle race of vampires from another planet.

My first advice is that it’s time to focus on a new book. Whatever credibility a publisher might have, or not have, your book has been published and it’s going to make it that much of a tougher sell. There are obviously rare instances where books that were previously published are picked up. Often though it’s in a new and exciting genre editors are hungry for, or it’s a book that has sold tens of thousands of copies. Since yours is a vampire book it’s probably not different enough to garner excitement that would move it beyond the concerns editors would have because of its background. Beyond that, though, and to the pitch, it just doesn’t sound different enough. In fact, it sounds very similar. What happens in her battle to save the vampires?

121. C. Valentine
It's the puritans against the vampires and Sophia needs to believe she's a puritan as she guards her sister, the chosen one whom the vampires seek to mate with their king. Fighting the powers growing inside of her, that would reveal her true identity, Sophia endeavors to resist the vampire captain, Blake, who leads the search for this chosen one. But in a moment of passion she allows him access to the puritans -- and her heart. Now branded a traitor, only Blake can save her.

Vampires are tough sells these days. As many of you know, they are done, done, and done again. I’m not sure this story really stands out from the pack as being all that different. Beyond the story though, the pitch itself seems a little slow. It’s fine, just doesn’t have sparkle. I guess I’m confused by exactly what’s happening. She’s protecting her sister from vampires, but also gets involved with the vampire captain? And I assume she’s also a vampire. I think we need to know what one night of passion really caused. What the battle is and what she needs Blake for. I suspect that’s the heart of your story.

122. Anne-Marie
Son of a wealthy, successful and famous designer, Ian Harrington was born into the world of the rich and shameless. He blames himself, and his father, for his mother's death, and has run far away to start a new life. Beautifully blond, musically talented, but emotionally troubled, he hides his pain behind pale blue eyes and drinks to numb the guilt that has followed him across the ocean. When he meets Sarah, the fiery-haired singer with all the connections to make their dreams come true, can her love save him from his demons and secrets, or will the burdens of his past destroy everything they have ever wanted?

I like the setup. It sounds a bit like a category romance, though. I would avoid as much as possible ending your pitch with a question. I’ll admit, I’ve done it a hundred times, but it’s not the strongest pitch you can write. What about simply rewording to: “now it’s up to love to save him from his demons and secrets before they destroy everything he’s worked so hard to build.” A little stronger. Ultimately, though, this feels like a very straightforward love story, which is why I say it sounds category. Category romance (Harlequin/Silhouette) is romance first. In other words, while there are secondary characters and often another small storyline, the crux of the book is the romance. The main concerns are the hero, the heroine, and their internal and external conflicts. With single-title romance you create a much more complex story. It’s multilayered with many different characters and a story that often supersedes the romance.

123. Serenissima
Celia Darrell (24) has a father lost at sea, a mother fighting cancer, and a brother who could be burning down the neighborhood. She’s convinced that her fractured family is holding her back from her dreams, and that her best hope of escape lies in decorating the enormous shipping cranes that line Seattle’s harbor. Bringing these creatures to life in a blaze of color could lure her father home, reawaken her mother’s artistic soul, and distract her brother from the fury that consumes him.

Along the way, she stumbles into love, risks her life, discovers the power of forgiveness, and teams with a mysterious East German man, who arrives in Seattle the day after the Berlin Wall falls. In the end, it’s clear the only anchor keeping Lilia tethered too close to shore is herself.

Intriguing, but do I really want to read an entire book about crane decorating? No. I want to read more about teaming up with a mysterious man and her struggles with it all. You do a good job of setting up her internal conflict, but now we need to see more action. What is really happening to Celia in this story? What is she doing besides decorating cranes? What is the conflict? Your last paragraph is a throwaway. I don’t want a general recap of the most exciting pieces of the book. Those are what I want you to focus on.

124. anon 11:31
For Laura Chase, being a god is not easy. After all, she’s trying to graduate from college. It doesn’t help that her family has been kidnapped by a supernatural racial supremacist, not to mention the fact she has the propensity to become evil if she cannot control her power. But above all, being a god is not easy...because she does not yet know she is a god.

The ending line is great and your setup is good. Now we need to work on presentation. Choppy sentences are not going to sell this book or, more important, your writing. “For Laura Chase, being a god is not easy. Graduating from college is difficult enough, but add in the kidnapping of your entire family by a supernatural racial supremacist and your own inability to control the powers that might make you evil, and things couldn’t be much worse. That is, unless you don’t know you’re a god.” Do you see where I’m going with this? More energy. And stronger writing.

Okay, readers, let’s hear it from you. What are your thoughts, opinions, suggestions. . . ?


Friday, January 18, 2008

D. H. Dublin on Writing, Agents, and . . . Sleep

D. H. Dublin
Blood Poison
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: September 2007
Agent: Kim Lionetti

(Click to Buy)

Jonathan McGoran—writing as D. H. Dublin—is author of the forensic crime thrillers Body Trace, Blood Poison, and the soon-to-be-released Freezer Burn, all from Penguin Books. Writing under his own name, McGoran is currently finishing up Pig Latin, a sprawling and raucously humorous crime thriller.

In the sequel to Body Trace, the investigation into a death by natural causes reveals it is something quite different. As rookie crime scene technician Madison Cross entangles herself in the web of the victim’s perverse family, she realizes the killer is honing in on her.

BookEnds: What’s your next book? When and where should we look for it?
Jonathan: The next book in the CSU series is Freezer Burn, due out June 2008. I’m pretty excited about that, because it’s a little bigger, and a little rowdier than the first two. In my mind, Blood Poison was more psychological than what I usually write, and I enjoyed that a lot. But Freezer Burn will have a lot more action. It’s a little crazier, a little more outrageous. The project I’m currently working on is unrelated to the CSU series. It’s a big, raucous thriller called Pig Latin, about a hacker who finds himself in the middle of a plot to essentially control the Internet. It’s different from the CSU series in a lot of ways: lots of different points of view, different plot lines, a lot of cuts, a lot of action. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

BookEnds: What was your road to published author like?
Jonathan: I started writing seriously over ten years ago, and when I finished my first novel, which I am currently revising, I queried close to fifty agents. I actually got a fair number of nibbles, maybe a dozen or more, and half of them even asked for the full manuscript. Ultimately, two of them did offer me representation, but after doing a little more research, I turned them both down, something I never thought I’d do. I knew at the time it was the right decision, but try telling that to the side of my brain that was screaming at me not to be such a fool.

I’d had enough near misses by then that I was confident I wasn’t totally misguided in thinking I could get published (although, to be honest, I’m easily encouraged). I probably would have continued sending it out if I hadn’t completed my second novel right around then.

My first tactic with the second novel was to send it out to all the agents who had expressed some interest in my first, but they all said they were no longer taking new clients. That’s when I realized that one of the most important characteristics of any potential agent is that they be willing to read your work and consider representing you. I set about reading the personnel news in Publisher’s Marketplace, Publishers Weekly, Vista, etc., and looking for agents who had recently joined an agency, recently formed an agency, or recently been promoted—any kind of change in status that might put them in a position where they might actually be looking for writers. When I saw that Kim Lionetti had recently joined Bookends, and that she handled crime fiction, I did some quick research and dashed off a query (maybe not in that order). After a few back-and-forths and some rewrites, Kim agreed to represent me.

Now that I had an agent, I prepared for my first bidding war. I am still prepared.

Berkley declined to publish the manuscript we were shopping around, but they asked if I’d be interested in writing a forensic series.

Now, I had already considered writing forensic crime fiction, but I was afraid that with all that research, I wouldn’t have time to write. What I found was, I had plenty of time to research and to write, as long as I didn’t waste any time sleeping. My original plan involved a nap after the completion of the third CSU book, but as I said, I’m now revising my first novel. Once that’s done, seriously, nap time.

BookEnds: Now that you’re published, do you find your writing has changed? How?
Jonathan: I do think my writing has changed, but I think it’s an indirect relationship between that and being published. Writing fiction under a deadline has certainly made me a more disciplined writer, and it has forced me to write more efficiently. I have also become much more reliant on outlines. I’ve always been a big proponent of outlines, but writing under a deadline, I think they’re even more important. You just don’t have the luxury of wandering too far afield.

Being published has also allowed me to cut back on some other work to make more time for writing, and that has been great. Also, I now have three more books under my belt, and just through writing you become a better writer, so I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a writer.

BookEnds: How much promotion do you do? How do you balance it with writing?
Jonathan: I absolutely do not do enough promotion, but then again I don’t write enough, I don’t read enough, and I certainly don’t get enough sleep. Or exercise.

Balancing the promotions with the writing has been tricky, especially while I was promoting Body Trace and under deadline for Blood Poison and Freezer Burn. I did a lot of local print media and I think that paid off big-time; I’ve done close to twenty readings and signings for Blood Poison; and I have also done a fair amount of networking on MySpace. One of the nice things about MySpace is that late at night, when my brain is too addled from lack of sleep to write anything coherent, I can log on to MySpace and still accomplish something that will help my books (of course, there is always the risk of making absolutely no sense when you’re catching up on your correspondence at three a.m.—sorry, MySpace friends!). Blocking out chunks of time in advance helps, so I can concentrate on the promotions for a while—a couple of weeks setting up interviews and reviews before the release, or setting up signings right after, etc.—and then spend a couple weeks concentrating on getting some writing done.

BookEnds: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Jonathan: I know it’s almost a cliché, but especially now that I’ve been writing for a while and can look back at my development as a writer, I think without a doubt, the most important thing for a writer is to actually write. Obviously, if you don’t write, you’re not technically a writer, so in a sense that’s kind of a deal breaker right there. If you really don’t enjoy it, then you don’t really want to be a writer anyway, so that’s fine—there’s plenty of other things to be. But if you enjoy writing and you want to be a writer, and you’re not writing, it’s probably because of fear—fear of failure, or incompletion, or inadequacy, or whatever. That’s the thing you have to get over. I always knew I wanted to be a writer (except for a brief detour early on when I wanted to be a rock star) and I did write when I was young, but when I got older and it was time to take it seriously, there was a while when I just . . . didn’t. The reason was fear (and some laziness, but mostly fear). I was afraid that my writing would be horrible, that I would never finish it (better to have no manuscript at all than a half-finished one taunting me from a box in the closet, right?), or that I just wouldn’t enjoy it. When I finally started, I was relieved to find out that I loved it. Then I finished a first draft, and I realized, hey, I can finish it. Then I realized it was pretty good (Okay, so I was probably wrong on that last one, but it got a lot better later).

Of course, in the midst of all that happiness and relief, I had to take time to kick myself for not having started earlier.

But even once you’ve gotten started, even when you’ve got a completed manuscript or a published book, it’s important to keep writing. I definitely think it’s true that the more you write, the better you write—and I’m not just talking word count, I’m talking thought and effort, and yes, words on paper. Each time I have completed a novel, I have been able to look back and see improvement in my writing. There are plenty of other important things as well—reading, talking with other writers, occasionally sleep—but writing is the key.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Pitch Critiques Round 19

Here we go again . . . Perfecting Your Pitch.

109. Abi
XXX blends the quirkiness of small town life with that of a magical world, and offers recipes scattered throughout the book. XXX takes you on the journey of eleven year-old Stormy Reed as he grapples with being raised in a family not his own, the realization that unimaginable things truly exist, and a destiny he may not survive.

Lake Come-and-Go is a portal between the two worlds of mortal Glastonbury Proper and the Magical World including a dark and mysterious wood. The wood is full of magic, many legends coming alive within its boundaries. An elderly couple, are the gatekeepers of the lake and bear great responsibility in keeping Stormy Reed safe from the evil Nefarious Nobleman. Stormy is unaware of his magical beginnings or his mystical destiny, and with his dawning of discovery, he plunges into unwitting adventures. Sudden attacks, terrifying confrontations, and excruciating tests, ultimately find Stormy embarking on a life exploding with possibilities he is eager to explore.

This is another instance where my immediate thought is that your pitch is too long and too general. Think of it this way: if this were a series, I’m not sure the pitch would be different for any of the books. What is different about this and how can you tighten it? “Being raised by strangers is not an easy thing, but it's even more difficult for Stormy Reed, a boy with magical powers and a destiny fraught with uncertainty.” Okay, I think I’m butchering this. What you need to do is connect Stormy to Lake Come-and-Go immediately. How do these two relate and why. What is Stormy’s destiny and what does all of this have to do with him? In other words, is the story about the gatekeepers needing to keep Stormy safe or is it about Stormy? If it’s about Stormy, then show me how.

110. r2
Hello, my name is Cohiba Hemingway and I am dead. I am not a zombie. I am not a vampire. I am not Casper the Friendly Ghost. I’m just a man who happens to be dead. Because of a hospital clerical error, I’ve got a Death Certificate and everything. I think I’ve even been cremated.

I’m going to stay dead. That means the people who I used to work for won’t be looking for me. They’re genuine badasses. That also means I’m free to roam around the country messing with them, even if it means killing one or two along the way. These are my stories. Part Destoyer, part Lone Ranger, a little Jack Reacher, this is a fast-paced action/adventure series with suspense, mystery and a little blood ‘n’ guts thrown in. Beginning with “Turn Me on Deadman” each book is about 60,000 words.

Two immediate concerns and personal preferences. The book is too short: 60,000 words is on the short side, especially if you want to write action adventure. You need to try to bring this up to at least 80,000 words. The second, more a personal preference, is I want to hear about your book, but I don’t like it when a character feels the need to talk to me. There might be agents out there who think it’s clever, but I don’t. I think you’d be better off sticking with third person: “Cohiba Heminway is dead. He’s not a zombie or a vampire, but legally he is dead. It was a hospital clerical error, one he intends to stick with....” So what’s his conflict? If he’s happy to be dead, then I don’t want a general look at his stories, I want to know what this particular book is about. Is it about the people trying to destroy him or is it about him killing people? Get more specific about this particular book.

111. Ron Wodaski
Guided by charismatic businessman Julian Pressman, Bobby uses his ability to see the past and future to build a fortune. Bobby discovers that Julian is an agent working out of a dark matter dimension, and he is using Bobby to literally harvest mankind for export. Bobby becomes the bait in a trap to save humanity - but it fails, and Bobby gives up his physical form to fight Julian on his own turf. Humanity must win the day to earn the right to not only survive, but create a powerful home for itself in the dark matter universe.

There’s no life to this pitch. It reads like a book report. Bobby uses this, does this, finds this, etc. My first thought is that your writing style is very choppy and your book probably reads like your pitch. Therefore it’s a pass for me. A much stronger pitch would sound more like this: “For years Bobby has used his ability to see the past and the future to build a fortune for both himself and businessman Julian Pressman, but when Bobby discovers that Julian is using him to harvest mankind for export, he knows it’s up to him to save humanity and put a stop to Julian...” Or something like that. Make it more fluid and interesting. Lastly, though, I’m not sure I understood what this book is about. I don’t get how Bobby went from making money to harvesting humans or what exactly you mean by that. You might want to work on making that more clear without going into a long drawn-out explanation.

112. Heather Wardell
The fiercely private Madeleine-Cora Spencer is the last person who should be on a reality show. But when she's shunned by a friend's new wife because "you can't trust desperate single women", her pain and humiliation drive her straight to the "Find Your Prince" web site. Armed with newly sexy clothes and careful research into the show, she arrives to meet her potential loves, only to find herself dumped... on a remote island with seven of her ex-boyfriends.

Instead of meeting the man of her dreams, MC learns that she will be competing against Kent, the man she nearly married, and his six ex-girlfriends (and one ex-wife) for a million dollars. Amid the joys of jungle life, testosterone-laced struggles, and the most uncomfortable period ever, MC tries to find a balance between the privacy she needs and the intimacy she craves. Along the way, she realizes that not all of her exes are as bad as she remembers, and one just might be more than she'd ever expected to find in a man. But the show has a few more twists up its sleeve, and both Kent and MC have choices to make that will change their lives.

Wow! Totally awesome first paragraph. I haven’t even read the second one yet. Why? The first one is your pitch. It’s perfect and tells me exactly what type of book this is. I think your second paragraph drags things down a bit. The first gives us just the right taste of what the book is about and from there the rest can be a pleasant surprise. If you dump the second paragraph (which makes it too long anyway) I think you’ve got the makings of a winner. To explain why this worked for me . . . it has great conflict—I love that she was driven to a reality show by a friend’s new wife. Great setup. And the seven ex-boyfriends. The perfect twist.

113. Chumplet
When vacationing Amanda Patrone witnessed a murder and helped a Basque freedom fighter chase a stolen Picasso painting through the Pyrenees, she wished she'd brought extra underwear. And her passport.

Too slight. I don’t want to confuse everyone, but there is a difference between slight and short. Two people can use the exact same number of words to describe a book. One can hit the nail on the head while another can sound too slight. This is the latter. There’s no spark here. It feels to me that in the end you thought you should throw in something funny, so tried, but I’m not sure that’s actually the tone of your book. I also want to know more about the stolen Picasso and why she’s helping chase it down. In other words, you need oomph. “The last thing Amanda Patrone had on her vacation itinerary was witnessing a murder or hunting down a stolen Picasso. Joining forces with Frank Hank isn’t all bad, except for dodging bullets, speeding cars...” Okay, I’m not getting the energy. I think I would need to know more about the book, but I hope you’re understanding where I’m going with this. Get right into the heart of the story and show us what is really going to make this stand out. I see a lot of damsels caught up in accidental crimes. What makes this one different?

114. Fairchild
Brash USO singer, ANGELINE WATERS, delivers hope to soldiers who don’t come back, like her father. While spying for military intel, she falls for HENRI REYNAR, a grounded RAF pilot, but his near-fatal shooting sends Angeline running to her next mission, where she’s captured by Panzer COLONEL VON HEIMER and forced to make Nazi propaganda films.

You need a course in commas. And if I notice it you know you need help. Because of comma placement and probably some other grammatical errors that I don’t understand, your first sentence is very choppy and very confusing. Much stronger wording: “It’s 1942 and brash USO singer Angeline Waters has devoted her life to entertaining soldiers...” And here is where it gets even more confusing. How did we get from USO singer to spy? “What few realize is that this sexy starlet is also one of America’s top military spies. While ...” So what is your conflict? It sounds to me, by this pitch, that the book ends with Angeline spending her days making propaganda films. I hope not. What is her conflict? Is it that her father died? Or that she’s in love with an RAF pilot? Is it that she’s trying to escape filmmaking? And would a captured spy really just be assigned to making propaganda films? I find that unbelievable. I would think she would be tortured at the least, but probably killed. In a pitch you need to tell me what the heart of the story is. I’m not sure what this book is really about. I know who it’s about, but I’m not sure what.

115. kol
Fifteen-year-old Anna has a problem. Anna is in love with Oliver. But Oliver isn’t human. He’s a shape-shifter, just like the ones who murdered Anna’s family. Just like the ones who are coming back for her.

Your first few sentences are a little dry. Your ending though is great. What about something more along the lines of: “Fifteen-year-old Anna has fallen in love with the one person on Earth she should be avoiding. Oliver is a shape-shifter, just like the ones who murdered Anna’s family. Just like the ones who are coming back for her.” I think you could still make it stronger. I think it still needs some punch, and maybe our readers can help you out. But you want to get to that ending and keep it really strong. To do that you need an opening that grabs us. A fifteen-year-old with a problem is like a dog that sheds. Of course she does.

116. AmyB
Dalin Archer has no desire to work with Finneas Montague again, not after Finneas set him up and framed him for murder. But the two are forced into an unlikely partnership when Finneas entangles them in a rogue magician’s plot to seize the throne.

It’s missing something. I suspect your real hook or pitch is the rogue magician’s plot. So why not focus more heavily on that. I’m not sure if we need to know Dalin and Finneas’s history, but I do know we need to know what they are battling. I want to know more about the magician’s plot and how Finneas and Dalin are involved and why they have to stop it. I want to know what’s actually happening, not what’s happened.

Okay, readers, it’s up to you now (and no slacking off on me!). . . .


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How Long to Wait for a Response

I'm new to your blog and hope this is not an inappropriate question. At a small conference I met with an editor and pitched my psychological thriller. She spent extra time with me and said if I could do what I was attempting, I was a ‘friggin’ genius’—her words, not mine. She requested a full as soon as it was polished. Several pubbed authors have critiqued it and also have given it high praise. I sent it off on July 5, 2007. Haven’t heard a thing. I’m hoping that means that she’s considering publishing it. Does it usually take this long? Should I make contact? Am I just being too anxious? I'd like to start querying agents but I don't know if I should at this point.

First let me welcome you to the blog and thank you for your question. There are no stupid questions and everything is appropriate. Especially since I will always make sure your questions remain anonymous.

I’m going to say it fairly simply: start querying agents now!!! And by now I mean yesterday. If you really do have an editor who is that excited and that interested in your book, then what are you waiting for? Get more people interested and excited. The truth is that July was a long time ago and anyone who really was as excited as she seemed be be would have responded within months, weeks, or even days. A lot of time has gone by, and at this point it just doesn’t seem that she’s as excited as she once was. Who knows why that is. Maybe her tastes have changed, maybe the direction of the publishing program at her house has changed, or maybe she is just bogged down and hasn’t gotten to it yet. Whatever it is, you cannot put your career on hold because one person, at one time, expressed enthusiasm. Whenever you get that kind of response from an agent or an editor you should absolutely be excited and get your work out, but you should also be looking for others who might be just as excited, or in this case, more so.

Let me ask you a question . . . are you looking to get published or are you looking to get published in the best possible way? If it’s the latter, then you want an agent on your side. Someone who can not only negotiate an amazing contract when the time comes, but who can also ensure that as many publishers see the book as possible and that you get sold to the one who can best move your career forward. Whether it’s this editor or not is yet to be determined, but even if she calls with an offer tomorrow, it serves you best to have an agent there to help you manage the terrain.

And last, I would definitely make contact with the editor. Let her know that you’re still alive and anxious to hear what she thinks. And then get querying.

Congratulations on having an idea that clearly has someone’s attention, but there’s no reason to pin everything on one editor or one agent. Life is too short and she’s already taken too long for someone who is supposedly so enthusiastic. Find an agent now who is excited enough to want to take your book to as many editors as possible and negotiate you the best deal.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pitch Critiques Round 18

Here we go again . . . Perfecting Your Pitch.

101. Ello
Private George Waterson saves the life of his enemy Captain Shiro Kawamoto on the Bataan Peninsula. Two years later, his act of compassion is returned when he finds himself a POW in a prison camp run by the same Captain. For Kawamoto, no amount of assistance he can provide will repay the debt he owes the young American, until he is asked to fulfill a promise that will satisfy his debt, but at the price of his family honor. Sixty years later, Kawamoto’s prison journal is discovered by his granddaughter, Naomi, who learns of her true heritage. It leads her to George, still fighting the demons of the past, and shocked with the arrival of a granddaughter he never knew he had. She is a reminder of the one betrayal he could never forgive himself. But in Naomi and the revelations of the journal, George is able to find redemption.

Interesting. Very interesting. . . . I have to say that I think based on all of my previous advice I really shouldn’t like this. Instead I should be telling you that you don’t have enough details, that it’s too general and too much backstory. I do like it though. Would I request it? I might, but probably not. For one, it’s not my type of book, but that’s something different. Okay, here’s what I think. I think you have a strong pitch here. You clearly give us an idea of what George’s demons might be and you intrigue us with your writing. I think that while you could tighten it a little, you ultimately have a winner.

102. anon 8:21
DAMAGED GOODS is about a ten year old boy who kills his friend.

TWIN NO MORE focuses on Morgan’s struggle to cope with her twin brother’s suicide.

I had read a lot of critiques by the time I got to this and I think I was a little cranky. My concern here is that this is not a pitch. Neither of these are pitches. These are short one-line descriptions of your books. Remember, a pitch is just as important as your book, or should be treated as such. Agents and editors are in this business to sell books and to find books that will sell. To them it’s a business, and if you’re going to pitch you need to remember that you are entering the business world. You need to really put effort into your pitch. Neither of these is intriguing and neither really tells me anything about the books that would make me either want to read them or think they're different from the millions of books out there. My question is, of course: What makes both of these books stand out? A teen coping with suicide is a common plot line. What makes this book different from those? A ten-year-old boy who kills is friend has a little more potential to be different, but doesn’t jump out to me as something that really is. In other words, it feels like a book that’s been done a million times before, and whether it has or hasn’t, feeling that way is enough to garner a rejection.

103. anon 8:54
Astrologer Di Darwin solves with a timed horoscope chart the murder of an old woman who chokes to death on a boiled Maine Lobster.

Susie's amateur sleuth mystery.

The idea of an astrologer amateur sleuth interests me, but the writing would ultimately result in a rejection. Although the boiled Maine Lobster sounds hysterical, so I might consider it again. Nope, I would reject. Stick to the facts: “Astrologer Di Darwin has done a lot of charts in her day, but never has she been called upon to chart a dead woman, not until FiFi McGee is found dead with Di’s best friend as the only suspect.”

104. NancyN
Jill Clemmons hasn't set foot in Adams Grove since she and Ken Malloy split up and she ran away to Savannah. She wouldn't be back now either if it weren't to bury her grandmother, Pearl, who raised her in the small town. In a final matchmaking attempt Pearl leaves her estate to them jointly.

But someone else is interested in that estate too and is willing to stop at nothing in search of a treasure of precious pearls supposedly hidden there years ago. Jill and Ken must put the past behind them as they fight for their lives to uncover who is behind the danger and why.

Unfortunately this is a very common storyline. All too often we’ve seen the tale of matchmaking attempts from beyond the grave. So if that is how you’re going to get your hero and heroine into the same room, my question is: What makes this stand apart from those other books? My concern here isn’t so much your pitch, but that the story doesn’t grab me. If I’m just looking at the pitch, however, I think you could focus more on the treasure hunt and keeping themselves alive. If you’re writing a book of suspense you need to focus on suspense.

105. anon. 4:40
Princess Adeline is determined to become a real fairy tale princess, including handsome prince, heroic rescue and happily-ever-after. But, since nothing interesting ever happens to princesses from stable, two-parent families, Princess Adeline offs her parents, flees the kingdom, and seeks out deadly peril in order to become a proper Damsel In Distress. Unfortunately, the dragon won’t eat her, the wicked witch refuses to cast an evil spell, the woodcutter preemptively removes her from the belly of the Big Bad Wolf and Adeline finds she must rescue herself from the giant when no one bothers to show up. This isn’t how it happens in the storybooks!

I think this is a great pitch. It’s so not my type of book since I have no idea what I’d do with it, but I like it. It was funny, it told me exactly what the internal and external conflict are, and it grabbed my attention. Most of all, though, I had a reaction to it. I actually laughed. A good sign when you can make an agent actually react. Great pitch.

106. Theresa
Silent Echoes, a contemporary Kramer versus Kramer story, set in a wealthy Chicago suburb, is about two young lovers from dysfunctional families rising above youthful mistakes and tragedies to create a strong and healthy love. Catherine Whittemore Boyd will do anything to regain custody of her young son; even reconcile with the husband accused of killing their son’s twin.

My question to you is what is this book about? Is it about a young couple rising above youthful mistakes? Because if it is, that’s not a book that’s probably going to grab a lot of attention from readers. Or is it a book about a woman who will do anything to regain custody of her child, including reconciling with the husband accused of murdering their son’s twin? Because that’s a book. I want to know whether or not he admits he killed the son and if she believes he did it, and I think it’s important in the pitch to allude to why she doesn’t currently have custody. And I want to know what happens next (to a degree). Give this a little more oomph. “Catherine Whittemore Boyd lost custody of her only surviving child after.... Desperate to get her son back, Catherine will do whatever it takes, even reconcile with the husband she thinks killed her child. In a desperate battle....” Something more along those lines will make this stronger.

107. anon 12:20
A lady entrepreneur falls in love with a reclusive surgeon amid industrial intrigue and underworld power struggles. Gianna Donnatelli is a spirited entrepreneur whose two goals are to make a success of her new company, and to aid the underprivileged in the Detroit ghettos. Joe Scarfili is a brilliant surgeon who has isolated himself in a mansion in Grosse Pointe and immersed himself in work since the gang-related murder of his wife. When Gianna is hurt in a strange burglary, Joe, as a close friend of the family, reluctantly assumes the role of her protector. Suddenly everything becomes dangerous and personal.

I think you’re trying to squeeze too much into the pitch. Does it matter to the story that she’s an entrepreneur? Why does Joe have to become her protector? And if you’re going to try to entice me with industrial intrigue and underworld power struggles, then you need to show those in the pitch. What happens to make this dangerous and personal? So far I see an inkling of the possibility of conflict, but I don’t see the actual conflict.

108. JulieWeathers
The king is missing. The infant prince is being poisoned. Guards loyal to the king are systematically being destroyed or exiled. It isn't a good time for a fledgling girl to join the elite Horse Guards, the most loyal of the king's troops. Especially a girl who has caught the eye of a pirate, a demon and the demon caller.

What’s really going on in this story? Is the story about the king and all of his troubles or is it about a girl, a demon, and a demon caller? I have a feeling the king is really backstory, that the true story involves the girl and her desire to join the troops. And why is it a bad time? Wouldn’t a kingdom in distress need as much help as possible? And what does the demon have to do with all of this, or the demon caller? That’s what interests me most. Really I want to know more about the demon caller.

Okay, readers, it’s up to you now. . . .


Monday, January 14, 2008

Publishing: A Leap of Faith

My first novel was published in July of last year and I've almost completed a second manuscript, with a third and a fourth already planned. Now, my dilemma: previous publisher has basically given the green light to send this new ms. their way, but I'm looking to both (a) improve marketability by going with a more "popular" publisher and (b) begin a more professional phase as a writer, producing at least two works a year, etc. I think this new novel, a period-piece crime drama, is the perfect vehicle with which to make this transition.

Any advice?

Writing is a wonderful expression of your creativity, thoughts, and feelings, but getting published is truly a leap of faith. The minute an author decides to enter the publishing world—by seeking an agent or a publisher—she takes a leap of faith that her work is good enough to compete not only with everyone else looking for an agent, but also with the thousands of published authors already on shelves. You’ve already taken that leap to find and retain a publisher, and now it’s up to you to decide if you’re ready for a next, bigger step.

My advice would be to put your previous publisher on hold and start querying agents the minute you have a partial of your next work (even if you are published by a small publisher you won’t necessarily need a full to grab an agent at this point). Include reviews of your published work with your package, and of course everything about your book should knock their socks off.

The only time I would solidly advise that you stay with the previous publisher, no matter how small, is if you are trying to continue a series. It’s extremely difficult, almost impossible, to move a series midstream to another publisher (unless you’re a bestselling author, of course).

It sounds to me like you’re ready to take that jump, you’re just afraid it will be a mistake. Trying, no matter whether you achieve the results you thought you wanted, is never a mistake. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen? You end up going back and selling the work to your original publisher. It sounds like you’d be more disappointed if you didn’t try than if you tried and failed.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Pitch Critiques Round 17

What have I done to myself? I apologize if these are getting tedious, but I feel the need to get to everyone’s now. It’s only fair. I only ask that you, the readers, and especially those of you who received a critique, continue to hang in there and voice your own opinions. And if you’ve rewritten, don’t be afraid to post and hear what others say. I think they’ll be happy to help. Here’s the original post: Perfecting Your Pitch.

96. anon 3:59
A heterosexual teenager in an all boy’s school faces a moral meltdown when he becomes attracted to a classmate only to later discover the classmate is a girl masquerading while she hides out from killers.

Okay, folks, help me out here, but hasn’t this been done in more than one movie? It sounds like a movie I remember seeing as a teen and a more recent one starring Amanda Bynes. Either way, I’m not sure the fact that a heterosexual boy thinks he’s having feelings for another boy only to discover it’s a girl is enough. At least not different enough. The hiding out from killers could work, but again, my concern is this sounds too familiar. Granted, I’m not an expert in YA, but that would be why I would reject it.

97. anon 4:01
She dates, she kills, she’s miserable.

Meet Livia, a five-foot-three contract killer whose boyfriend, Evan, has just left her for another woman. Hurt, confused and angry, Livia makes a go of continuing on in the life she made for herself. Which would be easier if her ex wasn’t her boss, too. Also not helping is James, her teacher of all things violent and partner. It’s James that gives her the rules to kill by and the ultimately the final push Livia needs to let Evan go, once and for all.

Your first line of your paragraph is really great. I love the idea of a heroine who is a contract killer and think that has potential to be really interesting. Your first pitch line, though, “She dates, she kills, she’s miserable,” doesn’t have the effect I think you want it to have. Most would say of course, especially since most think that both dating and killing are miserable jobs. My problem with your pitch is that you grab me with the fact that your heroine is a contract killer, but the rest sounds very ho-hum. Nothing special or cool, but just another average love story. And of course my bigger concern is that your book has the same problems.

98. Jess
Private Anna Lowry always made her father proud, so now she'll do anything to fulfill his dying wish of ending the galatic war for independence, and that means traveling across the galaxy in search of an item that might not exist and battling her traitorous captain to get it. "The Delandar Tapestry" is complete at 80,000 words.

It doesn’t grab me. I think you have potential, but we need to dig a little deeper in the story to bring that potential out. Get to the heart of the battle and the travel. And tells us what she’s really looking for. The truth is that you aren’t really giving me any of her conflict.

99. Beth-etc
(One sentence)
The computer found Mr. Perfect; does it matter that she lied?

(Four sentences)
Rose is undercover for a travel magazine on the inaugural voyage of the CyberMatches Singles Cruise. She exaggerates the data on her computer survey so her CandiDates will be diverse. The computer pairs Rose with Scott, the hot genius who wrote the CyberMatches software and is convinced of its infallibity. How will Rose tell her dream guy that their match is based on a lie?

I wish I had better news. Your one sentence interests me, but in the end I’m afraid I don’t feel this is different enough. In fact, since the popularity of online dating I feel this is a story I’ve seen a hundred times before. In the end it seems to me that you don’t have enough conflict. A man and a woman and a misunderstanding over a dating survey is not going to be enough to carry any story. What else is going on to make this stand out? Are there diamond smugglers on the ship? Does it sink? Is her husband also with her? What else makes this book more than just a boy meets girl, boy hates girl, boy loves girl story?

100. Ana
What if a woman became a vigilante after the assassination of her husband, but every murder looked like an accident?

(Title) is a psychological thriller about a pseudo-sheltered, solitary widow who struggles to protect the people she loves from physical harm amidst a civilian world of ineffective law enforcement and unverifiable threats. As she adopts a secret life of creating accidents to remove dangerous people from the lives of her loved ones, the secrets that protect everyone else threaten to destroy her. Vigilante justice creates new threats, and she must keep a little girl safe while trying to find peace for her own soul. But she’s not the only one who would do anything to keep someone safe.

Oh, sweet Ana. Pitch 100. I’ve been working to get to you for weeks.

Your first line grabs me, but I think you could skip the last section. I would assume that she makes each murder look like an accident, otherwise she isn’t going to get too far on her mission. I like this concept, but my first concern when reading your pitch is that the book is going to be overwritten. “(Title) is a psychological thriller about a pseudo-sheltered, solitary widow who struggles to protect the people she loves from physical harm amidst a civilian world of ineffective law enforcement and unverifiable threats.” Wouldn’t it be better just to say: “(Title) is a psychological thriller about a sheltered, solitary widow struggling to protect those she loves. After the assassination of her husband, Tillie goes on a murderous rampage all in the name of vigilante justice. But now....”? And here’s where you tell us your character’s real conflict. What is she really facing and what is she really up against?

Okay, readers, it’s up to you now (and no slacking off on me!). . . .


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Questions Not to Ask an Agent

Or maybe I should have titled this Not Bothering to Ask an Agent Questions . . .

As you've been talking a bit about questions clients ask of agents...

Would you be upset if a potential client signed up with you WITHOUT asking any questions? I've done my research, I know which agents I want, and if one of them asks me to be a client, I'd sign immediately (unless I had other agents waiting--of course I'd contact them first and withdraw consideration). Anyway, if an agent offers a contract, I don't really think I'm going to ask that many questions. Would that actually put you off a bit?

In fact I have had a couple of clients sign without asking any questions and it didn’t concern me at all.

BookEnds has a very public profile. With the blog, the Web site, membership in RWA, AAR, and MWA, and attendance at close to 20 conferences a year, it’s not hard to meet one of us personally or find out a lot about us by asking around. Therefore, if you’ve done your research and know what you want, feel free to sign. I only have one question that I’d ask you: While you might know the agent’s reputation, do you know whether or not you’d work well together?

Remember, the true goal when finding an agent is not just to find someone reputable, but to find someone who you feel can really work the best for you and your career, and as all agents can attest to, what is right for one author might not be right for another. And that’s why I would encourage you to ask at least some questions, to get a feel for whether or not you think the relationship is one that would work.

Let’s ask the readers, though. For those of you who signed without asking questions, what sort of knowledge did you have of the agent to make the decision comfortable for you? And for others, what suggestions do you have for trying to figure out if the relationship is right?


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Pitch Critiques Round 16

Moving right along. . . . Here’s the original post: Perfecting Your Pitch.

90. patg
In the summer of 2001, branch manager for a national chain of travel agencies, Prudence Peters’ week begins with a demotion and hears that her office faces closure. By the end of the week one of Pru’s agents is fired and the supervisor who fired her is murdered. Suggestions of a postal employee puts all the offices in Pru’s state at risk of closure to protect the company’s reputation, so Pru sets out to find the missing agent. What she finds is devious company agendas, peers with too many motives and more murder.

This isn’t actually such a bad pitch, but it also doesn’t inspire me. In other words, I would not request this. I suspect you’re going for the amateur sleuth market. The problem is that you don’t have a hook. There’s nothing here to inspire anyone besides a voracious mystery reader to pick up your book. A branch manager for a chain of travel agencies? Not that exciting. What would be more exciting is someone who led a tour group similar to our own Livia Washburn’s Booked for Travel mystery series—a literary tour travel series—that’s something with a hook. I also think you could still tighten things a little more. Get to the heart of the story faster and try not to get bogged down in backstory.

91. Rick Graydon
Can Tricky Dick and Swivel Hips save the world? They'll have to, after Elvis shows up at the White House to accept an F.B.I. crime fighting award from President Richard Nixon and a famous anti-war activist shows up dead in the Lincoln bedroom. The body is just the first domino to fall. The last may be civilization itself. President and rock star are forced to team up and trade places. Will Elvis sing the right tune over the Moscow hot line? Can Dick do "Hound Dog?" If not the world faces Armageddon, J. Edgar Hoover in a mini-skirt, or worse.

Ohmygoodness! Hilarious. I would absolutely request this. I’m not sure exactly what it is or what I would do with it, but I would need to see it. The opening line is intriguing, the hook is there—you can’t go wrong with Elvis and Nixon, and of course we see the conflict—the President and the rock star must team up to save the world. In the end you’ve given me exactly what I need to know, you have a story, and I know you can write, so I’m willing to give this a shot because you’ve grabbed my interest enough to make me want to see more, and that’s the point of a pitch. My one thought on this is that I’m not sure you have a marketable book, but I would want to see more.

92. D. Robert Pease
Fantasy Novel: Crimson Swarm

Aberthuil Nauile doesn’t know that he once led legions in a war that raged since the dawn of time, against an enemy that cannot be killed. He doesn’t know that he rode on a dragon with his father, and saw his mother die while giving birth to him. He doesn’t know that he once saved his great, great, great grandfather by defeating the black enemy on the slopes of a volcano. Aberthuil doesn’t know that he beheld the creation of the world, as his grandfather eight generations before took the planet ravaged by a war of the gods and began anew. All he knows is that he awoke in a coffin in a tomb, and now the whole world thinks he is their savior. All he really wants to know is his name, and why he keeps hearing voices in his head.

Wow! Am I getting soft or is this really two good pitches in a row? Of course now I’m concerned that my judgment is skewed. Maybe I am getting soft. But no, this is good. This grabs my interest. While normally I might say a pitch like this is backstory, it’s not when it’s world building. I clearly see who Aberthuil is and what his conflict is. While he's sure it might be the voices in his head, his true conflict is the story of the life he doesn’t remember. Very, very cool.

93. Edith
- Classic Romance with a Twist -

You never have a chance to alter your destiny. Morgan Ashton is given this chance to go back in time to fall in love with the right man. Two handsome and rakish men fight for her attention, each one having their own way to seduce the outspoken Ashton. As soon as she thinks she has made her choice, her love and her heart demand the truth. But will she be able to discover this truth before her time is up?

You conflict yourself right off the bat, which is a problem. If you never have a chance to alter your destiny, how come Morgan Ashton does? I think you’ll need to reword that. In the end, though, I find this confusing. I think it’s a case of you being too vague. Does she really travel in time, and what do you mean that “her love and her heart demand the truth”? Get more specifically to the point. Is the entire book about choosing between the two men? If not, what else is going on to make the story stand out and be different?

94. poor mouse
A god chooses Norida's ruler, but the young commoner he made Queen doesn't have leadership experience and knows very little about the conditions of the land she now rules. Worse, her high ministers work subtly to keep her isolated and ignorant so that they can manipulate her into doing their will. Did their god pick a ruler destined to fail? Or will those "failings" be the key to exposing the traitors within her government and surviving long enough to bring them to justice?

Hmmm. Is the story about the god or the Queen? If it’s about the Queen, let’s make it more about the Queen and her conflicts. I would suggest you eliminate the questions. I think that softens your message. Making them statements makes them more a conflict: “Queen Matilda wonders why the god should have chosen her as ruler of Norida. She knows very little of the conditions of the land she now rules and every decision she makes seems to mark her a failure....” And then we’ll need a little more from you about what’s happening in the land that she is leading.

95. Shaun
The year is 1959, racism is impacted in society, and Sara Jane Lawrence is missing. When Detective Sergeant John McCourt takes over the investigation of the missing biracial girl, he finds his suspect's journal. Spellbound, as he reads, he finds himself reliving the past few months through the eyes of his suspect, and ultimately finds the bittersweet truth of what happened to Sara Jane.

Warning: The misuse of “is impacted” instead of “has impacted” could warrant a rejection from me. I understand typos happen and can forgive some in the book. But when it’s a clear grammatical error in a one-page query I will worry. It gives me the impression that your book is not going to be well written. A couple of thoughts here. I love the idea of a detective tracking a missing biracial girl in a racist society. For some reason it sounds very Mystic River (although it’s not even close) to me. I immediately think it’s going to be dark, gritty, full of tension and with very, very compelling characters. In other words, the idea grabs me. The writing and overall execution though would force a rejection. Based on your pitch it sounds to me like the entire investigation is done by reading a journal. No one wants to read an entire book (especially a thriller) that’s simply journal entries. The writing also feels sparse to me and I know that’s going to confuse some, but you can write a very short and compelling pitch without making it sound sparse. This sounded sparse, like not enough was really going to be happening.

Okay, readers, it’s up to you now (and no slacking off on me!). . . .