Claimed By an Angel by Izzy Verdery
This truly cosmic fantasy YA novel Claimed By an Angel treads in Milton’s footsteps, creating a world at the mercy of a bickering, once-married, couple – God and Satan – who have decided to use two human pawns to settle their dispute once and for all. And this time? God is a woman.
Stella and Rachel are best friends. When they’re each claimed by polar opposites: Heaven and Hell, neither knows what happened to the other.
As soon as Stella finds out where Rachel is, she is determined to try and find and rescue her. As she gets her wings, learns some magic, and becomes someone worthy of angel hood in Heaven, she has to go, because Rachel’s in trouble. Meanwhile, Rachel finds herself on dark street, talking to a strange boy who claims he knows the Devil. Trying to navigate the World of Shadows is hard, but it’s even harder as she uncovers more about who she is, why she’s there, and just where Stella might be.
With the help of their friends, the two girls begin a quest that none of them fully understand to bring a millennia-old relationship back to the start. In this thrilling tale of friendship, first romance, and new beginnings, follow Rachel and Stella as they embark on a quest to find each other. New teenage author Izzy Verdery showcases the best of dystopian YA fantasy fiction. The story of Stella and Rachel will show the other side of history- the greatest love story ever told.
The Book Doctors:
First of all, we are kind of awed by the fact that you are a teenage author. That is so cool! We always say agents, publishers and readers are looking for stories that are familiar yet unique. Paradise Lost casts such enormous shadows over Western culture, you automatically give yourself a built-in fan base. And then you have the great twist that God is a woman. It feels biblical, but very modern at the same time. We also love that Satan and God were a bickering once-married couple. You also allude to other great stories, like Orpheus and Eurydice, in which Orpheus descends into hell to retrieve the love of his life. In terms of how to improve the pitch, we don’t quite get any vision of the “World of Shadows”. What exactly is she facing? You use the word “quest” twice in the same paragraph. Don’t tell us that your book is thrilling. Just show us. Similarly, don’t tell us that you are the “best of dystopian fiction.” Just show us how great you are. You could also use a couple of comparable titles, books that you think are similar.
Ravaged by Sara Knaus
Sabine’s body opened at the demon’s feet, her porcelain skin marred by blood that bubbled up from her throat. Tremors surged along the creature’s spine as it gorged itself on the meat.
Supple, Odile thought desperately. Supple, supple, that’s what you are. The word was a mantra, fixed in her brain like a failing prayer.
The hedonistic city of Hjarta blossomed on hallowed ground, and the god Seg’vora is set on retribution. Odile is one of many hapless libertines, has her indulgent ways brought to a halt when her lover and famed courtesan, Sabine Uzzolta, is slaughtered by the Hell-sent ravagers that prey upon harlots and panders.
Following Sabine’s death, Odile and her cousin Andrea can take on the shape of the demons at will, able to slay them. Hjarta’s leaders vie for their allegiance, the High Priestess seeking to appease the ravenous god; the Doge to destroy it.
Interested only in avenging Sabine, Odile lunges into a crusade against Hell. Casualties rise. Seg’vora speaks through Andrea’s sister Rozia, a priestess, ravening after her notorious cousin.
As she delves deeper into the mystic world that has oppressed her, Odile learns that her battle is one Sabine began long ago, one that she trusted Odile to win for her – even if she tears the world down to do it.
Inspired by Renaissance myth and seduction, Ravaged is a fantastical war against heaven, paved by the darkly intimate history of two corrupt women.
Enter the city, if you can evade its jaws.
The Book Doctors:
Your pitch is your audition to show us what a wonderful writer you are, and after reading your pitch we’re really convinced you know how to put words together. We love the log line at the end: “Enter the city, if you can evade its jaws.” We also enjoy the way you give us a little sample of the book right in the beginning so we see the tone and style of your book. Instead of telling us about it, you show us the action. And there’s so much at stake in the story, right from the beginning. But we do need more word pictures. Again, you have to build this world for us so that we can see it. You tell us that our heroine can take on the shape of the demon, but we don’t know what the demon looks like. How is it different than all the other demons to come before it? And we feel like there are too many characters in this pitch. We lose track, particularly because the names are unfamiliar. The pitch needs to be simpler. Also, we don’t quite get enough of a sense of who our heroine is; we don’t quite fall in love with her; we’re not quite rooting for her. For example, what exactly are her “indulgent ways”?
The Movie of Her Dreams by Candice Watson
Jessica Bentley is a hero. Jessica Bentley is a slut. Jessica Bentley is crazy. Or, at least, that’s what the senior class at Crowe Academy would have you believe.
In reality, Jess wants to get out. After an ill-advised fling went wrong the year before, any goodwill that her peers might have had for her has gone out the window. Her position as president of the Film Club is constantly being undermined by her manipulative vice president, her lacrosse captain is trying to get her to quit, and her best boy friend-slash-epic crush wants nothing to do with her.
But there’s only so much wallowing that a girl can do, especially during her last year of high school. Jess is hell-bent on getting into film school, and in order to do that, she has to make The Movie of Her Dreams. To do that, she needs a little help from the friends that she still has, as well as the assistance of Matt, her best friend’s brother-slash-Crowe’s football star, who is far more intelligent and perceptive than Jess expected.
Making The Movie of Her Dreams and getting into film school is a long term escape, but what about the short term? Will Jess be able to put herself back together in eight months, or will she become more undone by the time senior year’s over?
The Book Doctors:
We really like the way this pitch begins. The unexpected juxtaposition of hero and slut. It convinces us from the very beginning that you are skilled and talented writer. We like that our heroine has a goal and quest, something she has to complete, with a clock ticking in the background. It’s a good plot, and you have a good writing style. And we like Jessica right away. We’d like to see her doing something nice for other people, so we’d go from liking her loving her. You’ve done a great job of having everything and everyone stacked against her, increasing difficulties on all sides. But we don’t think this pitch comes to a sufficient climax. Becoming more undone doesn’t feel climactic to us. We want to know the specifics of what’s going to go wrong if she fails. We’d like to understand more about where this relationship with Matt is going, for better or for worse.
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.