Mai Gao Fen by Tia Kalla
Iskandar said the world would be in danger if the artifacts weren’t collected. Dei wasn’t so concerned with that. The fact that he’d gotten one of those artifacts embedded in her body, to her, was more of a pressing problem. But even though it might do who-knows-what, both it and Iskandar left her questions she couldn’t answer. Finding those answers was worth some small risk.
Iskandar’s quest takes Dei and her sister across the Shoumin Empire they live in and its surrounding territories: the towering pagodas, the complex gearwork, the gowns and suits on the cutting edge of fashion. Dei’s genius with clerical magic (and her sister’s kleptomania) acquire them more of the artifacts, and new friends across the continent.
But there are things about himself that Iskandar hasn’t told her. And there are things his superiors haven’t told him about the items he’s seeking. And she’s not too eager to tell them that their precious artifact is camping in her abdomen.
Knowledge used to be the only thing Dei was interested in. Then she found people she was interested in. Now the knowledge she loves may ruin the people she’s come to care about.
MAI GAO FEN is an Asian steampunk fantasy novel in progress.
The Book Doctors:
We love that the artifact is “camping in her abdomen”. That is a very intriguing image and one we want to know more about. But we think this pitch has a problem with how it introduces the characters. Because these names are unknown to us, We don’t know whether they’re male or female. Then there’s a sister thrown in who seems to be quite a comic character but doesn’t have a name. So we quickly become confused. If you give physical descriptions of these characters, we can see them and relate to them better. And since you’re creating a world, we need to see more of that as well. We got the towering pagodas (cool!), but we don’t quite see the complex gear work, we don’t exactly know what “the cutting edge of fashion” means in this context. Part of the cool thing about steam punk fantasy is the imagination gets to run wild. But you have not displayed to us at that your imagination is going to show me things we have never seen before.
The Fourth Arrow by Hazel Sparks
Welcome to Anguilire.
It’s a city tucked away in a valley in a sort of dark fantasy realm. It and its resident heroine-to-be are beacons of light in the ever-growing darkness descending on their world.
She’s an elf – Emilia – and a member of Anguilire’s guard, the Arrows. When the threat of invasion looms, they are called to action.
The invaders are nightmarish creatures. They are greedy and cruel, but worst of all blindly led by a king bent on burning the elves’ city to the ground. Now this enemy has acquired a power that will ensure his success if the Arrows fail.
To complicate things, Emilia has a secret that no one – not even her comrades – can know. It just might be the key to saving her people, if it doesn’t get her killed in the process.
The villain isn’t the only obstacle in her way (though he’s a nasty brute). The Arrows will be tested by monsters, the elements, and even each other.
This fresh twist on the classic forest-elves-fantasy combines a love story with a white-knuckle adventure that will push our heroes to their limits. The Fourth Arrow is also full of symbols that give the story true meaning between the lines.
I’m new. There’s no getting around that. I have a few short works being published, and I want this novel to be the next step. I believe in “making something that means something” and I’m ready to come out swinging.
The Book Doctors:
We love that the stakes are so high in the story, and it’s about a subject that people just love. But we don’t believe this pitch does your book justice. First of all, a lot of it is so generic that it loses its meaning. For example, “A sort of dark fantasy realm” doesn’t give us any sort of visual image. How is your fantasy realm different than the millions of other fantasy realms that have been created in the history of books and movies? How are your elves different from all the other elves that we seen? Telling us that your villain is a nasty brute doesn’t illustrate what a great writer you are–it doesn’t make us scared and terrified. A couple of comparable titles would be absolutely fantastic. Also, you say in The Book section that it’s a love story, but I can’t find the love story in The Pitch. In terms of your “About Me” section, better to tell us what you have accomplished than what you have not. A couple of cool things you’ve done in life that would indicate you have the skills, dedication, perseverance, savvy and overall excellence necessary to be a best-selling author would be great.
Real Chemistry by Arjav Shah
Imagine you have the ability to control any element from the periodic table. This is the case for Oxy Ivankov, a fourteen-year old boy, who can control oxygen from the periodic table. He is an elemental user- one who can manipulate elements from the periodic table. Unfortunately, Oxy is targeted for murder by Hydro Parker who can control hydrogen as that is the only way Hydro can control oxygen and ergo water.
Now, Oxy and his friends Nick Courshier and Cal Lopner must thwart the numerous kidnapping attempts of Hydro’s children, Neo and Lea Parker who are elemental users. To make matters worse, Nick accidently murder an elemental user named Alu. Nick has to attend the next Periodic Table of Elements Council in Tempton.
Oxy manages to convince everyone that Nick is innocent only to later learn from his grandfather Iro that if Hydro can’t kill Oxy, he will set his sights on the Periodic Table of Book Elements. There are two parts to the Periodic Table of Elements Book and Oxy has to track down the other half of the book. Oxy needs to support of the council.
This leads Oxy and his friends on an early vacation to Europe to win the support of the individual Council members in addition to finding the other half of the book. Oxy discovers that the second part of the book is in the Bell Tower of the English Parliament. He obtains the book, but must obtain the support of the council.
The Book Doctors:
We’ve heard a lot of pitches, but we haven’t yet seen characters who can control the elements! Such a cool idea. But we’re not sure what cool things they’re doing exactly. You need to show us what our hero is able to accomplish because he can control oxygen. Also, there’s a pretty glaring mistake in your pitch. “Oxy needs to support of the council.” Agents and editors want to know that you’ve carefully scoured your work and little errors like this stand out. We also don’t quite see the arc of the characters’ journeys. We don’t get a sense of exactly what the villain wants. And the pitch doesn’t come to a fiery climax. One other industry thing: We were doing a panel recently with an agent who said how much she hates getting pitches that start with the author telling her to imagine something. It’s redundant. You’re writing a piece of fiction. Inherent in that is the fact that you’re asking us to imagine something. It’s just wasted words. You only have 250 words, so each one is golden. Arielle once said that a pitch is like a poem, each word counts.
Single White Witch by Jessica Scott
SINGLE WHITE WITCH SEEKING roommate for large Victorian home. Must be willing to share with other tenants including an eccentric Shaman, a Human RPG-addicted insomniac and a brooding Werewolf. Respond if you’re an open-minded individual who doesn’t shrink at the sight of blood, and would consider the possibility of testing unproven spells and hexes (rent negotiable). Desirable area with privacy and a short walk to transit and Starbucks.
Three down, one to go. Katelyn’s rent crisis is nearly resolved, but her day job looks bleak. A fledgling Witch with a lone (albeit rare) skill set, standing out at the Agency is a daily struggle. The organization is humming with talent, bursting at the seams with monsters, muscles and magic. Rungs are materializing above her on the career ladder and it’s only a matter of time before she’s reassigned to the desolate South with corrupt HR and terrible coffee.
Now the Agency must unite for an enemy they’ve never encountered. She’s trying to focus, but her gifted best friend gets scapegoated for a botched job, the Shaman is channeling Marilyn Monroe at awkward moments, and the Coven is hunting for something she can’t surrender. Suddenly the Vegan vs. Werewolf conflict at home seems trivial.
This Urban Fantasy is reminiscent of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Kim Harrison’s Hallows Series. The resilient protagonist is a mix of Stephanie Plum and your typical witch next door, trying to make her mark in a ruthless world with perseverance, attitude and spunk.
The Book Doctors:
We absolutely love the way this pitch begins. It tells us so much using a device we are very familiar with in a cool new way. The personal ad looking for a roommate. It’s great. When this pitch is specific, it’s fantastic, and when it gets general it loses us. For example, you tell us that our heroine has a rare skill set, but you don’t give me enough of a clue as to what it is. It’s a fine line, knowing what to reveal and what to conceal. But here we feel like too much is concealed. We want to know what’s cool and unique about her and her skills. But we really love the voice of this pitch. “Corrupt HR and terrible coffee”. The wonderful juxtaposition of unexpected ideas next to each other. “The Shaman is channeling Marilyn Monroe at awkward moments”. It’s really fun and funny. We would like to know more about the villainous evil and what specifically will be the results if the villains win. We can’t really visualize what “monsters, muscles and magic” are. Make each thing specific and unique to this story. We absolutely love that last line. It’s really funny and great. And finally, just when we were thinking it was never going to happen, we got a couple of real, genuine, comparable titles. Well done!
Once Upon a Life by Clarissa Kae
Every night Isla Belle Thorne is haunted by the same recurring vision of ill-fated love: an immortal man, Rhett Rhyn, holds his dead bride, only to find her decades later, very much alive but stripped of the memory of their love. Despite being the love of all her lives, Rhett and the woman tango with her birth and death for over four centuries.
When Isla’s home is destroyed by fire, the man from her visions appears. Rhett shares an unnerving secret – the dreams are real, and so is her fate of continual rebirth.
Isla and Rhett race to solve the mystery of her eternal reincarnation before destiny can stake its claim, again.
ONCE UPON A LIFE is a 100,000 word women’s fiction with historical overtones. Using alternating time periods between past and present, the manuscript mirrors Anne Fortier’s Juliet and Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life.
The Book Doctors:
We love the theme of reincarnation. This seems to be a theme that continues to hold readers in its sway. Since you are pitching this as a book that has historical overtones, we need some more word pictures that illustrate the world you’re taking us into. It’s unclear to us from your pitch what your heroine desperately wants that she doesn’t have. For everyone who’s pitching a novel, this is absolutely crucial. We’re also unclear who this other woman is–the dead bride. We’re also a bit unclear about how the plot unfolds. What the action of the book is. The end seems a little clichéd and generic. We don’t understand what “destiny can stake its claim, again.” means exactly. Again, a couple of physical descriptors of our hero and heroine would be great, so we can see them in our head. These details will help us to empathize with and root for them. Great comparable titles!
Heartswell by Kelley Greene
During a biology lesson in boarding school, Bocas is finally able to put her finger on what was different about herself and her siblings — genetics. The state had long ago removed the genes that allowed society to experience negative emotions, but for some reason, Bocas, Talia, and Connel Spero seem to feel everything. Discovering and naming the emotions only slightly takes the sting out of being relentlessly teased by her classmates. Bocas dreams of one day being truly happy again, like everyone around her, but the only memory she has of that emotion is before her father died.
One night during her favorite pastime, wandering the hallways after lights-out, she finds a door to a room she’s never noticed before. After investigating, she discovers that she and her siblings are being monitored–but why? And she becomes even more suspicious the next day when a cryptic announcement is made that Hawthorne’s Magistrate is coming to audit the school.
Before they know what’s happening, the three Spero children are on the run from becoming a science experiment. But what they don’t know is that they were already part of one, and that the perpetrator is someone they trusted…
Overbearing Talia attempts to keep everyone in line, while Connel misses his popularity and his friends at school. Bocas longs for freedom–from everything–Talia, Connel, the Magistrate, and her emotions. The Spero kids must learn to work together to keep themselves safe, and to learn the truth about who they are–and why they are.
The Book Doctors:
We think this is such an interesting idea for a story–that society has removed the genes necessary to feel negative emotions, except for our heroine and her family. We’ve read 10,thousands of pitches and we’ve never seen that one before. But we’d like to know how this manifests. We want you to show us, make us feel the burden of depression and sadness that our heroine feels. We’d also like a physical descriptor of our heroine. That would help us to see her and to empathize with her. We do like the mystery within the mystery here. That’s very cool. But we’re not sure exactly who is chasing these children, and what they’re going to do to them once they find them. And please give us some comparable titles here. We hate to sound like a broken record but we need to know where this fits on the shelf!
Cyberstrung: A Silk and Venom Story by Jennifer Mason
A hardboiled hacker teen battles spider freaks and venomous smartphones in the near future of Cyberstrung: A Silk and Venom Story. Technology really bites in this YA urban fantasy.
Introverted gadget-guru Harker Aimsworth wants to fund a cure for his disabled younger brother, Avery. When Miccael Martocky—Harker’s idol and creator of the popular M-cell smartphones—launches a hacking contest that awards a lucrative career, Harker enters. He’s poised to win, but his plans go haywire when cyber-terrorist Impostor 2211 hijacks Harker’s entry to attack the M-life network.
Impostor reveals that M-cells are actually hunting lures for seretans, the clandestine arachno-society that feeds on human juices. Seretan venom leeches photonically out of the phones and into the human body, Swiss-cheesing the brain. Victims, like Avery, are easy pickins for scavengers. By serving mankind to seretans, Martocky aims to rectify Earth’s worst environmental threat: humans.
To save the world, Harker must utilize his technological savvy and topple the industry he once adored. But he has little hope of rescuing Avery unless he can connect to sentient hearts and minds without codes or cables.
I earned my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. I also hold an M.Phil from Trinity College Dublin, where I specialized in Gothic and hardboiled literature. I completed and revised Cyberstrung under the guidance of my VCFA advisors, including Bonnie Christensen, who has called me “a master of world building” with an “imagination…to be reckoned with.”
Thank you for your consideration,
The Book Doctors:
We love the phrase “venomous smartphones”. We’ve never seen that anywhere. Very inventive! It’s in the first sentence, so that immediately leads us to believe that you’re going to give us something fresh and unique, but familiar. And I love the fact that the venom leeches out of the phones. Your use of Swiss cheese as a verb is fabulous. We think it’s great that the Earth’s worst environmental threat is humans. It feels very of the moment. Again, we want you to show us worst-case scenario, what’s gonna happen to the world if our hero fails. To us that’s the weakest part of this pitch—that it doesn’t come to some sort of crazy climax. Your bio is really well done. For everyone, there is a lesson to be learned from how Jennifer has a quote from someone else saying how great she is! We also like that it’s very clear from the beginning what our hero desperately wants: to save his brother. And the fact that it’s noble and selfless makes us like and love him. This is a very good pitch.
The Cupcake Plan by Ana Maria Visinoni-Davidov
In THE CUPCAKE PLAN, a contemporary YA comedy complete at 65,000 words, slacker high school rocker Zach Pembrook is mistaken as a scientific genius and resolves to fight back for his reputation and self-respect.
Zach’s never come anywhere even close to fame before and right now he’s got the entire world believing he is the greatest bio-decoder ever. While everyone is busy dissecting and over-analyzing the lyrics to the shockingly nerdy song that made him an overnight sensation – instead of downloading and buying the thing – Zach teams up with the dubious up-and-coming business magnate and Malibu High jock Thomas, determined to make the best of his fifteen minutes in the spotlight. Zach’s aim: to make enough money to either lure music producers his way or, worst case scenario, start his own record label and market his music himself.
All the while, actual scientists are keen on publicly proving Zach is a fraud. Tessa, Zach’s agitated sister, also wants Zach’s farce to come to an end. Zach rocks the max out of in his celebrity status until his business endeavors with Thomas explode in scandal and a child gangster armed with a gun steps into his life.
When there’s nothing left to lose, Zach draws inspiration from his favorite treat on Earth and devises a surefire plan to set things straight again because no matter what’s happened to him, life is sweet.
The Book Doctors:
We really like the mistaken genius idea. And the fact that you put it in Malibu High. We can so see this as a TV series. We’re a little unclear though, what is Zach’s favorite treat on Earth? And we don’t want to know that everything turns out okay in the end. we want you to lead us to believe that everything is going to go wrong. Is there no love story in this book? It would be great if there was. And give us a little more description of the child gangster. It’s a very cool idea, but we couldn’t quite see it in our heads. We also really don’t quite get a sense of the action of the plot. Show us some word pictures of his YouTube video or the way kids treat him at school now that he’s a big sensation. We don’t get enough sense of how his journey from zero to hero changes him. And we don’t get a sense of the arc of this character.
The Asylum by Rebecca Ansari
The only thing more mysterious than the disappearance of Charlie and Ana’s siblings is the fact that no one other than the 12-year-old best friends even seems to notice. Every trace of Lily and Finn vanished with them – family photos diminished by one, carpet stains lifted, the baseball-cracked hallway mirror now flawless. Most disturbing are the blank and confused stares from their parents any time they bring up the subject. Charlie finds it hard to look for answers in a world full of adults that think he and Ana are either over-imaginative or downright delusional. But when Jonathon, their new 17-year-old baseball coach, catches wind of Charlie and Ana’s search, he not only believes them, he claims to know exactly where Lily and Finn are – and why they are there. With Jonathon’s help, Charlie and Ana can follow the same path as their siblings, possibly restoring the lives they used to have. They know Jonathon has no idea how to get them all back home. What they don’t know is that The Asylum’s keeper has no intention of letting them go.
The Book Doctors:
We like this pitch because it’s unexpected. And mysterious. The siblings just disappear, and no one remembers that they even existed. We like the detail that they’ve vanished from the family photos, and that the hallway mirror is suddenly not cracked anymore. Good details! We don’t know enough about our hero. We want you to show us inside him–how confused and sad and determined he is. We like this character Jonathan, but we’d like to know a little bit more about him, too. We do think it’s a little weird that The Asylum’s keeper just appears out of nowhere at the very end. It is mysterious, but it just doesn’t send a chill down my spine that it should because it’s out of left field. I want more of a sense of who they are and what their intentions are.
The Option To Be by Meghan K. Strapec
I’m not writing this of my own free will. You’re probably wondering how someone could be forced to write something like this. I was wondering that myself, and I made it pretty clear that I thought it was a fantastically stupid idea, but that only got me in more trouble. If you get yourself into enough trouble, they can force you to do almost anything to get out of it, assuming you want to. And I do. I didn’t really mean to get into it in the first place, but that’s just how my life works.
When you grow up in middle-of-nowhere Ohio, anything outside your God-forsaken, piece-of-crap town sounds exciting, especially when that thing is leaving for college two years early. But when you come from a backwards place with a mother who forgets you exist and a father you’re not willing to mention in polite company (or any company), it’s hard to start fresh. You’ll try pretty hard, but sanity hasn’t come easy since Noah left. And after the eighty-seventh person calls you crazy, you might just be driven to get yourself into some trouble with the dean that leaves the entire university talking, whether or not they’ve got the facts right.
THE OPTION TO BE is a YA epistolary novel about becoming who you are instead of what has happened to you and offers comedy, empathy, and hope to the awkward outcast in all of us.
The Book Doctors:
We like the voice in this pitch very much. We really get a sense of what it will feel like to read the book. We also love the first sentence of this pitch. But we think the opening paragraph meanders a little bit after that. We’re not that interested in you speculating about what we’re wondering about. We want more facts about the situation. We are also very confused as to what’s the plot of your book. Part of the problem is that you use the second person. This makes it difficult to see what the action is that moves the story forward. What does this person do so that everyone calls him crazy? You tell me in the last sentence that there is comedy in your book, but I don’t see anything really funny in the pitch. I also see no comparable titles here, and I think this would serve you very well.