Want to see the query that landed me a contract with Turquoise Morning Press? I’m sharing it today over at Aussie Owned.
Recently I asked you, our readers, what you wanted to see. The answer I received was about querying successfully, how to do it, and examples of successful queries. So today, I have the ladies here, at AOaR telling their stories.
First off, I should warn you that the query letter contains a minor spoiler for the book. (There was also a bigger one in there, but I’ve deleted it from the example; I don’t think it’s strictly necessary to illustrate the point.)
There are a few reasons why I think this query was successful. I followed a basic when/then structure in the pitch (the first two paragraphs). When Isla’s life starts to spin off the rails, then she must discover the truth about who she is and what she can do. It also outlines the stakes: Isla’s father is in danger and needs rescuing. (He’s such
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Pitcharama – IT’S BACK!
Here at Aussie Owned and Read, we love giving people opportunities to help them on their publication journey. After all, anything that gets books out to the public sooner rather than later has to be a good thing, right?
That’s why we’re pleased to announce PITCHARAMA, the return of our 2013 contest that helped match up a select few top Young and New Adult writers with some amazing boutique publishers, resulting in some fantastic publication stories.
More details will follow, but here’s what you need to know so far if you wish to enter:
1. You must have a completed, pitch-ready manuscript.
2. You must sign up to our list (coming soon)
3. You must post your 250 word pitch on your blog on June 16, 2014.
From there, the…
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Just a quick note to let you know of two other places you can find me, or at least my various thought bubbles.
Today over at Aussie Owned and Read, I’m looking at bookends. You know, the things you use to stop your books from falling over if you don’t already have so many that there’s nowhere for them to go? Those.
Also, in the past few days I was a Pitch Slam finalist. I got some awesome feedback on my pitch and first 250 words during the “audition” rounds and was then chosen to be part of Team Stray Tats. I have a stray tat (or a tat of a cat that may be stray — haha, I rhymed), so that seemed appropriate. You can see my pitch here.
I got one request too. *plays air guitar* Thanks to Lucas for having enough faith in me to put me on the team. 🙂
If you guys like stats, or just like to get a closer look at agent request trends and that sort of thing, check out this very informative post by Nik over at NestPitch on how the numbers shook out during that pitching contest.
As we round up to the end of the month, it’s time to share some stats with you all. (everyone loves stats as much as me right?It’s OK, I’ve done all the work for you.
**Note:I will be sending out Scorecards to the 10-reserves & posting the results of those scorecards in two days. I decided to split the scorecards and stats when I realised how much space the stats would need.
So down to the Fun Facts & Figures.
We had around 220 submissions, of which almost 200 were accepted. (Several did not meet the guidelines, remember people Submission 101- follow the guidelines). The final submissions were made up of:
Of those submitted the following % were selected by the…
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Yesterday I entered Lucid Dreaming in Pitch Slam. The theme is one of those musical talent shows, like Australian/American/Armenian Idol. You audition (send your pitch) and if Simon Cowell doesn’t hate you, you move on to the next round. The agents, if they make requests, do so as record executives.
I know, right? How cute is that? 🙂
Anyway, as well as providing details like genre and word count, I had to name a song that sums up my manuscript.
For Lucid Dreaming, that was easy. (For Isla, I’d have a lot more trouble.) It’s Enter Sandman by Metallica. But it has to be an orchestral version, because violins. VIOLINS!
Ahem. What song would you choose for your manuscript/s or WIP/s?
NestPitch’s agent round is now on!
The Slush Bilbies (including yours truly) have sorted through the entries to help the Nest Bloggers whittle down the entries. The top seventy-two entries have made it through and are waiting for agents to hop on by to make requests.
Now that the finalists have been revealed, I thought it’d be fun to flag which of them I consider to be part of Team Cass — the ones I put forward to the Nest Bloggers. They are in order by age bracket.
1. Who Do You Love the Most? (Picture book)
2. The Discarded (YA sci-fi)
3. The Theory of Everything (YA fantasy/steampunk)
4. Coveted (YA urban fantasy)
5. Reverse Cascade (YA contemporary)
6. Helica (NA sci-fi)
7. Captain (Adult historical)
8. Hair of the Dog (Adult urban fantasy)
9. Why Knot? (Adult women’s fiction)
10. Circle of Fur (Adult women’s fiction)
Excitingly, I see a few requests in there already too!
If you know anything about me, you’ll know I don’t read women’s fiction and rarely read historical or contempoary. But I know good writing when I see it. 😉
Please remember that until the agents have finished making their selections, comments are for agents only. If you want to cheer on your favourite prior to then, you can do it in the comments of the main post on each Nest Blogger’s blog, not the individual entry posts. Or, you know, here.
Good luck to everyone who has made it this far. May your nest be filled with lots of chocolatey requests.
I was recently a slush reader for the NestPitch contest. My part is done now, although the contest is ongoing, with the nest bloggers choosing their final picks from the slushies’ shortlist for final agent consideration.
Because the contest isn’t done, I’m going to keep this slush feedback general. But hopefully it will give people an idea of the things I noticed as a common theme in the slush, and the main reasons I said no. Reading slush for a contest like this or Pitcharama really gives you a unique insight into what it must be like to be an agent or editor.
Length: too long, too short, just right
Hearing your manuscript is far too long or too short is hard, and—unlike with the next two pieces of advice—there is no easy fix if you want to be traditionally published.
This post is a great guide to length, and is the one I referred to when I had doubts about the average length of a genre. For example, of all the genres being pitched, I don’t currently read middle grade (although I no doubt will as my son gets older—we’re still reading picture books and chapter books). So I looked it up.
If your book falls outside the “safe” range for your genre, you’re much more likely to get passed over by an agent. Publishers aren’t interested in 200k-word epics or skinny novellas by debut novelists, so neither are agents – because as well as loving your book, they need to believe they can sell it before they’ll make you an offer.
One book in my slush pile was all wrong for its genre. It was a picture book that was thousands (many thousands) of words over the recommended length. It was long enough I was left wondering whether the writer had meant to classify it as middle grade and had somehow mistyped.
I read all of every submission in my slush pile (something not all agents will do), but books that were well outside the range already had a strike against them before I started. Some got the tick despite their length. Most didn’t.
Age bracket: square peg in a round hole
I tweeted a few days ago about how it’s particularly vital that kidlit writers (anyone writing anything from picture books to NA) make it clear in their pitch or opening paragraphs how old the protagonist is.
This was prompted by me reading a pitch for a book whose length was on the low end of middle grade but that featured a protagonist who appeared, based on their actions, to be at least seventeen. My take-home impression was that it was a YA novella that the author had optimistically called middle grade based on its length.
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the character was really twelve and was doing things no twelve year old should be, as part of the story. But that wasn’t clear.
Proofreading and spell check are your friends
Some books had writing that needed a lot of love, and I passed on them because taking a non-query-ready manuscript to an agent does none of us any favours: the author, the agent or the NestPitch team.
But some were beautifully written…except for a single typo or incorrect word.
There were two in particular that caused me heartache, because I loved them but the first 300 words had these types of errors. One of the two had a misspelled word that a spellcheck would have picked up; the other had one word in place of another—something spellcheck wouldn’t detect but a proofread would.
I ended up giving both manuscripts the tick but whether the bloggers will choose them at the next round I’m not sure. If they love one of these pitches and another without errors, and they only have one space left on their list, they’re going to choose the one without errors.
Pitching or querying a manuscript takes an enormous act of courage. That document that you’ve slaved over for months or years, that you’ve only shown to those you know and trust, is out there, before the eyes of strangers. I admire and respect everyone that entered NestPitch, regardless of my final decision regarding each manuscript on my pile. I hope that my guidance above help anyone that ultimately gets told “no” see whether there are problems with their manuscript.
And I’ll be cheering for the thirteen members of Team Cass (even if they don’t know they are on Team Cass) at the blogger and agent rounds. Good luck, folks! 🙂
The submission window for NestPitch is NOW OPEN!
It will remain open for 24 hours, from noon on 1st April to 11.59am 2nd April (USA EST). That’s 24 hours from this post going live, folks.
There’s no cut off number for entries. Everyone who submits during the window will make it into the contest. All entries will receive an email receipt. If you don’t, check with Nik Vukoja on Twitter @nestpitch and/or @nik_vukoja
Send your entries to nestpitch @ outlook .com (no spaces)
For formatting instructions and rules check this post out (although an excerpt is contained below).
NestPitch is a contest where participants email their 35-word pitches together with the first 300 words of their finished manuscript (or 100 words for picture books).
The selected pitches will be featured on these blogs (show them all some follow love — you know, if you want to):
Then agents, identities hidden, will leave a request for pages, partials or fulls of the featured pitches.
Entries must be embedded within email (no attachments) with following:
Name: YOUR NAME
Title: TITLE OF MANUSCRIPT
Genre: Category/Genre of Manuscript (i.e. NA Romance)
Word Count: (round to the nearest 1000)
PITCH: 35-word (maximum) logline
Answer to this question in one sentence of no more than 15 words: If my Main Character were an Easter Egg, what flavour would he or she be and why?
First 300-words of your manuscript. If the 300th word falls in the middle of a sentence, go to the end of the sentence. For picture book submissions please only submit 100-words. If the 100th word falls in the middle of a sentence, go to the end of the sentence.
(i) your manuscript has not been featured (you can have entered but can’t have been a finalist) in another pitch competition in the past 12 months – that’s ANY pitch competition (excluding Twitter pitches) from the period April 1st 2013 to 31st March 2014
(ii) your manuscript IS NOT published. This INCLUDES self-published.
Our Slush Bilbies (Cass: that’s me!) and Nest Bloggers will read through the pitches and pick the top 72 pitches for the agent round: April 17th – 18th
We’ll try to get a good mix of various genres, but the writing comes first. Basically, if the submissions aren’t ready, it’s in your best interests that we pass. The last thing anyone wants is your manuscript to be old and tired from “doing the rounds” before it’s ready.
In just over 24 hours, NestPitch submissions open. Submitting writers will provide details about their manuscript includuding their logline and the first 300 words, which will then go through slush readers (or slush bilbies) for shortlisting before being chosen by the nest bloggers.
Finally, the chosen pitches will be posted to hopefully get scadloads of agent requests. We’ve got ten agents participating from nine agencies. It’s exciting stuff.
I’m one of the slush bilbies for NestPitch. (I like to imagine a shy marsupial drinking an iced treat through a straw. Who’s with me? Anyone? Anyone?)
I’ve blogged before about how hard shortlisting for these sorts of contests is. But I know from experience that as hard as it is to judge them, it’s just as hard to muster the courage to enter in the first place. I’ve been there. Believe me.
So if, like me at this point before a submission window opens, you’re in a last-minute agony of indecision about whether you’re ready to go, here are my tips for writing an awesome logline.
What’s a logline?
It’s the answer you give when someone says, “So, what’s your book about?”
In 35 words or less. Easy, no?
Tips for writing a logline
There are three things you need your logline to do:
- describe the main character (you don’t need to name them)
- describe the antagonist (or main challenge)
- describe the stakes
What you don’t want to do is describe the ending. You want to hook the reader, make them want to offer you representation/a contract/money/booze.
If you’re struggling, one thing I’ve found really handy when writing loglines and query letters is to use the when/then structure. When X, then Y.
For example, here’s my logline for Lucid Dreaming, the new adult urban fantasy I’m currently querying:
When half-Oneiroi dream therapist Melaina banishes a nightmare spirit from a client, she unleashes the wrath of an enemy who targets her job, her best friend, her family and her life.
I’ve had a few different versions of this, where I’ve toyed with how to describe the Oneiroi (dream spirits) — because, unlike vampires and werewolves, they aren’t a particularly well-known supernatural beastie. In this version I’ve tried to make sure the dream context is clear from the rest of the pitch.
You’ll note I didn’t reveal who the antagonist is, because one of the story’s elements is the mystery of who is actually behind the attacks. If that weren’t the case, I’d add it in there: jealous ex-boyfriend or demon-spawn shopkeeper or cheerleading cyborg. You get the idea.
I saw an awesome quote about loglines that I’m going to claim as though it were my own:
Don’t tell the story, sell the story.
Good luck, folks. See you in the slush pile!
There’s a special Easter tradition throughout central and northern Croatia – making Easter nests. On the afternoon or eve of Easter Saturday children go out into the garden and collect leaves, grass, twigs, flowers and then make a “nest” for the Easter Bunny – that’s where he places his Easter egg presents. The children go to bed that eve wondering if the Easter Bunny will like or love their nest, because the best nest gets the best and biggest eggs!
NestPitch is based on this idea where an author’s ‘pitch’ is the nest and the Easter Treats are the Agents requests.
The submission window opens on 1st April.
Once Submissions are closed, firstly the SLUSH BILBIES will go through the submissions and pick the top 100-120. Then the NEST BLOGGERS will each pick eight of their best and brightest NESTS and post on their blogs.
After that, the SECRECT AGENT BUNNIES will jump from blog site to blog site and leave their Easter treats.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I AM A SLUSH BILBY! (A bilby is an adorable, long-eared, endangered Australian marsupial. You can of course see the resemblance…right?) You think I’d have learned from the madness that was Pitcharama how hard it is to choose between a whole bunch of awesome pitches. But no, apparently not.
If you’re wondering why the mix of Croatian and Australian, that’s because the host of the contest, Nikola Vukoja, is exactly that. Running these sorts of contests is hard, so show her the Twitter love here, mkay?
And if anyone wants to send me masses of chocolate on 1st April, I’d appreciate it. 🙂