Pitch Day with Agent Saba Sulaiman!

Saba Sulaiman

The pitching is now closed but the comments are priceless. Read though and learn loads about pitching. Thank you so much to Saba for putting in so much time and effort and giving us this fabulous opportunity!

Today agent Saba Sulaiman of Talcott Notch Literary Services is here to help us celebrate our 2 year anniversary! We’re so pleased to have her as our special guest. So what are we doing to celebrate? We’re inviting you to post your pitch right here in the comments of this post. Saba will be offering feedback or requesting on those pitches that pique her interest! So, go ahead and post that pitch.

Here are the rules:

  • Only pitch work in the genres that Saba represents: Adult, New Adult, Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Nonfiction
  • Pitch completed work only
  • Post your pitch in the comments of THIS POST today, Tuesday, February 3, 2015. Saba will be perusing your pitches from 9am – 5pm EST.

Pitches are to consist of:

  • Title:
  • Word count:
  • Genre:
  • Pitch: 100-words maximum. (Remember a pitch needs to show the conflict, what is at stake for the main character, and hook Saba into wanting to read more!)
  • Excerpt: The first 100-words of your novel. (If the 100th word is in the middle of the sentence don’t worry, just finish it out.)

Incase you missed it, you can read our interview with Saba here.

Have fun and good luck everyone!

221 thoughts on “Pitch Day with Agent Saba Sulaiman!

Add yours

  1. Title: Terrible Angels
    Word count: 96,000
    Genre: New Adult, Apocalyptic

    Pitch: An act of bioterrorism known as the Blight, a product of influenza and rabies, has infected the world. Elaine is wrenched from her comfortably isolated life by the pandemic and the simultaneous kidnapping of her mother. Neville is a virologist hundreds of miles away who is confronted not only with his guilt for helping to create the Blight, but with the resurfacing of the man he’d loved and lost years ago, Graham Laurie. In the end, their journeys change not only their own lives, but the world as well.


    I was twenty-two when the lights went out, the Blight made people rabid, and I lost my mother. Not that she died, but like a puff of steam dissipating in the warm sun, she vanished leaving nothing but the vague direction of east in her wake.

    April 16th
    From the steps of the library the campus appeared haunted. Fog clung to the ground and floated through the branches of trees and around bushes starting to flower. Only two or three dark slouching figures waded through the fog. In my four years living on campus, I’d never seen it so empty.


    1. This looks pretty interesting, but it doesn’t seem to be New Adult to me. I’d shy away from calling this NA unless it has a strong romance plot and fulfills the aesthetic criteria of the genre (a gritty, provocative voice, the struggles of navigating adulthood in one’s 20s, etc.) There are lots of resources online about what New Adult really means in the publishing world, so I encourage you to do your research!


  2. Title: GLIMMERS
    Word Count: 71,000
    Genre: Adult, Time Travel Romance

    For thirty-something years, Paige thought memories existed only in the past, but now she knows better. She can’t explain how or why, but special moments remain inside beloved trinkets — clinging to a letter, a ring, even a worn-out pair of boots. With a simple touch of a cherished token, Paige can relive someone else’s memory, see the world through her eyes, and feel her deepest emotions.
    When Paige returns from each event, or “glimmer,” a small part of her has changed. Who is this gourmet cook, fashion designer, feisty lover? And how is she supposed to explain all of this to her family without them assuming she has lost her mind? Paige thinks her new talent is a gift … until she’s transported into her sister’s memory and catches a glimmer of her secret life.

    A sprinkle of dust encircles my head, and a cough escapes my lips. My hand flips past countless discarded treasures as layers of stale perfume seep inside my nostrils. I stare at the aging fabric and begin to seriously question my method.
    “I know you’re hiding in here … somewhere,” I whisper as my eyes shift from an outdated suit to an almost-adorable sundress. I haven’t found anything worth my efforts, yet I’ve combed through almost every rack.
    “I’m out of here.” As soon as the words enter my mind, my feet blaze a trail between assembled outfits on display and full-length mirrors echoing my escape.


    1. I think the concept has a lot of promise, but your voice isn’t really drawing me in as much as I would like it to. I tend not to prefer florid descriptions of ordinary actions (“I coughed” vs “a cough escaped my lips”) — but that’s just my taste. Do query widely!


    Word Count: 35,000
    Genre: MG Fantasy

    11 year-old Katie thinks moving to France will be a great adventure, but her life in Paris is more drab than fab. Until she finds a Farfadet, a thieving, time-travelling gremlin, hiding in her room. When she learns the Farfadet’s father has been kidnapped, she decides to help mount a rescue mission. The two travel to medieval France where they come face to face with the Inquisitor, a hateful cult leader intent on wiping all magical creatures from the earth. Katie and the Farfadet must work together to free his father and defeat the Inquisitor before he can destroy both their homes.

    Katie yanked the cushions off the couch but all she found was the TV remote. She couldn’t believe it. She’d lost her keys again.
    “Katie,” her mother sighed.
    “I know, I know.” She was sure she’d put the keys in her backpack last night. Since they’d moved to Paris, her brain had turned to Gruyère cheese.
    She kneeled to check under the couch again. When she looked up, her mom was twirling the keys around her finger.
    “Voilà. They were in the dining room. On the chair.”
    “But I already checked the chairs.”
    “Ah, then it must be the Farfadets. They always put things back in a place you’ve already looked.”


    Word count: 109K
    Genre: Adult Fantasy Romance

    Graduate student Elizabeth Tanner loved to lose herself in the musty vellum pages of ancient Irish manuscripts. But when the pictures of one book started shifting and the spidery script transformed to reveal a terrible secret, she awakens to new powers and a world of Irish myth she never knew existed. Elizabeth is an aisling, a half-Fae blessed with the ability to break magical wards, cross space and time, and even walk through dreams. Bound to the Dark Fae by the black magic she unearthed in her MA thesis, she must ally with an eighteenth-century Irish rebel to save herself and the world from an ancient evil.

    I stared at the figure of the Fae woman dancing across the vellum, her silhouette framing the latest entry my advisor Dr. Forrester had tasked me to transcribe. Long brown hair rippled over her shoulders, and her vivid green eyes sparkled like emeralds. Delicate hands danced in the air, a wistful smile playing on her lips. The tree of life, with all its curling roots and branches, intertwined on her smooth, ample chest, creating a perfect circle.

    “She looks a lot like you,” my advisor had joked back in September, his blue eyes twinkling.

    I snorted. “I’m no Tinkerbell, Dr. F.”


  5. TITLE: Molehills of Mississippi: A Novel of Grace in an Age of Terror
    WORD COUNT: 145K
    GENRE: Adult upmarket fiction

    The moment William Bell—born Sally Williams—claims his name and gender, no place in the Mississippi Delta seems safe.

    His seventeen-year-old white body exhilarates and humiliates him. Danger looms even at home: his mother coerces him into therapy aiming to love the gay out of him—even if it kills him. His one sanctuary belongs to an eccentric African American torch singer come home to sink her roots—herself a transsexual woman. But she too has a price: as William struggles toward manhood, he must reach into the mire of his community’s unredressed racial violence to grasp at justice.

    Sal Williams. The syllables of me are strangers in my own mouth.

    I spit on the sidewalk of School Street and wipe my palms on my basketball shorts. It’s Wednesday after practice, and hot for the first day of March, but not warm enough to justify this wetness. The skin on my neck and shoulders prickles. A huge drop of sweat slides down my spine and settles into my waistband. Something inside of me has thawed. I feel it about to drop loose.

    I’m alone, as usual. An old white truck with a gun rack rumbles down School Street—in place of the front license plate, there’s a confederate flag.


  6. Title: LIFE SET SAIL
    Word count: 59,000
    Genre: YA, Fantasy
    Pitch: OUTLANDER meets TITANIC when a seventeen-year-old girl is sent back in time to the ship after holding a séance to summon a boy aboard Titanic.

    I know three things about séances: (1) if done right, (supposedly) you can talk to the dead, (2) you need candles, lots and lots of candles, and (3) witches perform them.

    No, scratch that. Wiccans perform them. My friend Abigail was quick to point that out the first time I called her a witch. “Wicca is a spiritual practice; a peaceful polytheistic religion. We don’t ride brooms, Mae.”

    If there was a contest to see who’s weirder, me or Abby, she’d win. Hands down, 100%, no questions asked, win. And tonight I’m supposed to help her conduct her first séance, because, like always, she managed to coerce me into her weird little world.


  7. Title: Surviving Sarin
    Word count: 61,000
    Genre: YA Contemporary Thriller

    Sixteen-year-old Dylan Ronayne discovers that the army base he calls home is being attacked with deadly sarin gas and is forced to evacuate. Dylan and five other army kids find themselves stuck on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific after their evacuation plane crashes.
    Soon, soldiers arrive on the island, except the kids quickly discover they’re not there to rescue them- they’re there to kill them. What begins as a story of overcoming obstacles and hope soon turns into a tale of pure survival against carnal thirst, the most dangerous predator on the island being Dylan himself.


    “Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets.” —Paul Tournier

    Ms. Patterson finishes writing this quote on the board with a flourish then re-caps the marker and returns to her desk to shuffle through papers. I’m supposed to be writing the quote down and beginning a five-paragraph essay exploring what it means to me, but my eyes rove over the words, the curliness of her handwriting at odds with the pervasive sadness the words spear through me, as though their meaning reflected a sweet, fluffy sentiment instead of a seriously messed-up part of my life.

    I highly doubt anyone in this classroom understands secrets more than me.


    Word Count: 65,000
    Genre: YA light fantasy

    Princess Ellean has managed to reach age seventeen without an adventure. Princesses these days all save kingdoms or slay dragons, but Ellean prefers embroidery—it won’t kill her.

    When her father finally kicks her out of the castle, Ellean’s at least given a handsome one-soldier escort, Brydon. But trouble’s inevitable, and she’s an easy target for a sorcerer set on marrying a princess. And Brydon? He’s in the sorcerer’s way.

    Ellean just hoped to survive, but now she’ll cook, dance, and stitch her way through any adventure to rescue the soldier she hopes might love her back.

    First 100:
    By age seventeen, Ellean really ought to have known better than to dance in the armory. Lost in the freedom of movement, she leaped, spun, tripped, and fell into a rack of swords. She and the rack toppled to the ground, several of the weapons clanging on the stone floor.

    Pulling herself upright, she paused, listening for signs of discovery before disentangling herself. Luckily, the rack she’d hit held only dull practice swords, and she didn’t appear to be bleeding. Her elbow and knee would be purple soon, though; she’d have to make sure she wore long sleeves this week, or her parents might think she was finally getting adventurous.


  9. Title: AUTO IN
    Word Count: 105,000
    Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance


    When Dante D’Avella leaves behind his headset after working at a call center, his primary objective is to find his way into a new set of bed sheets, a goal made easy by his good looks and fast-talking charm. Until he risks dating a spunky but straight laced co-worker who makes it hard to stick to his rule of “casual relationships.” But once he falls for her, she sabotages their romance due to lingering grief over her late husband. By then, it’s already too late for Dante to ever go back to a life of tequila shots and tipsy blondes.


    I hate my apartment.

    I hate my bank statement.

    I hate my boss, most days.

    My mom’s okay, when she’s not swinging between a nagging, hugging, overly-affectionate mound of cotton-candy fluff and a real life version of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland because menopause is a wicked, bipolar bitch. And Dad? What dad? Thanks to being the product of an accidental sperm donor, in the classy words of my mother when I was eleven years old, I burst into being with three shots of tequila and her encounter with a mysterious sexy wizard behind the Snack Shack. Thanks, Mom.

    Thank you for your time! Katie Golding


    Word Count: 30,000
    Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary


    Every day after ballet, Tabitha pirouettes over to Bob’s motorcycle shop for conversations as winding as those Penn Yan roads. Bob knows how to scrape rust off motorcycles and how people keep ghosts in drawers. Though Tabitha struggles to believe him, Bob knows beauty isn’t perfection because even the sky has scars. When Bob disappears, Tabitha decides she’s done caring. But as she uncovers the ghosts in some friends’ drawers, Tabitha starts scraping rust off their hearts. Before she can scrape rust off her own heart, Tabitha must learn to care about things that disappear, or lose ballet like Bob.


    My dance studio shared a parking lot with Big Bob’s Motorcycle Repair Shop. Madame Blanchet kept the blinds closed most days so she wouldn’t have to watch the grime-covered bikes zip in and out of the lot, and every time a startup engine went off, she would turn up the music seven notches to drown it out. Halfway through our barre stretch, we could barely hear Madame’s voice, even if she was standing right over our shoulders, and even if she was shouting at the tiptop of her lungs, which was most of the time.


  11. Title: THE WITCH’S BREW
    Word Count: 67,000
    Genre: YA Retelling/Thriller

    Hansel and Gretel are missing; their stepmother murdered. To save her crush’s mother, aspiring teen detective must crack the case, or become the next victim. LAW AND ORDER meets FABLES.


    Rosia, Everafter 2050

    NEVER TRUST A WITCH reads the notice, printed in bold back and glued to the drugstore’s sliding glass door. Underneath in smaller letters: report any suspicious activity to the nearest Guard.

    I shake my head as I pass through, on my way to pick up lashes. The notices are littered all over town like the witches are set to invade at any moment. The Royals would expect nothing less. I’ve come to believe the Royals are a paranoid bunch.

    I bypass the glitzy glass displays and head for the last aisle on the right.


    Word count: 85,000
    Genre: YA contemporary romance

    Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” meets Paramore’s “Still Into You” when (ex) first loves are unexpectedly reunited on a Battle of the Bands reality show tour bus in this dual timeline, second chance love story.

    Everything I know about music tours I’ve learned from rockumentaries and back episodes of VH1’s Behind the Music. So I’m boarding this bus with two goals:

    1. Leave with a record deal
    2. Don’t leave with a one-way ticket to a Malibu rehab, an STD or baby-mama drama

    Two months ago I was another caffeine-chugging, praying-for-a-B Sophomore at University of Washington. Today? I’m boarding a tour bus with my new/old band, Your Future X, and we’re competing for a record deal. On national television. Things can’t go up from here, so I’ll settle for not crashing and burning. I’m all about realistic goals.


    WORD COUNT: 36,000
    GENRE: MG Contemporary

    Life is deader than roadkill in Three Corners, Nevada. No wonder Phoebe Franz and her father crave traveling. But her parents’ money troubles make vacations as likely as a trip to the moon.
    Phoebe’s thrilled to learn first prize for winning a local beauty pageant is a trip to Ecuador. Sweet! But pageants cost—a lot. And Phoebe’s not-so-skinny and terrified of all things sparkly. She must face her anxieties—and a pageant prima donna—or she’ll lose her family’s chance to travel together. Pageant night could be an evening to remember, or a fiasco Phoebe won’t live down.

    The giant, glittery sign said: Enter the Three Corners Princess Pageant! Open to Girls Grades 6-8.


    Maybe my brain knew, and it was trying to warn me. Maybe that’s why I walked right past the bulletin board at Three Corners Middle School. But my friend Lacey skidded to a stop so quickly I ran into her. The thing had hypnotized her with its mind-melting glitter.

    “Watch it, girl!” I rubbed my nose where it had hit her bony shoulder blade.

    “Phoebe, look at this.”


    1. I remember seeing this on #PitchWars! Nice entry, but if you already had the chance to pitch me during another event I participated in, you probably won’t get a different response, unless you’ve made significant revisions to your work. Good luck, though!


  14. Title: Back to Breaux Bridge
    Word count: 70,000 words
    Genre: Romantic Mystery


    Naturalist Sierra Menard returns to her old neighborhood to find an out-of-place water moccasin, a potential reward, and her first love. Despite Sierra’s longstanding knack for getting them both into trouble, Marc agrees to let her help find the jerk threatening his family. Someone wants Marc’s sister and her kids off that bayou-front property, and they’re willing to plant venomous snakes, send threatening emails, loot the place, and whatever else it takes to scare them off. If Sierra can id the creep, she’ll get the reward money and maybe a second chance with Marc.


    Sierra Menard had a tiny cash problem. Well, less tiny and more like if she didn’t find some extra cash this week, she’d spend next month living in her Bronco.

    Stuck at her day job at the Nature Station, she had to settle for a distraction. Sierra studied the email with a distant, blurry, overexposed photo of a smashed snake. She squinted and tilted her head, angling for a better view. The banding indicated a typical water snake, but she couldn’t rule out a young moccasin. Damn. Without a close-up of the head or tail, she couldn’t be certain.


    1. Your stakes should jump out at the reader. If there’s a jerk threatening the female protagonist, I’d mention that right away. Agents read queries really fast and make quick decisions based on initial impressions — I had to re-read your pitch to really get a sense of what you were talking about. Just a thought!


    Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
    Word Count: 99,000


    Fairy tale romance comes down to earth when a hard-rock drummer finds love, but not a cure for her sexual dysfunction.

    Jera McKnight loves music, adores beautiful men, and hates sex. Her perfect storm arrives in the form of gorgeous but nerdy Jacob Tate, who has a heart as big as his record collection. Soon, her band lands a record deal plagued by catch-22’s, she’s juggling a relationship that she’s afraid to take past PG-13, and Jera is wondering why not a single thing in life can be as simple as good chocolate.


    When the sound of shattering glass yanked my head off the pillow, I didn’t stop to think about the fact that I was wearing sweats. Not thin, make-your-butt-look-cute yoga pants but old school, two-for-ten-dollars-at-Walmart sweats: cuffs cinched tight around my wrists and ankles like rib-knit shackles, plus deflated airbags of material sagging at my crotch and knees.

    This is definitely something I would have considered if I’d known I would open the door to biceps like those.


  16. Title: Not Set in Stone
    Word count: 94,000
    Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
    Pitch: For humans, turning thirty involves reevaluating their lives and having mini panic attacks between celebratory margaritas. For Medusa, a gorgon with an all too common name, it entails finding out if she’s banished to the drab Isle where her mother and other close-minded gorgons reside. Meanwhile, the illegal blood oath she took with her ex-boyfriend Ares, the former god of war, has come back to haunt her present relationship and future in NYC. Will Medusa find a way to untangle this new mess with her toxic ex? The snakes on her head are keeping their opinions to themselves.

    Excerpt: I twirled a single snake around my index finger like a long green ribbon. The other snakes on my head nipped at the bobbing zipper on the back of my blue dress as I power-walked down the sidewalk surrounded by a mass of fellow New Yorkers. Sidewalks here were like a benevolent god we bowed our heads to but never acknowledged, and our sole prayer was to keep moving forward. The gorgon deep within me fought hard to keep me still, especially today on the birthday I feared the most. Did humans hate turning thirty as much as I did?


    Word Count: 62,000
    Genre: YA gothic horror

    To be a resurrectionist is to go against everything seventeen-year-old Dilly Rothbart has been taught but the discovery of her father’s secret laboratory filled with strange, whirling machines and decayed body parts awakens a hunger in her she didn’t realize she had.

    The hunger to know.

    When Dilly finds her father’s hidden journals what she reads awakens more hunger in her.

    The hunger to create life from death.


    It’s my fault she’s a recluse.

    The changes in Deirdre are as tiny as the jagged stitches around the edges of the new skin sewn onto her right cheek. Her mouth droops more and a pale milky glaze covers her right eye. Neither Mother, nor Father are bothered by these changes. The firelight casts a shadow and gives her the appearance of a ghoul. She tips her head and her hair falls over her cheek. She doesn’t wear her veil tonight but she never does inside the house unless we have visitors. And we don’t have visitors anymore.


    1. I really like your pitch! It’s short, packs a punch, gives me the key points, and leaves questions unanswered. And your writing seems quite strong too, so great job! However I don’t really do Horror… query onwards, and don’t look back!


  18. Title: The Adventures of Ratboy
    Word Count: 59,000
    Genre: MG Adventure

    Twelve-year-old Ryan, a shy comic book artist, buys an old pen from his favorite artist. After he uses the pen, Ryan’s characters literally pop off the page and come to life—both hero and villain.

    Now Ryan has to figure out what to do with superhero Ratboy, and his tiny rat sidekick. A boy with a retractable tail and a talking rat can’t live in the real world. Plus the villain, Dastard Lee, is planning to brainwash everyone at school. With his friends about to literally lose their minds, Ryan has to destroy the machine and become the hero in his own story.

    Chip eyed the locked door of the abandoned meat shop. As a superhero, he wore his golden Ratboy costume like he always did on a mission: a leotard with a big red R on the chest, plus tights and a cape. By day, Chip was an ordinary twelve-year-old boy, though he was extremely handsome and charming. But by night, or whenever he had to battle evil villains, he was Ratboy.

    A simple lock wouldn’t keep him out.

    Using his rat-like abilities, Chip flattened his hands and slid them under the door. His arms and head soon followed, equally squished down, along with the rest of his body.


    1. Ooh, here’s another one from #PitchWars — I commend you for being so active and seizing all the opportunities you can get to put your work out there, but if I’ve already seen your work, I won’t consider it again unless it’s been heavily revised. Good luck, though!


  19. TITLE: Grave Maker Blues
    WORD COUNT: 72,000
    GENRE: Adult Mystery


    No one should have to experience someone’s death twice. However, that’s what happens when research assistant Sarah Mackenzie stumbles upon an open grave and finds the murdered victim reminds her of a close friend she believed died ten years ago. Three graveyard murders in as many days with no leads has everyone worried and the not so competent sheriff under pressure. When Sarah becomes a prime suspect of murder, she’s determined to find the real killer not only to clear her name, but also to uncover the truth about her friend’s mysterious disappearance and finally confront the ghosts of her past.


    The limestone marker wore the scars from its battle against age. Squiggles and crevices wormed their way in and out and through the engraved surface. With brush in hand Mac delicately stroked the stone to swipe away the powdery grey dirt and uncover the name and dates. She pushed back a loose strand of unruly black hair and then rubbed both hands on her pant legs to remove the sweat before taking hold of the voice recorder. Placing it close to her mouth, she read the information. “Jordan Corydon, born 1863, died 1898.”


  20. Title: I WANT TO BE FREE
    Word Count: 72,000
    Genre: Adult Science Fiction

    Maggie Johnson is a gun-toting, pot-smoking, middle-aged divorcee enjoying the solitude of her remote Appalachian farm until she is abducted by aliens. When she discovers her abduction is a government hoax, agents arrive, threatening her farm and life. Maggie’s never been one to back down from a threat, but she’ll need more than her shotgun Betsy to take on the Men in Black. It might just mean hijacking a UFO and revealing their secrets to the world to get her life back.

    It was too damn early to kill a man. I didn’t even get to take one drink of my coffee before I saw him on the security cameras monitor, traipsing right into my pot patch. Got me so irate I spilled half my coffee down the front of my nightgown. I figured there was time to change into dry clothes, until I saw him bend over and finger one of my plants like a jock does his girlfriend on Homecoming night.

    This was no neighbor, either: black suit, trench coat, looking like a 1920’s mobster except for the shiny, bald head.


  21. Title: The Lineage
    Word Count: 115,000
    Genre: Thriller (adult)

    Researching “Killer DNA,” the controversial link between psychopathy and genetics, cost Dr. Ben Spencer his promising career. Finally given another chance, he’s hired by a dangerous family hoping it’s not too late to short-circuit their own murderous heritage.

    But it’s not only research they’re after, but escape. The family was born into the Lineage, a centuries-old secret dynasty of psychopaths organized for profit and power. If Ben discovers the Killer DNA cure, he can bring down the evil organization and save the family from joining the next generation of psychopaths. If he fails, the worst of humanity continues.

    Dr. Ben Spencer kept his most important theory to himself: to survive the present, resurrect the past. He tested it only once a year, by himself and whenever possible, with whiskey.

    Ben was alone in his office. The halls of Stony Brook University’s Life Sciences building were at last free of undergrads panicked about spring finals. His annual ritual could begin.

    Opening the only drawer that locked in his shoddy desk, the cheap wood scraped and groaned. He reached for the first of three objects.

    It began, as it must, with Glenlivet 18.


    Word count: 91,000
    Genre: WF Romantic Thriller

    Schoolteacher Kayla Petrovic knows she is a screw up. Countless lovers have been unable to fill the emotional void created by the psychopathic mother who taught her she was worthless – before Kayla killed her. Accidentally, but even after eight years, Kayla awaits her punishment.

    When Kayla and her class are abducted and held for ransom in the Australian desert, Kayla seizes the opportunity to atone for her sins, bartering her body for the students’ safety. But the kidnappers’ brutality unleashes Kayla’s psychological demons and, trapped in a battle for sanity, she fears the hereditary nature of her mother’s psychosis.


    Arrayed across the red dirt road, the haphazard human line was instantly intimidating. Gooseflesh prickled the slick patina on Kayla’s naked arms, adrenalin hastening her heartbeat.

    Her voice echoed in the tin can resonance of the bus. She’d been speaking aloud, her young students sprawled in somnolent, candied bliss across the vinyl seats. Eagles, clumsy as they gorged on the dismembered corpses of road-kill kangaroos, had been the only indicator of life beyond the windows for more than four hours. The radio gave nothing but the angry buzz of static. Her leg jiggled up and down. Her fingers drummed a matching tattoo on the sun-baked steering wheel.


    1. I’d switch the order of the two paragraphs, since your book’s action focuses on the kidnapping. Ending your pitch with the fact that Kayla killed her mother will add a lot of zing to it, and make agents want to read more. At least I think it will!


  23. Title: Soulreader
    Word count: 83,000
    Genre: YA Fantasy

    Assassin-in-training Petra wants nothing more than to track down the men who killed her mother a decade before. But on her first assassination, she discovers that she can read souls, even feel the pain of her victims. And what’s worse, she’s being stalked by the same group she’s trying to find. But they don’t want to kill her. With her soulreading ability, Petra would be a valuable asset to them in seeking out threats to their power and eliminating them.

    The other assassins-in-training already stood in neat rows in the Square when I arrived. The sun rose pale and colorless as I stepped down into the sunken square, the sand warming my bare feet. The western mountains glowed in the early morning light. Their snow-capped peaks were just visible on the edge of the horizon. The Square was the northernmost of a dozen open-air training areas set up like a patchwork in the center of Tresido, our desert camp. Each square had been devoted to a specific skill, from swordplay to climbing.


    Word Count: 89,000
    Genre: YA Sci-fi Romance


    With an acceptance letter from her top choice school in one hand and a new boyfriend in the other, high school senior Skye Reilly has life all planned out. That is, until an alien spaceship lands on the lawns of the Washington Monument and turns her perfectly planned life into chaos. For when she falls for Ethan, an alluring alien, she meddles with the alien leaders’ secret plot to conquer Earth, and becomes a threat that must be eradicated. Love turns lethal for eighteen-year-old Skye in this cross between THE 5th Wave and the TV show “V”.


    A perfect first date is supposed to end in a perfect first kiss. My first date with Taylor Manning ended with the beginning of the battle for the human race. I’d been crushing on Taylor since the start of senior year. Sitting next to him on a picnic blanket under the moonlight, with the nerves bouncing around my stomach like tiny rubber balls, the fate of humankind was the furthest thing from my mind.

    “Did you enjoy the tour?” Taylor leaned in, gently pulling out a leaf that must have gotten caught in my hair. Warmth flushed my cheeks.


  25. Title: Finally Awake
    Word count: 42,065
    Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairytale

    Newly awakened princess Penelope (Pen) has been sequestered in her parents’ castle all her life and is finally ready to see the world. Grappling with mixed emotions of excitement and anxiety, Pen adventures past her home and falls into other princess fairytales. But when the Huntsman winds up chasing her, fears of loneliness pale in comparison to staying alive.

    Dust wafted off of Penelope and clogged the air. She sat up, “Achoo!” The dust invaded her throat, tickling all the way down. As she waited for it to settle, Penelope tried to remember where she was. The last thing I remember is pricking my finger on the needle of a spinning wheel, and that old woman laughing. “Achoo!”
    “Bless you.”
    Penelope started—Who was that? She strained to see who it was in the dust-fog. As the dust calmed, she slowly discerned the solid form of the stranger standing next to her.
    The cleared air revealed an attractive young man looking down at her.


  26. Title: Grandma Has Murder On Her Mind

    Word count: 70,000

    Genre: Adult – Cozy Mystery

    Mama Meatballs – Mona’s been murdered! Can her best friend Rose, a sassy septuagenarian and manicotti-aficionado, put her fork down and enlist the help of her big-city attorney granddaughter Anna to solve the case? Navigating a veritable buffet of suspects, small town characters, and age-old feuds will take all the courage and cunning these ladies can cook up. With Mona’s body set for cremation and her estate scheduled for a raucous town auction, Anna and Rose must race to discover the truth and get justice for their friend before the evidence is lost forever.

    Whenever Grandma Rose called, Anna went running. Not because Rose was about to die, or because her furnace was acting up again, or because Rose thought she saw a mouse and spent four hours circling the block to avoid a rodent showdown. Anna went running because if she didn’t, she would never hear the end of it. If there is an afterlife, Anna will have a chubby little Italian lady dishing her meatballs dripping in red sauce from a bottomless pot saying, “Would it have killed you to call?” On a loop. For eternity.

    Anna assumed it was another false alarm when Rose left her a wild voicemail one night in late October.


    1. Ooh, a cozy! I’m definitely on the lookout for those in my inbox. But here’s the thing — your pitch doesn’t really stand out from the standard cozy mystery mould. I’d work on inserting some more voice into your pitch to distinguish it from other submissions in a crowded market. I personally like my cozies to be written with a lot of dry wit and flair — eccentric characters with strange hobbies, anything that’s fun, quirky and interesting. Good luck!


  27. Title: MIND AND MANOR
    Word count: 87,000
    Genre: YA Adventure

    A Fortune Hunter by trade, Zev Porter decides to take a strange job request – to listen to a woman’s story. But things go awry when he finds himself trapped in the story. Getting out only provides more trouble for Zev when he releases magic back into his world. To make matters worse, the woman says there is more magic to be saved.

    Zev must determine if losing everything he knows is worth the risk of saving magic or if it should be left to those lurking in the shadows.

    “Hey kid, watch it!”

    I jump back in time to avoid being trampled by a horse-pulled wagon and its driver. Cold, dark water sprays me, staining my clothes. I shoot a death glare at the back of the driver’s head as he, and his wagon, disappear around a corner.

    I sigh. I should’ve stayed in bed today. My stomach growls in protest of the thought, reminding me why I’m out here in the first place – food and rent aren’t free – and the only place for me to get a job is the Fortune Hunters Bureau. I run my fingers through my now ruined hair and step out on to the uneven cobblestone street.


    1. Who is this woman? Include some distinguishing detail. What is this story he gets pulled into about? You’ll make your pitch more interesting if you include just a little more information. Right now, I think it’s a little too vague. You always want your agent to leave questions unanswered, but not to the point where there are so many questions that the agent doesn’t get feel for what the story is about/entails.


  28. Title – LIFTING THE FOG
    Word Count – approx 32000
    Genre – contemporary MG

    PITCH: Charlton Wallace didn’t mind moving from place to place every time Mom landed a new gig. It was when she signed the contract to be lead-in-singer for a famous country star, that Charlton’s life changed dramatically. He was being sent to Maine to live with Mom’s dad whom he didn’t know much about. All this twelve year old knew of his past was that his dad was killed in a car accident, his mom’s mom had died of cancer, and Mom left when she had some kind of fight with her dad.
    A step grandmother, spunky girl his age, and old woman, music, poetry, historic mansion and a mystery he solves, are all pieces of the puzzle that Charlton fits together to create a picture of his life that Mom left behind them.

    EXCERPT: I’m no detective, but the smell of Mom’s homemade cinnamon twists was a dead giveaway. We were moving, again. I walked in expecting her usual spiel. “Charlton, I’ve got big news. A new gig. New adventure awaits us.”
    Instead, Mom was on the phone, her voice almost a whisper. “He’s a good boy, Daddy. I know you’ll like him.” She paused, gave me a quick look, then hung her head and did her nervous curl twirl. “ Charlton’s real dependable for a twelve year old and not a bit of trouble. Never gotten in any either.”
    I stood by the door — frozen.


    1. Your pitch felt very prosaic — boy moves away to a new city to live with someone new, cue adventures. That’s all I got from it, and I’m sure your story is much richer. Add more details, give me more of a sense of who Charlton is, and what kind of mystery he solves. Your opening is pretty strong, so if you work a little more detail into your pitch, you should definitely try querying me — who knows, I might request more if I like what I see?


    Word Count: 55,000
    Genre: MG Fantasy

    Camping trips make peaceful family vacations, except when the forest explodes. When twelve-year-old Simon regains consciousness, his search for family leads to Drunwick, where fish-birds flutter through air and spotted honknuckles sunbathe on streets.

    But, his parents aren’t waiting there; the police are.

    Drumwick’s librarian is also missing and all clues point to Simon. With a council member eager to point fingers, and evidence piling up, Simon prepares for serious detective work. If he can’t clear his name fast, Simon could find himself in jail with no chance of finding his family.

    Unfortunately, someone else just went missing.

    First 100 Words:
    Thirty-seven minutes ago, a bush winked at Simon. Granted, he never truly believed in monsters, but his eight-year-old sister Emily wouldn’t shut up about the creatures hiding in the forest. It was starting to get to him — he hadn’t slept for two days.

    “Surprised to see you this far from the RV,” a deep voice commented.

    “I needed a break.” Simon spun on the rotten bench to his approaching father. A tall man, Jim Hardt had more hair on the sides of his head than on top, and a permanent watch tan decorated his wrist.


    1. There’s a lot going on in this pitch. There are all these creatures, there’s a missing librarian, and someone else also went missing, and I’m wondering what’s really going on. What is the core conflict? Here’s a useful method to employ while revising a pitch or a summary: write all the very crucial, indispensable information you need to include in bullet point form; make each point as succinct and as punchy as possible, put them in paragraph form and revise until it looks clean and ready to go. For a pitch you can ignore anything subsidiary — it should ideally encapsulate the very essence of your story, both plot-wise, and theme-wise.


  30. Title: Her Only Escape
    Word count: 80,000
    Genre: YA Thriller
    Pitch: When her younger brother Michael dies of cancer and her parents flee their hometown out of grief, Life unravels for seventeen-year-old Sam Powell faster than she can pirouette across a stage. Sam’s best friend goes missing and she doesn’t care if people think she’s crazy—she can’t lose someone else she’s close to. While the case runs cold, Sam takes matters into her own hands and enlists the help of the son of a reporter and the school outcast. With a fact-finding mission gone awry, Sam’s last resort could yield answers—but it may very well get her killed.
    Excerpt: My thoughts swarm me as I get up from my bed. When I snap back into reality, I grab my towel and shove it into my backpack while trying to keep my legs from collapsing beneath me. I shouldn’t have laid down. Each time I jump into my dreams desperately reaching for wholeness leaves me vulnerable, with no answers when I awake. Tiny pieces of myself left in an abyss of hopes to see an image of Michael again.
    Dad gives me a once over by the door. He watches my every frenzied move, certain I’m upset over my conversation with Mom.


    1. So Sam’s a ballet dancer, or studying ballet seriously in some way? If so, I’d make that clearer, because it’s an important detail. If not, then the “pirouetting” image feels a little awkward to me. Otherwise, I’d make the missing best friend the focus of the pitch, since that’s what drives the plot forward.


  31. Title: Before I Sleep
    Word Count: 42,928
    Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy/Dystopian

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but not for twelve-year-old Ada. Like most of the people living in the ancient forest, she’s only seen the sun once. If she can find the sun again, and the Wordkeeper, she’ll save her mother’s life.

    People say when the trees were young, sunlight warmed the earth and dappled the ground with dots of orange, green, blue. It has been seven years since I have seen the sun. My mother and father took us to the sun spot when I was five. I am 12 now, but I still remember the warmth on my face and arms, my eyes squinting against the brightness. We had traveled west from our section of the forest, emerging from the darkness like a line of tiny ants pouring from their hills of sand; flying single file on our air transport vehicles, down the airway path, darting and dodging in and out of the thousand year old trees.


    1. This pitch, although quite intriguing, is too vague. It needs a little more detail, or perhaps some comp titles? Also, I felt as though your writing voice didn’t really sound like a 12 year old, in terms of tone and sentence construction. Just a thought!


      1. Thanks Saba. When I think “Pitch” I think “Elevator Pitch,” which is what you see here. I should have gone with my short synopsis instead. As far as the language of a 12-year-old…no, she is atypical due to her culture and life’s experiences, as you would have seen in the synopsis. Thanks for taking a look though. All best, Patti Richards


    Word Count – 83,000
    Genre – YA Horror

    Pitch – ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD meets THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. After her cousin disappears while hunting an urban legend, seventeen-year-old Quinn must confront Colonial Williamsburg’s secretive locals to find her – without becoming the next victim.

    Excerpt –
    We shouldn’t be here. Despite all the signs, and how much we want to help, going into the White Woods this close to sunset is a stupid idea.

    Josh throws an overly dramatic hand on his forehead. “Can we speed this up? I’m too pretty to risk being stuck in these woods for forever.”

    Oh, good. If he keeps this up, I’ll punch him right where that embroidered eagle sits on his preppy polo. I swear, if we get trapped in these woods because we listened to someone who marks time by when the next J. Crew sale’s about to go down, instead of all the warnings – well. Let’s just say there aren’t enough words in the English language that can describe what I’ll do to him


  33. Title: THE SINNER ROSE
    Word Count: 93,000
    Genre: YA Romantic Fantasy

    Killing never comes easy, but for eighteen-year-old Martia, exterminating those who fall in love is an uncomfortable reality of being a Deathwalker. In the country of Mithos, True Love is the most dangerous form of black magic, giving the wielder the power to burn through skin and bone. Those who fall prey to it must be eliminated. When Martia meets Prince Narin, her worst nightmare is realized, as Narin is her True Love. After their secret is discovered, Martia must make a decision: plunge her sword into Narin’s heart, or choose Narin and become one of the hunted.

    The streets of Yuin are no place for love.

    I creep through the night, wearing black in a city of pale stone. Even after dusk, Yuin is bright, the firelight blinding me. I slink further into the shadows cast by the alley’s gleaming wall, tilting away from the flickering glow. Darkness shields better than any armor.

    Something clinks to my left. I reach for the polished hilt of my scimitar.

    A giggling couple stumble into the alley after a rolling wine bottle. The woman’s sharp snicker drowns out the distant music of stringed vihuelas and beating hand drums. She clutches her sides, bunching up the layers in her floor-length pleated dress. Her glazed eyes rise to meet mine and the laughter squelches.


  34. Title: Forgiving Impressions
    Word Count: 72,000
    Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance

    Gina is done with men, and especially with millionaires. All she really misses is the sex. When the hot bartender she sleeps with at her best friend’s Sonoma wedding turns out to own the vineyard, the mix of fury and fear is damped only by the knowledge that she never has to see him again.
    Through his grandparents’ marriage, Hunter learned what true love is, and he’s unwilling to settle for anything else. Still, when circumstance unbelievably keeps bumping him into the feisty brunette from Portland, he can’t shake the feeling that she is someone he should pursue.

    “Zip me up?” Gina asked, coming out of the dressing room in her maid-of-honor dress.

    Roger dropped his cell phone beside her purse and stepped up behind her. “Can you believe Sabella’s getting married, and we don’t even have dates to the wedding?”

    Gina shot him a chiding look over her shoulder. “Sabella deserves her happily ever after.”

    He tugged the zipper up then resettled her hair. “I know! She does. But, seriously. Us? Stag at her wedding?” He plopped back on the plush cream bench across from the angled trio of mirrors. “Unacceptable!”

    “Ever the drama queen.” Gina stepped onto the raised ivory platform to assess the alterations, trying not to look too hard at her reflection.


    1. Good, standard format for a romance pitch. But the stakes aren’t high enough! The only problem is that he’s a millionaire? And from his perspective, is there even a problem? Romance is such a crowded market these days, your project really has to have a unique hook to draw agent interest.


  35. Title: TRUTH, LIE OR DARE
    Word Count: 67,000
    Genre: YA Contemporary


    Truth: Secrets kill.
    Lie: Best friends are forever.
    Dare: Someone dies.
    And Dani must play the game if she wants to stay alive–friendship can be a bitch.

    TRUTH, LIE OR DARE is a YA contemporary about the bonds of friendship between four girls and the secrets that threaten to destroy them. Similar in vein to Pretty Little Liars by Megan Shepherd.

    For the millionth time I wonder why I’m friends with Taylor, especially when she bulldozes over my feelings, like usual. I told her I changed my mind about the tattoo. And yet I see Taylor lean against my new red Mercedes, her designer jeans painted across her ass. I shake my head as I walk up to her.

    “Nope, not going to happen,” I say. But she knows she’s won, I can tell by the self-satisfied smirk on her face. Dammit.

    With a grin Taylor says, “Unlock it, I want to see inside.” I press the remote and she opens the driver’s side door and jumps in.


  36. Title: Alizarin Crimson
    Word-count: 94,000
    Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy

    Pitch: Ayami Lore is at the art school of her dreams, her life seems perfect, until the color red magically seeps into her skin and destroys her sanity. She must learn to control her power and the color red before it drives her insane like the last person who had could control color: Vincent Van Gogh.

    Aya discovers a hidden message from Van Gogh, and she travels to Paris only barely ahead of Dune, a woman who will do anything, even kill Aya, to find the book Van Gogh left behind.

    Can Aya embrace her power and find Van Gogh’s book before Dune or the red destroys her?


    “I put my heart and soul into my work,
    And lost half my mind in the process.”
    Vincent van Gogh

    The rich, black charcoal was silk in my fingers as I slid it across the page, forming the piercing gray eyes of the old man sitting on the back-less wooden chair on the raised platform in the middle of the classroom, our chairs in a semi-circle around him. His slacks and vest looked as old as he, but his keen eyes gave a sharp contrast to his weathered face. The harsh light of the pull down bulbs accentuated every wrinkle, every imperfection.


    1. Wait… so Van Gogh could control color? I assume you’re being metaphorical here, but it’s a little confusing. Ayami’s skin literally becomes red? You’re definitely making me ask questions, but more out of confusion than curiosity, and that’s not really your goal. Some of your sentence construction is also a but clunky, so I’d work on that as well.


  37. Title: The Owl of Athena
    Word Count: 52,000
    Genre: Upper Middle Grade Fantasy


    Twelve-year-old Ellie hates her new life in California. At the Getty Villa, her brother knocks off a wooden owl that comes to life and transports them to ancient Greece. Though they don’t know it, Athena has an important mission for them: they must free Pegasus, who has been unjustly enslaved by Zeus. Along the way, they battle the hexameter-rapping Chimera, sail with the Argonauts, and befriend the only female Argonaut, Atalanta. But after losing her brother in the Aegean Sea, Ellie is enslaved by an old woman who feeds her lotus fruit, which takes away her identity. When she finds out she’s been drugged, she yearns to remember who she is and find her home.


    Ellie closed her eyes and saw the winged horse. He was lying on a purple rug, like a statue chiseled from white marble. All she had to do now was cross the stream. She didn’t want to scare him away, so she stepped lightly from rock to rock across the water. When she tiptoed up close enough to spook him with her thumping heartbeat, he didn’t move.

    She stroked his forehead. He looked at her. She hesitated, then swung her leg over his back, sat down, and nudged him in the ribs. He stood up in one fluid movement and began to walk, then trot, then canter. She dug her heels into his flank, huddled close to his body and clutched his mane tight.


    Word count: 50K
    Genre: MG historical
    Pitch: When a 12-year-old Tuscan girl can’t recover the Book of the Lamb—the only record of her dead papa’s musical legacy and his love for her—she falls into the clutches of papa’s oldest enemy, who promptly frames her for theft of a byzantine relic. If she doesn’t smuggle it to Constantinople and sing her way into the Patriarch’s good graces, she’ll lose the rest of her family and end up in the enemy’s orphanage—right where he wants her.
    Excerpt: Just as the morning star rose over Arezzo’s city wall, Bella jumped from her window into the back of the woolman’s cart. Wriggling between two firm sacks of wool, she pulled her knees up to her chin.
    Had Papa passed as easily through heaven’s gate?
    A tuft of wool tickled her nose and she sneezed. She held her breath.
    Had the driver heard?
    The cart slowed. She pressed her hands over her mouth and nose. The cart stopped. She forced her head between her knees. The cart turned the corner and rumbled on.
    Bella’s pent-up breath rushed into the surrounding wool.


    1. This is pretty decent, but I suggest that you refer specifically to the period in which your book is set. Also, a word of advice: you might want to find another name for your protagonist. The name “Bella” is just too heavily associated with Twilight, and that just adds a conflicting image to the agent’s mind as she/he reads your query.


      1. Saba,
        Thanks for taking the time to read!
        BTW, it’s set in the 11th century. I don’t suppose Isabella is different enough?
        Sounds a bit like the Queen of Spain though.


  39. Title: P.S. No Regrets
    Word Count: 66,000
    Genre: YA contemporary
    Pitch: After getting out of Juvie from her failures (i.e. “getting caught”), Daphne has a new perspective on why she feels driven to cull the creeps that feed off inflicting pain and anguish to others, and hopefully she can stop (as she sure doesn’t want to be in Juvenile Hall again). Maybe she can stifle the need to dish up revenge for those that can’t fend for themselves. She doesn’t feel what she did was necessarily wrong, just her execution was off. No, she can’t think like that. Daphne was released, so she’s cured now right?
    New school, new life, even trying out to Cheer! A few dead bodies in her past? No one is perfect. P.S. No regrets.

    Excerpt: Well, her therapist said to do something totally opposite from her old life to “pave new paths.” Oh brother, she kind of picked the most horrendously obvious try-out to test this theory, maybe she hoped to fail? Who knew? But she didn’t. Now she was thrust into her personal 10th layer of Hell, a cheerleader. Really?
    Well, at least she had signed up for the Student Crisis center. She had seen enough sorrow and hurt brought on by predators to certainly be able to help the psychically scarred. Hopefully she could “find more forgiveness” as the doctors had said, and use it for “healing” (not cherry-picking her next victims).


    1. Your pitch doesn’t give me enough information about the actual plot of the story — certainly not enough for the fact that it’s like Buffy meets Dexter. I like that you focus on Daphne’s perspective, but I think you should talk more about what the core conflict of the book is — is it how she adjusts into her new life? Or does it have something more to it? Just a few questions you could consider addressing when you revise your pitch.


      1. Thank you, I was rushing as I had a twitter pitch and yes, the conflict within and her inner battle to fight it as new stresses from the move, mean girl frenemies, and her moms new boyfriend who is working his way up the list to “next.” Thank you so much for the feedback!


    Word count: 81,000
    Genre: Contemporary Romance
    Frankie came to Minnesota looking for a change and finds three boys hiding in the house she inherits. Ex-pro baseball player, Ryan, wants to stay under the radar until the media nightmare regarding his suspension dies down. Both of them were looking for a change. Neither of them expected to find the other. But Ryan’s high profile life might stop Frankie from getting what she never knew she wanted.

    There was a fine line between having character and being ugly. Frankie Vaughn knew which side of the line her newly inherited shack was on, but that didn’t stop the bubbles of excitement from rising in her chest. The metal teeth of the key dug into her skin, assuring her, she was really doing this. Her father had handed it over reluctantly when she’d told him she wanted the house, the adventure. And she did, but she wasn’t ready to go in yet.
    The breeze whipped the scent of freshly mown grass past her face.


    1. I like your pitch! It’s really got everything I need to know. As a project, however, I wish it had a more compelling hook, because despite our polished pitch, your story is just something I’ve seen a lot of times. But maybe another agent will think otherwise, so do query widely!


  41. Title: The Breslau Legacy
    Word Count: 92,000
    Genre: Thriller (adult)


    Linguist Max Ziegler’s easy expat life in Berlin is turned upside down by a letter from his grandfather Horst. As a teenager in Nazi Germany, Horst discovered the mythical Belt of Ulm, but an SS officer stole it and disappeared. Horst asks Max to contact Julia, a German historian with new clues about the belt.

    Sucked into the deadly, decades-long search for the belt and then framed for murder, Max and Julia must use their unique skills to evade the police, fight off Russian mafiosi and interpret the clues scattered throughout Europe to protect their families’ legacies.


    Prologue: Breslau, Germany
    April 24, 1945

    Horst Ziegler used his sleeve to wipe the sweat and grime from his face. The only thing he could smell was the cordite-laced smoke and the only thing he could hear was his own heart pounding. When one of the dozens of bodies lying in front of his machine gun emplacement struggled to move, he was glad that his ears weren’t working—although he was barely sixteen years old, he had heard the sad, pitiful pleas of dying soldiers too many times before. He hoped that someone would give the man a Gnadeschuss, a mercy shot to end the man’s suffering.


  42. It’s 5pm EST so that’s it! No more pitches please. Thank you to everyone who participated and lets give Saba a huge round of applause! So much amazing feedback today. Thank you so much Saba!!!


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