The Plan by Cheryl Miller-Fitzgerald
Thinking back, there was nothing to distinguish that Sunday from any other Sunday. Matt and Josh sat on the floor of their room plotting how to quit Hebrew school so they could play video games while their mom made pancakes and their grandma read the newspaper.
Born a minute apart, the eleven year old twins never agreed on anything, not ice cream (cotton candy vs. chocolate) superheroes (Spiderman vs. the Hulk) or even sports (soccer vs. basketball.) Until now, and after weeks of strategizing, were sure their plan was flawless: to feign stomach aches and whine in unison until their mom had no choice but to give in.
But their plan backfired when she exploded and banished them outside, indefinitely. Instead of stepping onto their suburban New Jersey lawn, they found themselves in a Bronx courtyard in the 50s, where the only technology was a 20 inch black and white television and an AM radio.
Dodging children who were actually playing outside, they had to navigate a world that was different (no Wi-Fi!) and yet the same (bullies, prejudice), and figure out how to get home – without a GPS. Just when they were ready to give up, they met a girl who was even more conniving than them, and who just might be…Grandma?
A cross between Back to the Future and the Magic Tree House, this book should appeal to middle school readers. I am a journalist and parent to twins who play too many video games.
The Book Doctors: This pitch has a lot going for it: fish-out-of-water twins suddenly deprived of technology, how much things have changed and yet how little, and a great elevator pitch, Back to the Future meets Magic Tree House. I also like the sentence you use to describe yourself. It’s fun and self-deprecating, but at the same time, it shows us you actually have special insight into twins and that you have the skills of a journalist. I don’t think the pitch starts with enough of a bang. I know it’s supposed to show us that this is just another day in the life, but it might be good to incorporate some suspense into that first line. “Matt and Josh thought it would be just another Sunday spent plotting how to quit Hebrew school and play unlimited video games, little did they know they’d end up [some specific ‘50s image from the book] in the year 1954.”
The problem is, I don’t really fall in love with these kids. I don’t understand what they desperately want that they don’t have. I’m not rooting for them to succeed at something, besides leaving the ‘50s and getting back home without a GPS. And really what you have here is the setup for a story. One of the difficulties about pitching a story like this is that there’re so many stories about time travel. It is very well mined territory. We have to understand what’s different and unique about your time travel story. What are you bringing to the party we’ve never seen before? Frankly, seeing grandma when she was a kid seems very derivative of Back to the Future. Think about how great the plot to that movie is. We don’t get any sense of what events in your story are going to lead to a crazy climax that will have us telling all our friends about how great this book is. Throwing around ideas like “bullies” and “prejudice” is a classic example of Telling versus Showing. How are your versions of bullying and prejudice different and unique and scary and gripping? How are you spinning this familiar scenario in a way that we’ve never seen before?
The Door to Yesterday by Katherine Parker Richmond
I’m Amelia. The year I turned fifteen sucked. Turns out losing our house in Seattle and having to move to Grandpa Gus’ ranch in Ellensburg was only the beginning.
The second week at my new high school, I got pranked by Darcy Malinger. When I refused to let her copy my paper on The Crucible for our honors English class, she switched my conditioner with hair remover during P.E. My hair came out in big clumps, all over the floor of the girls’ locker room. Since then, my mom is homeschooling me—which might as well be death by boredom, chained to the kitchen table all day.
I thought my life would never get better, until I discovered a way to go back and change it. Now I hold the key to the door to yesterday.
Complete at 69,000 words, THE DOOR TO YESTERDAY is a fresh take on the Mel’s Hole urban legend. It stands alone as a YA with strong series potential.
About the author: Katherine has been losing herself in books since second grade, when Mrs. Crawford gave her detention for reading clear through the Pledge of Allegiance. That same year, she started a journal filled with poetry, short stories, and the harrowing confessions of a frizzy-haired word-nerd who’d rather squint at life than wear glasses. More recently, her poems have appeared in the Boston Literary Magazine, Segullah, and Everyday Poets. THE DOOR TO YESTERDAY is her first novel.
The Book Doctors: This pitch has a great voice. It’s fun. Describing homeschooling as “death by boredom” is great. It convinces me you are a writer who can write the heck out of this book. And the subject matter is familiar, but it feels like you’ve made it your own. I like the prank, but it feels like it needs a punch line. Something like: “So I had to walk around looking like a hairless Chihuahua.” But there’s not enough here. What’s so cool about your way of going back and changing history? As you see from looking at these pitches, time travel stories are a dime a dozen. What are the fun and unexpected things that happen? What nutty danger is our plucky heroine going to get herself into? What books is this one like? There’s just not enough of a story here for me to invest in yet. I’m sure you have the goods; you just need to show them to me.
The Love Test by Leah Collum
When it comes to love, how do you know when it’s real?
U.S. Immigration Officer Sarah Wright has been trained to separate the true love matches from the pretenders in her job interviewing marriage-based green card applicants, but a chance encounter with a handsome Greek man, Nikos, leaves her questioning her own judgment when it comes to the laws of attraction.
Nikos Hydras is on the verge of getting his green card and starting a new life in the U.S., but one spontaneous kiss with Sarah threatens to destroy his best-laid plans when she is assigned to his pending immigration case.
Elizabeth Whitehall only wanted to help her best friend, Nikos, open the door to a better life . . . until his ill-timed flirtation with his immigration officer threatens to put Elizabeth’s own freedom at risk.
Now, as Sarah investigates Nikos and Elizabeth’s hastily arranged marriage, she uncovers more and more evidence of green card fraud. Torn between professional duty and personal attraction, Sarah must walk a fine line between keeping the bad guys out and letting the good guys in, where one misstep could cost her her career—or her heart.
At its core, THE LOVE TEST is a love story, but, like Taylor Jenkins Reid’s AFTER I DO, it is about more than romantic love: it also explores the strength of female friendships, the depth of family bonds, and, above all, what values remain when our most deeply held beliefs are stretched to the breaking point.
The Book Doctors: I like this story. Again, it feels familiar, but it’s also unique. And I love that the plot hinges on an ill-timed kiss that ignites the romance but, at the same time, makes this terrible moral quandary that could ruin many lives. It’s nicely done. And the pitch is very professional. It lays out the story quickly and economically, and you also give us a really good comparable title. I really enjoy how this woman has been trained to separate true love from marriages of convenience. It’s such a great profession to explore when you’re writing a book about human love. And I like how you turn phrases, like “the laws of attraction.” But I don’t understand when you say this is a story of female friendships. It doesn’t seem like Sarah and Elizabeth are friends. This is a classic love triangle, and I don’t see another female friendship here. I’d like to know a little bit more about the attraction between Nikos and Sarah. Show us more of a scene where they can’t resist each other even though they know they have to. Maybe just flesh out the kiss more. No pun intended.
The Perfect Obit by Tammie McElligott
Jo Reinhardt thinks if her obituary was written today, that hers would read as exciting as the grocery list that is at the bottom of her purse wrapped around a wad of chewed up gum. She never worried before about what the folks in town would read about her until it dawns on her that the dirty deed of writing her obit would fall to her family and the thought of that makes it hard to breath, the squirts of nose spray can only do so much. She could see it now, if left to her almost grown children, they would enter her first name as Mom followed with - she yelled a lot. And if she were to go before her husband, he would use it as an ad to showcase his band “The Retro-Reruns”. Feeling that the obits in Lakemore, Michigan’s paper should tell the world more than the fact that one has passed away, gone to sleep, isn’t with us anymore, died, croaked, she sets out to write the perfect obit. Dragging family and friends on her quest to live up to the perfect obit, Jo discovers it just might kill her.
The Book Doctors: This is such a fun idea, a great shaggy dog story. It has something of Mark Twain in it: a person who’s planning their own death and in doing so learns how to be alive. I love that the pitch shows, through obituary, how each important person in her life actually sees her. I love the specificity of her husband’s band “The Retro-Reruns.” Details like this really make a story come alive. I was trained as a Hollywood screenwriter first. The Hollywood screenplay structure has three acts. You only have one act here for your story; you’re missing Act II and Act III. I need to know what crazy shenanigans are heroine pulls in order to ensure that she gets a great obituary. It’s such a wonderfully absurd idea, but you don’t let me know what you’re going to do with it. You don’t amaze and delight me with the wild series of events that this ridiculous woman gets herself into and how it all escalates to a crazy Wham Bam finale.
Untitled by Julia Buonincontro
Have you ever been mistreated? Neglected? Maybe run over by a car? Forks are used in most households during almost every meal, but how often do they get credit? They maintain the health, dignity, and cleanliness of each person they serve, and we often take them for granted! Has anyone ever asked them how they feel about this? What must they think of us? Utensils have feelings too, and they deserve to be respected!
The Book Doctors: I love the idea that utensils have feelings and deserve to be respected. I never thought about it like that. It’s great when a pitch can make you see the world in a new way. It’s part of why we love books and storytelling and words. It feels like these could be a whole series of books and characters: The knife that’s not too sharp. The pickle fork that doesn’t think he’s manly enough. And I really like how the pitch starts with normal questions you might ask anyone who’s disgruntled. And the list of grievances escalates until we’re getting being run over by a car. It was very intriguing; it really hooked me in. I had to read it twice to make sure it said “forks.” This feels like it could be a Pixar movie. That being said, it needs to have more here to make it into a pitch for a book. I have no idea what this book is to be honest. It’s just a very cool idea. But is it a picture book? Is it an absurdist novel? Is it a Samuel Beckett play? A Kafka story? The pitch needs to let us know exactly what we’re getting ourselves into, what you’re going to do with this fantastic concept that you showed us. If you’re actually trying to get an agent or publisher, they need to know what kind of book it is, what kind of reader it’s going to attract. And that’s really not clear from this pitch. Again, remember to include your title when submitting a pitch.
The Blood Crazed Blonde from Lake Beyond by Cheryl Zaidan
It’s been almost two decades since B-movie actress Barbara Lynne starred in the cult classic Blood Crazed Blondes from Lake Beyond. And while she’s been able to make a steady living out of low-budget horror since then, Barbara knows her time is limited. After a few less than flattering reviews telling her, in essence, “It’s time to put your clothes back on lady”, Barbara decides to trade in the wackiness of L.A. for a more peaceful existence in the rural town of Revelation, Louisiana.
At first all is well in her new surroundings. But as Barbara soon finds out, that idyllic existence may not be so idyllic. That even the friendliest of towns can have a few demons lurking about. And that Barbara’s perfect new life sounds less and less peaceful and more like the plot of one of her films. For the first time, Barbara is truly frightened – an odd feeling for someone who spent most of her adult life naked, covered in blood and feigning fear. But armed only with a lifetime of bad horror movie knowledge can Barb save the town, and perhaps herself?
The Book Doctors: LOVE this title! And this is such a cool idea for a story. Barbara Lynne just jumps off the page—I feel like I could point her out if she walked down the street. And I love the idea of her finally getting out of the seedy world of low-budget horror into some lovely environment only to find out it’s a real life horror story! The professional naked victim becomes a real life target for murder most foul. So fun and funny. And the construction of the pitch is spot on. But I need to know more about the machinations of the plot. Who are the bad guys? Or, at least, who do we suspect they are? What actually happens? Give us some scenes that send chills up and down our spines involving our heroine and some terrible peril. Give us some crazy twists and turns in the story. Give us a wacky cast of characters that we suspect of the foul play. And why does she go to Revelation? It would be good if she had some goal, something she’s trying to accomplish.
Peasant to Prince by Dawn Sorenson
Life isn’t easy for a princess, especially when she sets her sights on a charming stable hand instead of the princes she is supposed to fall for.
In a small country named Orilon, a young princess named Eleanor Westra falls in love with a dazzling stable hand by the name of Claude Resdeus. He is smart, kind, and probably the most handsome man she has never seen. He has all of the qualities that none of the princes available to her have. Except, of course, Claude is no prince. Regardless, they choose to hide their relationship, seeing each other right under the noses of her parents.
But when a rogue attack on Orilon finds its way into the castle grounds, Eleanor’s father is forced to send her off with Claude as her guard. With a sword and a horse they are sent riding through the countryside, fleeing from the feral Inic tribe that seeks to destroy their homeland. Their destination is her parents’ vacation home on the tropical beaches of an allied country, an ideal retreat, if they weren’t leaving behind their home and their families in a war stricken state.
In the most unlikely of situations, Claude and Eleanor’s relationship will be tested in ways they never could have imagined. Can it survive the hurdles thrown at them by their escape and the impassioned decisions made in the dead of the night?
The Book Doctors: This is such a bodice ripper, I can practically see the cover! This is one of the great tropes in storytelling. The Princess and the stable boy who are thrown together by war and find forbidden love. There’s a reason this kind of story has been around for so long: people love these kinds of stories. But what is a valuable asset can also be a detriment. Because the story is so familiar, you have to really work hard to differentiate yours. There has to be something new that you’re adding to the conversation. And some of this just seems not very original. For example, when you call the love interest “dazzling … smart, kind and probably the most handsome man.” Those are words I’ve heard so many times that they’ve lost a lot of their meaning. There’s nothing unexpected about them. And the story you tell seems to be kind of general. For example, I don’t get a full sense of the danger when they are riding on the horse through the feral tribe. You don’t paint enough of a specific word picture, and I don’t understand quite what the consequences will be if they get caught. I would like you to show us a scene where we actually see their romance blossom instead of you just telling us about it. And it’s really important for us to understand how much of a romance book this is by associating it with other books that you think are similar, again in the broadest sense.
Last Resort by Kate Buchanan
Getting himself a spot on the plane was just the first step. Now Tav , an eighteen-year-old from Toronto, has a mystery to solve. He must figure out what really happened to his older sister, Sophia, more than three years ago. She disappeared deep in the wilds of northern Canada, but Tav knows there’s more to the story than what his parents have told him.
Along with eleven other teenagers, he’s bound for a two week stay in a remote, forested area, with nothing but a few supplies and an eager guide. But when both the guide and the supplies go missing, the so-called camping trip turns into a fight for survival. As the teens battle mother nature and the wilderness, Tav is faced with a dilemma – use his survival skills to aid his fellow campers, or abandon them and hunt for clues about his missing sister. When he begins to discover strange messages carved into the rocks around camp, Tav must revisit what he thought he knew. It soon becomes clear that nothing is as it seems and not all of the campers are who they appear to be, himself included.
At the sardonically named ‘Last Resort’, Tav learns a crucial lesson – that sometimes searching for someone else is the only way to find yourself.
The Book Doctors: I really like this modern day Call of the Wild, with the murder mystery folded in. So our hero’s fighting several different things at the same time: Mother Nature, his own limitations, his fellow campers, and the difficulties of piecing together the facts of his sister’s disappearance. I also like that it’s in the wilds of northern Canada. I’d like you to show us more of that in this pitch. Convince us of your skills in taking us to this world that is so beautiful and dangerous.
I think this pitch opens in the wrong place. I think we need to see our hero react to the news of his sister’s disappearance. We need to understand how strong their relationship is and how emotionally devastated he is, because this is in many ways what drives the story. So instead of just giving us a bunch of backstory, show us a scene where our hero is devastated and maybe vows someday to go find her. And, of course, he feels lied to by his parents.
Also, I’d like you to show me what he looks like. It’d be helpful if I had a picture of him in my head, easier for me to engage with him emotionally. And sometimes this is all just too general. Just to tell us that the teens are battling the wilderness, that’s not very exciting or dramatic. Give us the specifics, the details, the scary life-and-death details of how they could die. And honestly, I don’t really read books to see people learning crucial lessons. That last line seems like a bit of a cliché. I want to see what the ultimate stakes are. What happens if our hero fails? Your story does not build to a fiery climax and leave us hanging off the edge of the cliff by our fingernails.
The Saving by Kathryn Rountree
One cool spring evening, newlywed Sarah Williams steps into her garage to find her husband, Stuart, slumped over his steering wheel, dead. Wracked by grief and thrust into a new life as a twenty-four-year-old widow, she reaches out to her older sister, Wren, and her family to help support her through a tragedy she never imagined could happen to her.
Wren Williams and her husband, Jack, wage a fierce battle with infertility, only to be met with a seemingly never-ending stream of obstacles. Just when Wren decides she can’t take one more injection or endure one more hormonal roller coaster, she discovers she is pregnant. The loss of her baby, however, leaves Wren in both shock and denial, thus alienating her from both her husband and family. With nowhere left to turn, Wren directs her search toward the supernatural, hunting for answers about the baby she lost in the most unlikeliest of places.
Set in lush southern Louisiana, the Williams sisters are faced with the unspeakable, each mired in a conflict that threatens to swallow her whole. Filled with grief, drama, and a humor that only southern women can muster in the face of life’s most difficult punches, The Saving recalls other women’s contemporary fiction, such as Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You, Jodi Picoult’s The Pact, and Karen White’s The Beach Trees.
The Book Doctors: I just love how quickly you take us into a situation where the stakes simply could not be any higher. Boom! We’re right in the middle of life and death. And the stakes keep getting higher. These kinds of family sagas with women trying to come to grips with grief and fertility, motherhood and death, these are the very backbone of women’s fiction. And I love your comparable titles. We’re friends with Caroline Leavitt, and she’s such a wonderful writer, the great constructor of stories. I want to know more about what makes Sarah Williams tick. What was she trying to accomplish with her life before her husband dies? Is there a through line that defines who she is? She seems to not have any personality apart from her role as grief-stricken widow. I don’t get a sense of who she is, what she looks like, what kind of human being she is. Then all of a sudden, we switch to her sister’s story. I don’t understand how Sarah’s story blends in with the story of her sister. Quite jarring, because I’m emotionally involved in Sarah’s story, then all of a sudden she’s gone from the book. I am really confused by the sudden appearance of the supernatural. You need to give me more specifics about what kind of supernatural thing you’re going to present to me. How is your supernatural element different than the supernatural elements in the countless supernatural stories that we’re bombarded with every day in our culture? And instead of telling me that your story is set in lush southern Louisiana, you have to show that to me. Wow me with how beautifully you can portray this part of the world, which is filled with wonder and magic and danger. And you tell me that the sisters are faced with this conflict, but you don’t tell me how the stories are related to each other. You don’t show me a series of events that escalate to a seemingly tragic conclusion. I have a pet peeve; I hate when people tell me that their stuff is funny. You say that there is southern humor in your book, and yet I don’t see one single piece of evidence to support that. You can’t tell me you’re funny; you have to make me laugh. You shouldn’t have to tell me that it’s filled with grief and drama either. You have to display that and make me feel it.
Ms. Communications by Myra Kendrix
“When do you need me to finish this?”
“By last Thursday. Can you meet that deadline?
Gwen Mongan is a Marketing Communications executive at an innovative startup bent on saving the world from global warming. Her job is exciting, her co-workers’ antics entertaining and her salary has allowed her to restore her dream home.
But then there’s her boss: the impossibly demanding and maddeningly charismatic hi-tech superstar, Jake Folton. When Jake finally pushes Gwen too far, she begins to think it’s time to move on. A former social worker who dabbles in matchmaking and runs a support group, Gwen longs to revive her youthful ambitions of bringing people together.
But Gwen soon discovers it’s going to take more spunk and ingenuity than she knew she possessed to extricate herself from a boss with a stellar track-record of getting exactly what he wants. In fact, it’s going to turn her tidy existence upside-down.
Can an unknown racehorse named Purple Lemonade, a deadly Funnel-Web Spider, and a dubious Bachelor-of-the-Year contest finally show Gwen that some people are not what they seem and some risks are worth taking?
Debut novelist Myra Kendrix brings her own experience in hi-tech marketing to this fast-paced romantic comedy, set against the vibrant cityscape of Sydney, Australia. Ms. Communications gives an inside view of the cut-throat startup scene, where today’s titans are born or burned, and sometimes the impossible becomes a reality.
The Book Doctors: I love how we know right from the beginning that our heroine has something she desperately wants. And that it’s fighting global warming, which makes us root for her. And I like that the story is set in not just the world of startups, but in the world of Australian startups. I have not heard that setting for a book yet. And I like her nemesis, “impossibly demanding and maddeningly charismatic high-tech superstar.” That’s a lot of great words put together in very economical ways. I also really like the final paragraph’s list, again it’s really fun. I don’t quite see the romance in this romantic comedy, and that’s a problem. In the very first couplet that we read, the last question doesn’t seem like realistic dialogue. Do you think it should be something more like, “Is that going to be a problem?” Because we know that they can’t actually make deadline that was last Thursday. I don’t have enough of a sense of where your novel takes us. How do the events become more tense and the stakes higher?