Welcome to the Pitch Wars Workshops with some of our amazing past and 2021 mentors. From a lottery drawing, we selected writers to receive a query and first page critique from one of our mentors. We’ll be posting some of the critiques leading up to the Pitch Wars submission window. Our hope is that these samples will help you in shining up your query and first page.
We appreciate our mentors for generously dedicating their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. Our comments are set to moderate, and we will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones before approving them.
Next up we have:
Pitch Wars Mentor Kiana Krystle
Kiana Krystle is an Asian American author with a love for lush, whimsical prose and fairytales. Over the past year, Kiana has held an editorial internship at North Star Editions and is a literary fellow at BookEnds Literary under the mentorship of Emily Forney. She will soon be pursuing a marketing mentorship at Scholastic Books. Kiana loves all things cottagecore, sea themed, and romance. Her debut novel is scheduled to announce soon.
Category: Young Adult Fantasy
Dear [first name/full name/salutation + last name (use best fit for tone of agent/publisher’s web page)]
After reading over your Manuscript Wish List and noting your interest in [state specific interest], I thought my novel, [TITLE], a YA fantasy of 90,000 words, could be what you are looking for. [I love that you opened this way, which is my preferred method of opening too. It immediately establishes that you researched the agent and pitches the story in a way where they know exactly what they’re getting before reading the query. However, it would be great to move your comp titles here too, which shows your book’s marketability and helps establish familiar elements early on.]
Lottie needs a friend. Her life as a student is over. All she has is Payge; the orc who got her into this in the first place. [What exactly did Payge get Lottie into? It’s great that you’re establishing who Lottie is and what she wants, but you can increase the stakes here by specifically telling us how Lottie’s life is over, and how Payge ruined it.] Payge’s owner [Who is Payge’s owner, and how are they relevant to this situation?] has a job for Lottie. A simple job really. Lie to her friends, cheat them, steal from them. A job she has do now, if she wants to live. Because Payge’s owner has a rival who would see Lottie dead first. [These events all feel a bit disjointed from one another, which can be improved by establishing who exactly Payge is and how they influence Lottie’s life. More so, why exactly does Lottie have to steal and cheat her friends, and how does this benefit Payge’s owner? Additionally, why does Payge’s rival want Lottie dead if she doesn’t complete this job? Make sure to find a way to connect the dots so all of these events feel cohesive and reactionary.]
The student and the orc. They both want their freedom, [Freedom from what? I think your query could use more backstory for the central plot to make sense. What do Lottie and Payge want, and how are their fears preventing them from getting it?] but first they must find their friendship on a journey between the worlds [What worlds? What world are they even in now? The world building can ultimately be more fleshed out so we understand where exactly your story takes place and how it affects the plot.] that are only a step away from Lottie’s own.
[TITLE] blends urban, contemporary and portal fantasy, explores the enduring nature of friendship and stands close to the border with science-fiction. [You don’t want your pitch to seem overwhelming by adding too many elements. Urban, contemporary, and portal fantasy are all completely different genres, and agents want to make sure you know your market. I would try to pitch it as a blend of portal fantasy and science-fiction to keep it more concise.] I believe it may have cross-over potential with the adult market. [To sound more confident, you can simply say “It has a crossover appeal with the adult market.”] In terms of the plot and main character, it shares some similarity with QUEEN OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen or UPROOTED by Naomi Novik. [This whole paragraph should be moved to your opening paragraph.]
[TITLE] is my first novel. My previous publishing credits are limited to short stories, the most recent appearing in the anthology, “Judge Fear’s Big Day Out and Other Stories,” (Abaddon Books, November 2020).
Thank you for taking the time to consider my work and I look forward to hearing from you.
[Great start to your query! While the foundation is there, the pitch can be fleshed out by adding concrete details so the reader has a better understanding of your plot, world building, and stakes. Best of luck!]
Mr Steals Books
Lottie wasn’t sure where she was going but that suited her fine. The afternoon had surrendered to the evening and darkness was gathering over the city as she crossed from the new town into the old. She strode on, turning one corner after another, until she stood at the entrance to a narrow lane. No-one walked this lane. The few shops she could see, dotted between anonymous doorways, were all closed. Digging in her pocket, she drew out the postcard she had found on the doormat of her flat that morning.
The cream-coloured card was embossed with three lines of text. “Mr Steals Books,” it said. “Rare and unusual.” And an address, “Gallowgate Lane.” [Your opening line says that Lottie wasn’t sure where she was going, but this line here implies she had a destination in mind this whole time. I would consider revising your opening sentence to avoid any confusion.]
Lottie held the card up so she could compare it with the street sign above her. She gave it a satisfied smile. “Got you.”
The bookshop, she figured, was a lost cause. Probably closed by now. But this lane should lead to the Grass Market. [What is at the Grass Market and why does she want to go there?] Eventually. Find a cafe, have a hot chocolate, chill out for a bit and watch the people go by …
She glanced round, a flush creeping up her cheeks. Did anyone see me standing here like a dumpling? Get a grip, girl. Okay, supposing it doesn’t take me to the Grass Market? Then I just keep turning left, that’ll take me west. I’ll get there. Or I can turn back. She smiled to herself. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. [This is great start, but can be improved even more by establishing who Lottie is, what her mission is, and how she is going to get there. We want to know your character’s intentions from the first page, which establishes their agency and footing in the story. Thank you for sharing your words with me! Best of luck to you on your journey.]