Monday, April 30, 2018

Pitch me your book results

This was fun!
Do you want to do it again?

I read through all the entries a couple times to make sure that I didn't overlook something cause I was cranky or tired.

I'm posting ONLY the ones that caught my eye. I'm not critting any of the others cause I think this is too early to start chomping on y'all.

However ... next time!!!

Also, I think we need to increase the word count to 30, and have you list category or genre. Let me know what you think.

And remember, a pitch is NOT NOT NOT a sense of your entire novel. It's an enticement to read. It's the sample bite of something at the grocery store, not the full meal.

Here are the ones I noticed:


Saving his friend cost Prok his future. Saving the world may cost him his friend.

I really like this one. It sets up a nice dichotomy.

french sojourn

Perfect fall-guy?
He’s after them, now.

Enter a stunning Judge, because convictions matter.

I'd cut the last two sentences.

I'd cut the "stunning" cause as you regular readers know, describing women by how they look drives me bonkers. And "because convictions matter" is probably clever but there's not enough context to know why.

William Whitaker

Hollywood agent is tasked by God to save the world. Love thy neighbor or else.

Again, a nice dichotomy.
I'd put in ellipses:  Love thy neighbor ... or else.

Enchanted prince.


By her.

Now she’ll rescue him, whether he wants saving or not.

This could even be trimmed to "she’ll rescue him, whether he wants saving or not. " and be effective.

If it weren’t for the car wreck, Jonny could have kept pretending he was fine.

Again, here we have a sense of something awry. It makes us wonder what's going on. That's the essence of enticement.

Claire Bowbrow
Most yaks don’t dream of opera stardom. But most yaks are not…ARLETTE!
This is just plain hilarious, and thus, engages my interest.
I'm really hoping this a book for kids.

Cecila Ortiz Luna

Miguel suspects psychologist Emily committed a perfect murder.
Emily believes she conducted a perfect experiment.
This is, again, a nice dichotomy.

Julie Weathers
When war comes calling, Lorena has to make a decision . . . sometimes spies wear crinolines.

I'd start with spies wear crinolines, and work in what kind of danger she faces or what choice she had to make (I think this suffered from the word count limit.)

Brenda Lynn
Domestic suspense with a wilderness twist: a teenager held captive by his father.
This didn't grab me but I recognized the book (with some help from the poster's name!) and the query letter that I have on file.

This is from Brenda's query to me:

Bear vs Dog. Son vs father.
Notice that it sets up conflict. And I think that's the essence of a good pitch. If there's conflict, there's tension. If there's tension I'm interested.

(I should mention I requested her novel!)

Alina Sergachov

A girl gets mistaken for an alien. And accused of violating the Statute of Secrecy.
I get mistaken for a human being all too often, so I'm interested in this one. I'm really hoping this is middle grade, cause I think it sounds fun.

Luralee Kiesel

Altered Universe
Time travel
Love story

Paranormal clones


I'd cut everything but the last line, which I think is pretty funny.

And PS, some housekeeping: if you want me to answer a question on the blog, you have to ask via email. Don't post questions that are off-topic on the blog comment trail. I'll delete it. (of course you're worried I mean you. Go look at the comment column and most of you will see you're worried for nothing.)


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much, Janet! (And yes, it's MG)
It was really fun and I would love to do it again. Increasing the word count to 30 would make it a bit easier, and we should definitely list category or genre for clarity. Thanks!
P.S. There's a typo: you wrote "now" instead of "know" in "as you regular readers now, describing women by how they look drives me bonkers."

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Yes, let's do it again.

I was scared to read the blog this morning because after I posted...ya know...I thought my pitch could read better.

Janet's comments are helpful in showing what she's looking for. The word dichotomy came up a lot. Opposing forces. So helpful. Thank you!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I loved doing this... it helped me tweak my query and focus in on the stakes. Thank you. And yes! Let's do it again.

Congratulations to everyone who caught the eye of The Shark.

Claire, YAY!

Anonymous said...

I don't think it was me this time! Aw yeah, personal growth.

Yes, let's please do it again, and I like the idea of increasing word count. As a reader and a writer, not an agent, I could take or leave the category/genre mention. Because I'm not worried about who ELSE would buy this book; only me. So, for that one, I'll bow to what you would prefer, Your Sharkliness.

Basically all the ones that caught your eye also caught mine. I had a good time sharing the really eye-catching ones with some friends and chatting about what kind of book it might be, and whether or not we'd read it.

S.P. Bowers said...

Increased word count and genre would be nice, though this was a fun exercise. Can't wait to do it again.

Julie Weathers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dena Pawling said...

This was very enlightening. Yes, increase to 30 words with category/genre. And definitely do it again!

Julie Weathers said...

Thirty words would and genre, indeed, be a lot better.

I knew Arlette would make it. That's hilarious. It reminds me of a movie my grandsons watch over and over and over about a music competition for animals. It's very cute.

I wondered if Hank's "stunning judge" would merit a comment. Of course, me being me, I immediately went to the story about the judge who ordered a prisoner in his court to be tazed several times because he wouldn't answer a question.

Yes, everyone was fired and or disciplined.

I liked William Whitaker's, but wondered how it would go. It could be a great book/movie done well.

Cecilia is kind of a perfect dichotomy and I figured it would be intriguing.

There were so many that caught my eye, to be honest. It's a good thing I'm not an agent.

I still like Gigi's and Elissa's. BrendaLynn did catch my eye because that has a lot of potential. There were some kidnappings in the north country that made me think about this and it could be pretty daunting. I'd hole up in Lincoln, Montana in the summertime if I were rich. It would be perfect for disappearing, as the Unabomber knew.

As for mine, 100% correct. That's going to be the problem with the query also.

Jill Warner said...

More words would be fabulous! I kept getting stuck at 16 with my preferred piece.

These pitches are great!

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Okay, I'm honest, this one hurt. Because: I had done my best, still couldn't improve it, but nobody in all the comments seemed to have been intrigued.

Good exercise, but it got to me. So I even cried this morning. Must have a horrible book. Sigh and deciding not to do this again and go back amongst the lurkers.

I'm leaving Canada tomorrow, all is packed, so goodbye to everyone. I suppose there will be no internet on American trains and that nowhere in Europe they will have it either ;).

All the best to all Reiders :).

KariV said...

Yes!!!! A successful pitch! Thanks for the mention Janet! I'm thrilled. I really tried to focus on getting the MC, the problem, and the stakes into the pitch. This was attempt #18. 15 words was so hard, but worth it.

I'd be interested to know if there's a place for pitches in a query. I have a good working query with traditional paragraphs introducing the story, but I have seen some agents recommend opening a query with a 1 sentence hook like this pitch. Since mine presents a good dichotomy, I wonder if making this the first sentence of my query would entice agents to read on.

Regardless, I have the pitch so that's something.

I'm totally in favor of a 30w pitch with genre included. Would a genre tag not count toward WC?

Congratulations everyone! There were so many great pitches and so many great stories!

Aphra Pell said...

Don't feel bad One of Us - there were loads of people who didn't get a mention even in comments (including me!). Not getting the pitch right in 15 words doesn't reflect on the book - its a whole tricky skill in itself.

I'm all up for doing it again - and YES to 30 words. I won't say that will be easier to get right, but it will certainly be easier to get something!

Steve Forti said...

I love this, and vote for doing again with the new rules. Maybe I can be ready for that.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Thanks, Janet!

This helps a lot in overcoming imposter syndrome and a turbo boost while I do my final final really final edits on the WIP.

Congrats to everyone!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Fifteen words was challenging. I would welcome the 30-word edition with room for genre. I was so humbled that my little blurb garnered some interest in the comments yesterday. I totally get what attracted Janet to the ones she picked. Well-done all who caught the shark’s eye. The duality that shows the conflict is tough to pull off in so few words.

For myself, I am especially keen to read Julie Weather’s book. For a kid’s book, I loved the opera-singing yak. I mean, who wouldn’t? I would almost have another kid just to buy that book.

I do well in face-to-face pitches. Way better than I do in queries. I do not write down pitches ahead of time. I am obsessed with my series of books and am always happy to talk about them. I do not know why I freeze when having to write down what the book is about in query form. This exercise is helpful. It forces you to pick the draw of your book and consolidate it without wasting any words. So yes, please, let’s do this again with the new rules.

Anonymous said...

One of Us Has to Go, all you need is one yes. Nobody mentioned my pitch in the comments. But Janet liked it. You never know who's going to like it. And I agree with Aphra Pell. Not getting the pitch right in 15 words doesn't reflect on the book.

Claire Bobrow said...

Thank you, Janet, and everyone else who liked my pitch!
Yes - Arlette is a picture book. I'm about to dive back in to serious revisions after some recent, in-depth workshopping. Your encouragement has given me an extra boost :-)

I vote yes on round two. The results from round one were impressive. I can't wait to see what everyone can do with 15 more words!

Megan V said...

Great pitching everyone!
And QOTKU, I would love to see people taking a whack at pitching when they've got 30 words and genre inclusion :)

One of Us Have a good wallow, but please don't get stuck in the pit. The longer you linger in the mist and shadows, the more you convince yourself there's no way to escape.

french sojourn said...

Thank you for the exercise, it was a blast. I also appreciate your insights, and have taken a long look at my descriptors. Thank you Janet.

30 words seems so luxurious, a windfall of words it seems.

O.T. LynnRodz and her wonderful husband are down for a few nights, it's like the "Big Chill, in rural France expounding about all you wonderful Reiders and the QOTKU."

Again Thank you Janet, cheers!

Julie Weathers said...

One of Us,

There were 64 log lines and a lot of them didn't get mentions. I feel like this in the twitter pitch contests. I used to pitch what I thought were some pretty good lines and not get a lot of interest. When I queried, I had a high request rate.

Sonja blackmails long-term friend who knows this time she MUST kill Sonja. Problem: their co-dependency!

The problem with your pitch, I think, is it's a bit confusing. I had to read it a few times and I think Sonja is blackmailing her friend and her friend has to kill Sonja. BUT they are co-dependent.

So, I don't know your story, but it might be clearer if it was broken up.

Sonja blackmails a long-term friend. Sonja just signed her death sentence. Unfortunately--(I don't know what the co-dependency is.)

I hope you get internet back soon. We would miss you.

BJ Muntain said...

I missed the contest! Just a bit too late. Great work, folks!

I'd like another chance, too. A question, which you might answer if you do decide to do this again: would the genre need to be stated or simply implied?

Off topic: At The Kill Zone, Sue Colletta has offered some great online sources for writerly research, especially for mystery/thriller work. Eavesdropping on Quora

BJ Muntain said...

One of us: I'm sorry things didn't work out here for you. Don't be disappointed about a simple contest. Writing a pitch uses a different skill set than writing a novel, so it doesn't mean your book is bad. I hope you're back online in time for the next version of this contest!

Sarah said...


I was braced to be a dishonorable mention today. I almost deleted my pitch after I read everyone else's. Thank you, Janet, for the helpful comments.

Yes to another contest. 30 words feel like an embarrassment of riches.

And One of Us, you've got this.

Julie Weathers said...


"Would a genre tag not count toward WC?"

Even if it did it would be one or two words. I'm not sure what Rain Crow is. I've been told historical is not a genre. It's certainly not romance.


Thank you.

french sojourn said...

One of us, inasmuch as this is an oasis, there are dry spells...constantly. The elixir that staves off thirst are the fellow Reiders, we're here for you. Have fun in your travels, and don't let the ink dry.

Where in Europe are you going, there are quite a few of us scattered about.

Claire Bobrow said...

One of Us: I agree with Julie and BJ. Contests can feel like shouting into the void when you don't get noticed, but there are so many times I admire entries, or parts of entries, and for one reason or another, cannot or do not comment on them. I've written things I thought were great, and nada. The single biggest piece of advice I've heard about writing is: be persistent. Don't give up!

Not sure it works, but if it's helpful (16 words):
Sonja blackmails X. X must kill Sonja - no mistakes. Unless killing your co-dependent is one.

Unknown said...

Fun, and very informative. Definitely interested in doing again.

I’m still trying to understand written vs. verbal pitches. Sam Mills mentioned a similar notion in a previous comment thread regarding doing a dramtic in-person pitch. I think it would send an agent running for the hills, but I think just knowing how to pitch your story in so few words will make you better equipped to talk about it.

At dinner Saturday, one of my friends asked about my writing and I needed a lot more than 30 words, so I still have a long way to go. My pitches usually come out something like this.

Unknown said...

One of Us Has to Go I'll join the others in saying I’d hate to see you discouraged from participating. There are many books I think are interesting that weren’t mentioned by Janet or others. I also want to add I enjoyed your Writing Without Rules entry, and was excited to see what you came up with in future contests.

But if you do feel the need to go back to lurking, I understand. I lurked on the blog for a long time before I started participating (or even reading) the flash fiction contests. Way too intimidating. There was also a time when I had my first chapter critiqued and while I found most critiques helpful, there was “The Critique.” The one that made me stop writing for a while. But eventually, I found my way back. Even was able to reread The Critique and find it useful.

We all go through ups and downs, and we all handle those differently. The important thing is to keep learning, and keep fighting the good fight! (Or as I like to say, keep writing the good write!)

Karen McCoy said...

Yes, please let's do this again--I had to sit out this round because I was at a conference this past weekend. And honing a pitch is definitely a skill.

These were some great ones, too!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yee haa BRENDA LYNN !!
Good luck !

Brenda said...

This was a great exercise. The idea of distilling a novel into fifteen words really made me think about the rapid judgements agents have to make.
I’ve also realized that amateur advice needs to be tempered by instinct. I was closer to the query mark before critique. I still think Janet must have suffered a lapse in judgement in asking for the ms but I am very grateful that she got to see the draft that I wrote from my heart using only QueryShark guidelines.

CynthiaMc said...

Congrats to all who caught the Shark's attention.

Yes, let's do it again!

My favorite was the one about the cruise ship. That sounded like a great vacation book.

One of Us - safe travels. My daughter took a bus trip recently and the bus had wifi so maybe the train will too. Remember my favorite quote from Galaxy Quest - "Never give up! Never surrender!"

Anonymous said...

OH!! *lightbulb explodes* You wanted a logline! Not that I can write one of those, either, but at least now I understand what we're aiming for. Yes, 30 words would be much better and I'm up for any learning experience. Er, in terms of writing. Let's not get carried away here.

Still so impressed by those of you who "got it" and managed to pique our curiosity with so few words. Congratulations! My brain doesn't work that way -- why use 5 words when 50 will do just as well, is my motto -- so this is going to take some real effort.

One of Us, the way I look at it, getting chomped (or ignored) over here is great practice for when the book comes out and I'm going to need a very thick skin for what readers have to say (or not) about it. You only fail if you give up, so please don't do that. We'd miss you. Safe travels.

John Davis Frain said...

YES to doing this again. Because, oh my dog, I desperately need the practice. I was 0-for-25 in my attempts at 15-word brilliance.

Worse than that, while I generally match Janet in picking the standout flash fiction contests, I struck out here.

I've learned two takeaways I think--
1) Dichotomy.
2) Bite-size sample to whet the appetite, not the full meal.

Forgive me #2, that's kinda inexcusable that I needed to learn that. Just being honest. Also, I think I need to learn a bit more before the 30-word version. Tonight, I'll study.

Thank you, Janet, for this course. (I'm even enjoying the view from the remedial group.)

Brittany said...

Sad I missed it! I'm very proud of my pitch, especially because my previous manuscript was really difficult to sum up. I can do this one in six words.

Is it weird that I would totally read an adult novel about an opera-singing yak? Something with an absurdist undercurrent that never tips its hand with a wink. Just Black Swan but with opera and Natalie Portman is a yak for reasons that are never acknowledged or explained.

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Hm, okay, maybe I won't lurk then. You were all so very kind, thank you so much, I feel a lot better now (although the tears came back while reading through your nice words...).

J'irai d'abord en Grande Bretagne car mon ami est anglais. Puis on va voir qu'est-ce qui se passe concernant un travail pour lui. S'il faut encore déménager ou pas.
Sinon, j'ai habité à Paris pendant quatre ans, c'est là où j'ai appris parler français ;). Dis bonjour à ta femme, je me souviens que tu as dit ici qu'elle est française, non!?

(That was French for French sojourn ;). )

Maybe I am just having a bad phase. I'm quite stressed out, couldn't sleep at all recently, sooooo many things to sort out for moving back to Europe after 2 years in Canada, Boyfriend had a tooth infection Saturday, we had to get him to emergency dentist. Now there are bits in our apartment left to clean, stuff to give away or throw away that we can't take (we've got 7 bags, different sizes, they're all our belongings=lives, Boyfriend will carry 4, me 3, I even trained for this).

Will post some photos of America on Twitter and/or my blog. Have quite a few of your Twitter addresses, so wave back to me when I'll be waving to you. Will cross plenty of states and hop off 3 times, so at least then should have internet.

'See' you in America ☺ then and thank you again for building me back up again 😗😘💜!

Panda in Chief said...

I loved Claire's pitch about Arlette the opera singing Yak. I am imagining Arlette in a Brunhilda costume (she already has the horns!) I might draw this just for the fun of it!

literary_lottie said...

My take away from this contest is that I do not understand what a pitch is. I thought a pitch was like a logline, in that it distills your MC, their goal and the force that opposes their goal down to their very essence. And while some of these pitches certainly do meet that criteria (Arlette wants to be an opera star, but she is a yak, a species not known for their operatic talent), some definitely don't - or if they do, it's not obvious to me what the MC/goal/conflict is. But maybe this is why I'm not a literary agent.

Anyway, color me very confused.

Debra Giuffrida said...

I’m a lurker mostly but post every once in a blue moon. Hmmm. Anyway, loved this exercise! As to word count! Yes, yes! Thirty is good. Close to twitter pitch size,
Thanks Janet (QoTKU) you’ve provided us with another awesome opportunity to bend words and brains!

Joseph S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph S. said...

I was out of town last week and missed my opportunity. Good thing, too. Mine would have bean a disaster, I'm sure.

My favorite was KariV's Save-a-Friend, Lose-a-Friend.

I join others who want Claire's operatic yak to be for adults (or, rather, for young adults, like me).

Emma said...

First, thank you very much for this contest! It took me an hour and a half to distill my completely inadequate 15 words (a pitch every 30 seconds or so, so who knows how many I went through).

I'd love another go.

But I'm a bit with literary_lottie - I'm confused as to what a pitch should be. If it's not a logline structure, then what? What would, for example, be a good pitch for, as someone mentioned, "Sunburn"? Does there always need to be a twist? And if you're writing a book where the twist is part of the plot, but not something you want to reveal or even hint at, then what?

Looking forward to the next round :-)

Craig F said...

Congrats to all of you who enticed my Queen.

I know that I gained a lot with this contest and I thank my Queen for putting it on. I learned the general direction these things need to go. Applying that might still be a problem.

I saw some writers in this that seemed apprehensive, some that knew the direction but had distillation problems and some, like me, who blindly jumped in with both feet.

A thirty word model might be even more fun.

Craig F said...

One of Us: I hope you find your safe and happy place.

Luralee said...

Well this was a surprise!

I figured mine would be the example of what not to do:)

Thanks for doing this, Janet. It’s a great exercise and something I’d been avoiding. Yes! Let’s try again with 30 words.

I’d like to see mannahattamamma’s haiku pitch.

LynnRodz said...

OT: Hank and his lovely wife Cindy have a beautiful place in the South of France. If any of you are in this region, it's a must see. Btw, Hank is even funnier in person!