Monday, May 07, 2018

Pitch me your book -- results

This was a very interesting challenge! First of all, thanks to all of you who posted entries. I know some of you set alarms and got up at unholy hours to do so. And many of you were ready, but got shut out by the quick closing. Sorry about that--I wanted to keep the number of entries at a manageable level and this is the only way I know how. (suggestions for alternate plans will be much appreciated!)

Here's how I approached this. I read the PITCH first. I've noted the pitches that caught my eye.

The purpose of a pitch is to get your reader or listener to say "oh wow, I want to read that!" In other words, this is an entirely subjective process and what may not entice me, may very well entice another. You'll see that very clearly if you read the comments on yesterday's post where blog readers discuss what enticed them.

Herewith my choices for pitches that worked well:

Two women compete to become co-ruler of their country. They become friends. When the winner dies unexpectedly the runner-up takes power, only to find her friend is alive.
I like this a lot because it's clear what's at stake. There's also a big picture (ruling the country) and the little picture (the friendship.) If Cheryl pitched this book to me in an elevator I'd say "yup, I want to read that."

Mallory Love
Pitch: A letter she was never supposed to read leads a terminally ill girl to find the family she was never supposed to know and her last hope for survival.
While this is a well-used plot line, it's evergreen. If the book has a fresh, new twist I'd be all in.


When an undercover’s case against the Russian mob is compromised, she quits the NYPD and escapes upstate with her troubled son. Zero crime rate. Perfect schools. Then her boy vanishes.
Instant tension. This is a terrific pitch example.

french sojourn

George Archer’s a veteran, he fights inner demons, tilting windmills, and now, a very real oil company pursuing a dubious pipeline permit…and the psycho they’ve hired to frame him.
"he fights inner demons, tilting windmills" tells us a a lot about George in a fresh, compelling way. I'm not much on psychos as antagonists, but I'd def ask for more with this pitch.

Pitch: All he wanted was her. All she wanted was to change the world.
I like the juxtaposition here. This could describe almost any kind of book, and I'd still want to take a look.

Jennifer Rueff

Pitch: My mother disappeared when I was 13. It would take 17 years to bring my father to trial for her murder. A trial with no body, weapon, or eyewitness.
This pitch is sufficiently compelling that I checked my email to see if I'd done something stupid like pass on the query. This pitch is perfect.


An Appalachian King Lear without the armies.
I don't need to know anything more. I'd want to take a look.

Steve Stubbs

Harold finds a body in his apartment. Harold's problem is, the police think it's his. When his would-be killers find out it isn't, his problems will get worse.
The only thing I'd suggest changing is "getting worse" to something more…compelling.

I'd ask for pages from this pitch as is though, so it does work.

Mori Irvine

Pitch (under 30 words): William the Conqueror's overlords have always been men. Until now.
Who wouldn't want to read this!


Bad news? Dad's inherited a run-down farm.
Worse news? The only kid within miles is a scowling, weirdly-dressed boy.
Worst news? He’s not even alive.

Now, here's an example of something you might think you couldn't say out loud if someone asked you "what's your book about?" but you CAN. This is a really good pitch, and if I heard it in an elevator, I'd ask for pages then and there. And that's a pretty neat trick given I don't read much in this category.

Your take away here: A really effective pitch makes people want to read something they normally wouldn't.

William Darrah Whitaker

When Hollywood agent dies, he learns God ends the world if we can’t get along. He negotiates a second chance for everyone including himself. What’s God got up his sleeve?
I like the premise here. I think it sounds pretty funny. Books with God as a character are very tricky, but this pitch is solid enough to overcome those doubts.

When King Phillip IV unjustly executes her husband, 42-year-old French noblewoman Jeanne will do anything for revenge—including trading her castles for a pirate fleet. Based on a true story.
Who wouldn't want to read this!

Susan Bosscawen

Veteran airline pilot Roscoe Edwards moonlights as courier for the Partners, elite operatives who recover lost property for select clients, but he is a sociopathic thief who will betray anyone.

This is a pitch that's effective for me cause I’m always in on novels with thieves. What doesn't work well is the "sociopathic thief who will betray anyone." Sociopathic is overused to describe characters. Worse, It doesn't really tell us anything specific about the character. And "betray anyone" doesn't link back to thieves. Something more specific about what Roscoe does/plans to do/will do will help here.

After I read the entries to find the pitches I liked, I went back and read them again, this time also reading the context material.  Here are some entries with some suggested revisions. I didn't do every entry because I didn't have time, and a lot of the entries are in categories I don't actively represent, and thus may not be the right person to ask about what's enticing.

Karen McCoy:

Seeking truth amid her father’s bullying and her mother’s secrets, sixteen-year-old Priya unlocks a series of questions better left unanswered. Her friend—her love—Xander dies during a scuffle with a Phospholis city official, and King Devon orders Priya’s eye removed for witnessing Xander’s death. She’s banished to the secret underground city of Oblitus, where everyone is maimed to mark them as outsiders. To prevent war between the two cities, Priya needs to reunite as many people as she can—especially after she finds out the real reason they took her eye.

Pitch: Sixteen-year-old Priya loses an eye, and gains a new kind of sight, which she’ll need to save two cities from a war based on ignorance.

This pitch didn't entice me cause it was too abstract.

Suggested pitch revision:

Sixteen-year-old Priya is maimed and banished for witnessing her lover's death.  When she discovers the real reason she was half-blinded, impending war pits her home city against her safe haven.

(31 words, not 30, but this is just a couple drafts)  Also, it links Priya's maiming with the impending war, and I'm not sure if that's accurate from the context. 

Giving this pitch some specifics will help.

Emily Kelly-Padden
Commercial Fiction (Domestic Suspense)

Jackie Mason is running from her violent criminal ex-boss (ex-lover, ex-whatever), Cort. He thinks she stole from him. She did. She’s planning a temporary stop-over at home to pick up the inheritance from her dead parents’ estate, pay off Cort, then start over somewhere else to rebuild her life. Nothing goes to plan. At home, Jackie runs directly into the icy wall of her ex-fiancĂ© David Mann (with whom she’s still in love), and her sister Sara. Sara Mason Mann. One of them may have murdered her parents. She has a choice: investigate or keep running. Neither option is trouble-free.

The only way out of trouble means wading into a different kind.
Then the old trouble comes knocking.
Her perfect sister holds the invitation.
And twists the knife.

This pitch didn't work for me cause it's too abstract to be interesting.
The context is actually pretty interesting.

Suggested pitch revision:

During Jackie's brief stopover at home on her way to a new life (stolen cash in hand) to pick up her dead parents inheritance she runs smack dab into former love David Mann and her sister Sara. Sara Mason Mann. One of them may have murdered her parents. She has a choice: investigate or keep running. (56 words)

During Jackie's brief stopover (on her way to a new life) to pick up her dead parents inheritance she runs into former love David Mann and her sister Sara. Sara Mason Mann. One of them may have murdered her parents. She has a choice: investigate or keep running. (48 words)

On Jackie's quick visit to pick up her dead parents inheritance she runs into former love David Mann and her sister Sara. Sara Mason Mann. One of them may have murdered her parents. Her choice: investigate or keep running. (39 words)

Karen Nunes

Justice isn’t black and white, it’s blood-red. Lily runs The Center where the broken enter and avengers emerge. With help from the finest minds, she molds victims into elite teams trained to rescue, retrieve, redeem . . . and eliminate. Her dark secrets are about to come out. At six, she witnessed Sissy’s murder. At seventeen, she stole a piece of Center equipment and took revenge. Only her best friend knows the whole story, including the lives lost that night. The truth could destroy her, and bring down The Center. Letting it happen on her terms could save her trainees.

Pitch: QUANTICO meets REVENGE. In a heart-wrenching 180, Lily grows from terrified child to lethal revenge master rescuing victims and exacting justice, her way.
The pitch didn't work for me cause I don't know what Quantico and Revenge are. (My guess is televisions shows, but I'm woefully behind the times on tv. Many agents are so be careful using them as comps)

It was also too abstract to be interesting. I had no sense of plot, or choices.

Suggested revision:

Lily molds victims into elite teams to rescue, retrieve, redeem. The truth about what she did for revenge herself could destroy the good work she does.

This isn't a great pitch (in my defense, let's remember the first few drafts of something are always the worst!) but it brings more specifics, and a sense of what's at stake.

Melissa Alexander
Category: Commercial fiction
Adult or YA: Adult

After his sister’s husband is killed in a car accident, former runaway Charm Freeman returns home to find a fragile family still shadowed by long unresolved issues. Drawn in against his better judgment, he finds himself at odds with his sister over how to best help her ten-year-old son, Lucas, deal with the death of his father. Against his sister's wishes, Charm and Lucas join together to turn an injured retriever into a champion, a journey that forces the family to face the issues that still threaten to tear them apart.

A wayward traveler and his suddenly-fatherless nephew defy family and challenge their faith to turn an injured retriever into a field champion.

The pitch isn't terrible but it's not very compelling. And there's not enough about the dog!

Suggested revision:
An injured retriever brings Charm and Lucas together despite family problems as they work together to train the dog to …whatever it is they're training for.

In other words, more about the dog, less about the people.


Some things to avoid in a pitch

Alina Sergachov
Pitch: Immigrant kid gets mistaken for refugee alien + transported to space between neither this nor that. Struggles to return home. Help = tree-like creature + albino alligator allergic to tears.
+ = stuff is like text-speak.

While I don't do YA, and thus this advice should be compared to what other agents who do work in YA say, I find symbols distracting in a query. I'm not sure if + means and or then or and then..

Anything that makes me think "huh??" while reading your query is generally to be avoided.

(this was one of the pitches I liked a lot last week!)

Category: Issue Book
this isn't a real category. Avoid doing this in a pitch. Pick the category closest to what you're writing (I'm guessing YA contemporary) and let your reader suss out that there are serious issues in the book.

Category: Adult. Women’s fiction that takes domestic suspense to another level.
don't laud your own book!  That's a real no-no in queries and pitching, in that there's no way to do it without coming across as an asshat, which I know you are NOT.

I hope this was useful for all y'all.
I know I can't do this every weekend but let's try to do more of these, if you're willing.

I very much appreciate the bravery of every one of you who posted your work and let us comment on it, and learn from it.  I know this is very very hard to do. You've earned the respect of every blog reader here.


Sharyn Ekbergh said...

This was priceless.

Janet, you turn on the light in the dark attic of my brain.

Brenda said...

Congratulations all. Just wondering - could these pitches be used as book blurbs or would some be considered too revealing?

Mallory Love said...

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Janet! It was so insightful and fun to read what fellow writers are working on.

Donnaeve said...

Shoot. I missed this again since I was out of town.

And similar to Query Shark, the input on the dos/don'ts is gold.

sophistikitty said...

Thank you so much for this! It must have been an awful lot of work, and it's hugely appreciated.

Melissa Alexander said...

THANK YOU. I knew dog books sell, but I couldn't figure out how to emphasize that aspect without losing the family story. You've given me the clue-by-four I needed!

S.P. Bowers said...

Wow, this is great! Thank you so much!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Thank you so much for doing this. Writing these blurbs was challenging and so enlightening. I really enjoyed reading all these pitches and paragraphs. I loved so many of them. This was fun. Thank you again.

Julie Weathers said...


Thank you for breaking these down. Thank you for doing this. There were some very good stories and pitches, so kudos to all. It's not easy being brief and intriguing.

Sherry Howard said...

Thanks, Janet, for this! It’s so interesting to read the comments and your own favorites. I always love to learn more about pitching!

Heather Marsten said...

WOW! Thank you for your generous help on pitches. Reading the pitches and your comments will help me when it's time to write my pitch.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for doing this, Janet.

Jen said...

Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this!

Jill Warner said...

I missed this but I'm glad I got to relax this round and enjoy everyone else's pitches.

Claire Bobrow said...

Thank you, Janet, and everyone who posted. I learned a ton from this exercise. The breakdown of what caught Janet's eye and why is, as Sharyn said, priceless. Lots of food to chomp on as we keep writing and revising. All hail the efforts of the QOTKU! I'm starting to wonder if your coffee is spiked with rocket fuel...

Gigi said...

Thank you, Janet! It's so nice of you to do this!

Erin Price said...

Thank you so much for doing this, Janet. I've been lurking on your blog for a long time and had never mustered the courage to jump into the discussion. This process was really instructive, and seeing your dissect the pitches and offer feedback to improve them was really helpful. As with the Query Shark archives, seeing the process play out, and the comments from others on what works and what doesn't, helps hone my own pitching skills. And now that I've commented once, next time won't be so daunting. Thank you all for making this such a welcoming and supportive community. It is truly a gem.

Megan V said...

Thanks Janet!

These are really helpful and quite a lot of fun.

But now I've run into the agents give conflicting advice headscratcher.
A few years ago I'd written another YA Contemporary, whereupon I was informed during my round in the trenches that it was not a YA Contemporary but rather a YA Issue Book.

I think I've navigated my way through the conflict though.

Would I be correct in saying that...

Contemporary is the actual genre (or for purposes of this pitch fun, the category)
Issue book is a label to help identify that the book deals with a larger social issue. (And maybe you don't want to throw that label on your book).

RKeelan said...

This is great. I posted in the first contest, but sat this one out because I only have the one novel and couldn't think of anything different to write for my pitch. This new batch has given me some ideas for a new one. Hopefully I can give it a try in the next pitch weekend.

Richelle Elberg said...

Thanks again! This exercise, along with some agent feedback (who read fulls) has hammered home to me that my novel isn't fully-baked. The stakes aren't clear--I think the structure is off. I have a multi-protagonist story and I'm still struggling to figure out how to raise the stakes for each early enough on.....I loved trying though and the insights will be so useful as I revise. I'd definitely participate again.

shanepatrickwrites said...

Sorry I missed this one. I enjoyed participating in the 15 word pitch. Maybe next time throw a curve ball to all the East Coasters and launch at lunch time so that those of us pitching from Alaska can pitch over coffee...

CynthiaMc said...

This is my favorite thing ever.

Tried to do one of these for each of my works in progress. Harder than writing the books.

Emma said...

This really was priceless. I am about to begin querying soon and I was staring down that rabbit hole with no query written or even started. After this week, I feel I'm more than halfway there. The insights gained were invaluable. For some reason it never occurred to me to think in terms of opposites, although it's obvious now that this would show tension. I have a better knowledge now of how to structure both pitches and queries.

Thank you so much!

Jeannette said...

This was so kind. Thank you. Would love if you would do this again at some point.

Luralee said...

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity! I have been a frequent lurker here for over a year now and truly appreciate all you do to encourage and educate us hopefuls.

I’m not sure I’ll ever have the opportunity (or the courage) to pitch my Novel in person. I’m terrible at talking about my work. I’d always thought it was because I’m just not much of a talker (I tend to lurk in face-to-face conversations as well) but the process of writing out the 15&30 words helped me spot some weaknesses in the story.

So off to the drawing board.

Um... it’s not a cliche if I really do write at a drafting table...oh, it still is?

Ariela said...

Thank you very much. Practice is what I need to get better and while people can generalize on how to write a query better, you taking apart other people's pitches and making them better was priceless. It makes me want to keep rewriting mine 20 times to see how much better I can make it!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Thank you for these pointers, O QOTKU. There's much here for me to chew on.

And yes, if you've a hankering to do this again, let's do it!

Julie Weathers said...


I hesitate to be critical of another's work here, so please take this as intended. My thoughts and they're worth what you pay for them.

"Then the Towers came down. Ellen’s secretly grateful."

This immediately turned me off. A person can go through a crucible and come out stronger, hooray for that. However, when you say a character is secretly glad thousands of people died so she'd be stronger, it makes for a very unpopular viewpoint.

We had a discussion about another 9/11 story on the Litforum recently. It was important for the author to get her feelings out, but it felt like the disaster was just being used as a "look at me" ploy. The incident could have been a car wreck, a train wreck, or a mugging and had the same result.

So, I don't know. Maybe 9/11 really is pivotal in your story, but don't make your character glad it happened.

Again, my two cents.

KariV said...

Great insights! It's gold to know what works and why.

Marie McKay said...

Thanks, Janet and to those who volunteered theirpitches/paragraphs. This has been a great help.

John Davis Frain said...

This is pure gold. Props to all who submitted. Thanks to Janet for hosting. A few insights from my struggling mind:

- Surprised me how often I did NOT like the pitch, but then liked the 100-word paragraph (sorta query).
- Surprised me even more when I liked the pitch, but did NOT like the fuller version.
- Conclusion: Your work is not complete with only one of them being superior. You have to put time into both. Same with your ms and your query. Or your query and your synopsis. EVERYTHING COUNTS.
- If I ever get on an elevator with an agent, this is my plan:
Me: "Hey, how's it going, what floor do you need?"
Agent: "Four, please."
*Pretends to press "4" but really presses "40" and then moves body in front of elevator panel.*
Me: "I have a story I think you'd love if I can tell you about it on the way to your floor."
Agent: "Give it a shot."
*Goes through 1 1/2-minute pitch to explain entire story before elevator door opens on 40. Hopes for no kidnapping charge before conference concludes.*

Either that or I have to get better on these 15-word and 30-word pitches!

To answer your question, Janet, I'm VERY willing to do more of these.

Karen McCoy said...

Oh. My. Goodness. Thank. You. This is why I've always failed those Twitter pitch contests. Your revisions are spot on, and I will definitely be incorporating them!

I'm reminded of this post from Writer Unboxed--especially useful when you scroll down to the section where they mention the study done at Stanford. Pitching is definitely a "finger-tapping" issue.

Aside--I'm not sure if it was mentioned, but I loved the pitch from Raina Xin. I think this story would have a definite place in the MG market!

french sojourn said...

Thank you Janet for all your time and expertise, I am now so much more focused on the story just by fine tuning the pitch. Outstanding, again thank you.

The added bonus was having the privilege of getting to know fellow reiders and their stories that they are working on.

Cheers Hank.

Theresa said...

Major kudos to everyone who posted. It's hard putting your work out there for other people to comment on. And thanks to Janet for her excellent critiques.

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

John Davis Frain

In my rodeo suspense that is lost to the nethers, I have two Cajun cowboys who are twins. When they hit town, they find a large, swanky building and go elevator crawling. Sometimes they just ride the elevators. Most times they have some weird joke. They hold clandestine meetings in the elevators and give everyone instructions on their missions, etc.

You'd think I'd be good at elevator conversations since I wrote so many of them.


Going to the 40th floor might help. Good idea. Let us know how it works out. Or where to send bail.

Janet Reid said...

Speaking of elevators:
In my misspent youth, I won a statewide speaking contest (what a surprise, me a talker!) and was my state's delegate to the national contest. 50 high school kids in a Chicago hotel, with VERY limited adult supervision.

It will come as no surprise that we were the eptiome of terrible hotel guests. Lots of running up and down the halls, lots of screaming and carrying on.

My favorite prank though was getting on the elevators and then standing on our heads, and riding the elevators up and down for as long as we could remain....uh...vertical. Other guests' reactions to this sight were of course what we lived for, and they did not fail us.

I can't remember how long we were able to do this till the manager came to break up the fun. I fear my graduation picture is still in their Rogues' Gallery.

Julie Weathers said...

Ah, Janet.

I love that. Rogues Galleries are the best kind.

You have a spammer above if you haven't noticed.

Kate Larkindale said...

Thank you for this, Janet. It was very helpful and most illuminating. I hope you do it again.

french sojourn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richelle Elberg said...

Julie Weather--Your point is well taken. And it's what I had to cut for length that makes the difference. She's not grateful for 9/11, she's grateful that she managed to recover, to come out the other side stronger. I've been having the worst time trying to say this right. But the novel needs more work and I think when I sort out the bugs this will (hopefully!) become easier for me to express in a way that doesn't make her odious.

Anonymous said...

I will never hear "elevator pitch" quite the same way again, Janet, after hearing that story. *snort*

This was very instructive. It's hearing the "why" behind what caught your attention that's so valuable. I liked many of the same ones, but couldn't explain it the way you did. Thank you.

I would suggest, to those of you who did make a favorable impression (congratulations!), that this might be a great time to give your pages one last polish and send Janet a query.

Julie, now I want to read your Cajun cowboy twins story. I suspect this is true of every story you might want to tell. Can you please write faster?

C. D. Monson said...

Thank you, Janet. It was awesome!!!

John Davis Frain said...

Julie, if you can have one of your Cajun cowboy twins hold my feet up, delivering my elevator pitch to Janet whilst upside-down for a few floors will be distracting enough that she'll think she enjoyed the story while she was actually enjoying my misery.

My emergency room bill will be the first downside I see, but that's not a deal-breaker.

I caution fellow Reiders not to try this at home. Because if you have an elevator in your home, you don't need to worry about querying.

Julie Weathers said...


Unfortunately, Dancing Horses is gone and I have a tough time writing something again I've already written.

Sarah said...

It was a full Monday, so I'm late to the party, but thank you so much for this, Janet! It's been crazy helpful. And way to go, all you awesome Reiders! (I was gonna say pitchers, but that didn't read right...)

Claire Bobrow said...

"Speaking of elevators:..." - haha, that was not the story I expected, but I guess a shark doesn't get to be a shark without some skeletons in the elevator!

William Darrah Whitaker said...

Thanks, Janet. This was a great exercise. Although those pitches were from my first book, your positive feedback gives me hope for the second in the series.

Kitty said...

Another great learning exercise. Thanks, JR!

Casual-T said...

Many thanks for the opportunity, Janet. Even though I did not make it to the critique round (or any round, really), I much appreciate being able to learn from perusing the offerings of other writers, as well as various reactions to them... The learning never stops! (And now back to the WIP)

LynnRodz said...

OMG, Janet, what a great story! I can just picture the reaction people had to a bunch of kids riding the elevator upside down! No, I won't repeat again how you should be writing your own book...okay, I will and you should!

Thank you so much for this opportunity to see your take on all these pitches and query beginnings. Reading each one was eye opening and seeing your comments were invaluable. I think it would be a great idea to do this again and maybe open it to only those who didn't get a chance to participate this first time around. Just a thought.

Dog books sell. Hmm, I think I need to find a way to get Michel's dog, Petrus, into the query. Homeless people are mainly invisible to the masses (their words, not mine) so many of them get dogs for companionship and to be seen.

AJ Blythe said...

I'm just going to quickly say yes, please to more and add my undying gratitude to our Queen for doing this. Now I can finish cleaning up the tea I snorted reading these comments... *sigh*

Steve Stubbs said...

Many thanks for the time and effort you put into this contest. I think I can speak on behalf of all Reiders in saying it is much appreciated. Learning to write would be a much tougher slog without your support.

Also, if it is true that the devil gave you an extra eight hours a day to do stuff like this, please pass on my thanks to the devil also. I am not yet able to thank him in person, but he did a hell of a good job on that one. I had a helluva good time reading this post.

And finally, congrats to all the Reiders who posted. Very interesting to find out what everyone is working on. I am overawed by the talent displayed here.

Katelyn Y. said...

Long time lurker, but new to the comments. It was a ton of fun to participate and just reading all of the other pitches/paragraphs helped me see how mine could improve. Thanks Janet for all you do for us!

Barbara Etlin said...

Thanks again to Janet and to everyone who participated. You are all awesome writers and I look forward to reading these when they become books.

Seeing pitches through an agent's eyes was an invaluable experience.

Just Jan said...

Adding my vote of thanks to Janet for doing this. What a valuable learning experience! Bravo to those who allowed their work to be critiqued here.

Kaphri said...

I looked away for just a second and it was closed! Hope I can get in on the next one.
Thanks Janet, for all the things you do. I've learned so much from your blogs.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Janet... I'm blown away by your generosity and the time you put into this offering. Those of us who hang out here are enriched.

Reider meet-up on my Facebook page... Pics of Donna and me at her most recent event here in GA. Fun stuff. Take a peek!

Megan V said...

Also speaking of elevators...

QOTKU your story reminded me of a story of my own.

While in college, I had to partake in a class assignment that required students to break a social norm. Any social norm. And do not, absolutely do not let anyone in on what you are doing. Then write about what happened etc.

A group of us decided to 'have a slumber party' in the day the elevators around campus.

The plan was only supposed to last a couple of hours. A few of us gals threw on some PJs, gathered up blankets, pillows, etc. and then, we waited in the elevator. Then, every time the doors opened we would partake in a different traditional slumber party activity.

Man oh man, I will never forget the poor sod's face as he walked in on the ole 'light as a feather stiff as a board' routine. (for those of you who have minds in the gutter, please remove them from the gutter)

Let's just say it didn't take long for security to come around...

(And sadly, we ended up changing our social norm breaking activity as the assignment required a minimum of 2 hours).

Anonymous said...

I've learned a lot from this post... and I'm kind of embarrassed of using the "+ =" in my pitch. It is like a text-speak indeed. I guess I thought it was OK to use it because of the Janet's reaction to Luralee Kiesel's pitch a week ago: "Hero+anti-hero=mc2". And then I realized that her pitch worked because it's a reference to the speed of light! E = mc2. Oops...

Lesson learned. I should have written: "A girl gets mistaken for an alien and transported to the space between neither this nor that. A tree-like creature and an albino alligator allergic to tears help her."

That's what I like about this blog. It makes me think. And learn.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this experience! Let me add to chorus by saying this has been super mondo helpful in honing my story from the mess of plot that I currently have. But also helpful in general, reading through the other pitches/paragraphs/comments. People here are so talented. ;)

Unknown said...

Damn day job kept me busy today, Grr. But better late than a no-show.

Janet thank you for giving me the benefit of your insight. I appreciate you. We all do.

Congrat’s to all who hit it out of the park. There were many awesome pitches and queries in this batch. You all rock!

If anyone wants to brainstorm, or needs fresh eyes, I’m willing to help out. I’m no QOTKU, but, I’ve found it’s easier to spot the little things in someone else’s work. I think this is partly because we’ve looked at our own pages until our eyes bleed.


Jennifer Rueff said...

I'm a lurker of many years who finally came out of hiding to try out my pitch. Once I hit publish on my comment on Saturday, I went out of town and put it out of my mind. Needless to say, coming back to today's and yesterday's blog posts and comments was a wonderful surprise.

Thank you, Janet, for the time and effort you expend to make us all not only better writers, but better members of the publishing community. Your knowledge and insights are invaluable, and I'm not just saying so because you liked my pitch.

Thanks to those of you who mentioned that you either liked my pitch or were interested in reading my book one day. I hope that will be possible. I haven't queried yet as I'm still in the editing phase, but my query letter is ready to go when my manuscript is.

I've been hesitant to comment on this blog because of the sheer talent that hangs around this reef. I feel like I know many of you and will try to start participating instead of lurking in the shadows from now on.

AJ Blythe said...

Just read through the discussion from yesterday...

Cecelia, Sharyn, Claire, thanks for the shout out =)

EM, I've ordered "Writing Without Rules" but it isn't released in Australia until the 15th May so I have to wait another week until I get my hands on it.

Sam Hawke said...

Jennifer, welcome to the Reef! Your memoir sounds remarkable and I'd have bought it in a SHOT from either the long or the short description.

Well done everyone, and thank you Janet - what an amazingly generous thing to do. Pitching is so hard, and this kind of thing is invaluable.

Unknown said...

Just wanted to say thank you for doing this. I’m lurking & learning. :)

Steve Stubbs said...

OP: "My question is, is 'wouldn't break out at a commercial level' code for something else.....?"

I get two things from this:

Since the response is boilerplate (non-specific) it is probably a very courteous form letter. Ms. Reid is right. It says "No" and that is all it says.

If she responded almost immediately she probably stopped after a few pages. This is not a comment on what happens at page 305.

Probably all you can take from this is to look at the first ten pages (or the first twenty if you sent the first ten with the query) and see if you think they need to be punched up a bit.

It is also important to scan the whole MS for mechanical errors (grammar, spelling, punctuation, passive voice, tell and not show, etc.) This stuff has nothing to do with talent, yet can make a great story look bad. It is almost impossible to completely eliminate these kinds of issues. Meaning if you have proofed it before, it can benefit from being proofed again.

OP wrote: "I'm wondering if that means it's too slow﷓﷓which I can fix."

You are sharing an insight with us here. Maybe it is one you want to follow up on.

You can also get an opinion from someone. A form letter says "No," but does not contain suggestions for improvement.

Finally, as Ms. Reid said, "KEEP QUERYING."

Good luck.