Welcome to the Pitch Wars Workshops with some of our amazing past and 2019 mentors. From a lottery drawing, we selected writers to receive a query or first page critique from one of our mentors. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a query or first page from our lucky winners. We’ll be posting some of the critiques leading up to the submission window. Our hope is that these samples will help you all get an idea on how to shine up your query and first page.
We appreciate our mentors for giving 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, Sean Easley …
Sean Easley is the author of the middle grade fantasy adventure series THE HOTEL BETWEEN—including his most recent book, THE KEY OF LOST THINGS (Sept. 2019)—from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. He’s worked with kids and teens for well over a decade, listening to their stories, grabbing a Masters degree in education along the way. Now he’s a full-time writer living with his wife and son in Texas, where he stubbornly refuses to wear cowboy boots.
Sean’s latest release…
With the help of a magical key, Cam searches for his missing friend–who just might be the Hotel’s newest enemy–in this thrilling sequel to The Hotel Between, which New York Times bestselling author Lisa McMann calls a “rollicking magical adventure around the world.”
Ever since Cam was named Concierge-in-Training, he’s been struggling to keep up with the pace of The Hotel Between. It doesn’t help that his missing friend Nico keeps unleashing pranks–you try finding fifty-two cats scattered all over the world.
When a grand party goes horribly wrong, Cam learns his twin sister, Cass, may also be up to no good. Now Cam must set out to prevent Cass and Nico from endangering the Hotel and keep it from falling into the hands of Mr. Stripe and his horrible magic. If he fails, The Hotel Between could be lost. Forever.
Sean’s query critique . . .
Young Adult: Contemporary Urban Fantasy
Untrained, hormonal, and misguided — a motley crew of teen Afro-Witches — are unwittingly tasked with stopping an immoral entity from secretly feasting on the souls of humans. [This is a superb intro to your story. Attention-grabbing, super-specific and yet still concise, and it has a strong voice. Brava!]
Meet … — Kalani the Clair-Empath, Dia the Clairvoyant Psychic, Oshun the Clairaudient Medium, and Amethyst the Clairtangent Alchemist. [At first I loved seeing the various types of ability lined out, but when the story goes on to focus specifically on Kalani I wondered if including all four names might be muddying the waters just a bit. You’re probably okay, but it might be a bit of information overload to share all four names, when the abilities would probably be all the info an agent would need. (Unless this is a multi-POV book?)] While struggling to come into their psychic gifts and their womanhood, they discover that Kalani’s blood is vital to The Ozarks’ [define this term? The mountains are depleting earth’s Ancient Seeds?] agenda of depleting all of earth’s Ancient Seeds. [I removed your paragraph break here because I reread this sentence a couple of times thinking I’d missed what the seeds were, only to realize that it was in a subsequent one-sentence paragraph. Just a suggestion.] Seeds that hold the roots of Hoodoo Magick — the life force of the human race. [A sentence that starts with “Without these seeds…” or something like it would help establish the stakes for failure in this story world, which is important.]
With an intergalactic [This term kinda appears out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to gel with the rest of your story without some explanation. I might consider cutting the word “intergalactic” from your query only just to keep your concept digestible in the short term, and letting your synopsis and the actual text provide this concept. You have enough interesting content here without adding a space term that may slow down interested agents and editors.] bounty now on Kalani’s head and a possibly seed[-]related deadly virus spreading rapidly across New York City, the [opportunity for another descriptive term here that would convey the girls’ character, attitude, etc.] girls must put aside their petty differences, hone and merge their psychic and supernatural powers to replant the life-giving àṣẹ of the Ancestors [An “or else” or “before this bad thing happens” bit here would help establish your story’s stakes a bit more clearly. It can be either a world-impacting event or an emotional one, but given the fact that you’ve done such a good job of establishing world building in this query I’d probably lean toward adding in emotional stakes here. I’m also assuming that these girls have a dynamic relationship with one another, and your agents and editors will likely be looking for what emotional arcs would justify this manuscript’s length.].
TITLE, my first novel, is a 137,000 word YA Contemporary Urban Fantasy that combines the heart-warming, simplistic storytelling style of The Babysitter’s Club with the African diaspora themes of magick found in Children of Blood & Bone and crafted with characters whose gifts are reminiscent of the X-Men. [This is a STRONG hook.] It features an appendix of proven, easy DIY psychic development exercises. I’m a working Psychic Medium, who has written psychic development articles for ESSENCE Magazine and featured by The New York Post as a healing crystal expert. I’ve 13,000 followers combined on Social Media and an active email list of close to 3,000 people. My blog at … is a resource for the psychically gifted as well as a public diary of my own ongoing spiritual journey. [Strong, appropriate credentials. Well done.]
I would be delighted to send a sample or full mss [manuscript] at your request. Thank you for reading, and I look forward to hearing from you.
[Strong concept, well-delivered, with clear credentials. My one big comment would be to make sure the stakes are clear, especially emotionally. Also, a few words or phrases to help us understand whether the relationship between these girls is friendly, competitive, contentious, loving… whatever you can to communicate what the character dynamics and arcs are going to be in few words. It wouldn’t take a lot, but a few intentional mentions of that emotional atmosphere would go a long way to helping the reader to feel out what the tone of the book is going to be.
It’s a great, high-concept pitch, though. Well-done.]