Pub Rants

Blog Pitch Workshop (Part II)

 22 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: Problem solved with Comcast. Makes me happy. Ally Carter is on the New York Times Bestseller Top 10 List for the third week in a row for CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY. That makes me very, very, very happy.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SWEET CAROLINE by Neil Diamond

Now you guys are getting into the swing of things. In fact, I encourage you all to give examples with your analysis in the comments section like Rebecca did for yesterday’s post.

And since Ally is my NYT star, let’s tackle her young adult novel I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU next.

The premise of this work is pretty high concept and easy to sum up: a teen girl who attends the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women (but really a school for spies) jeopardizes her make or break sophomore year by falling in love with a teen boy from the neighboring town who can’t know who or what she is.

So now we have to work that concept into an attention-getting pitch paragraph. Since we are playing with making our pitches sound like good cover flap copy, here’s what the flap reads for this book:

“The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is a fairly typical all-girls school—that is, it would be if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE, and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. So while the Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses, it’s really a school for spies.

Cammie Morgan is a second-generation Gallagher girl, and by her sophomore year, she’s already fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways (one of which involves a piece of uncooked spaghetti). But the one thing the Gallagher Academy hasn’t prepared her for is what to do when she falls for a boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl.

Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, and track him through town without his ever being the wiser—but can she have a relationship with a regular boy who can never know the truth about her?

Cammie may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she’s beginning her most dangerous mission—falling in love.” (Hyperion 2006)

Now let’s analyze.

1. 6 sentences total (and notice how much information is packed into these six sentences)
2. The first two sentences are a summary of the setting with some fun elements to set the tone. We have to know that the Academy is a school for spies or the rest of the cover copy won’t make sense.

3. The next paragraph dives right in and here’s a fun comparison. The Harry Potter cover flap copy started with what Harry has not done (Quidditch, ride a broom, dragon hatching). In a similar vein (but reversed), the LYKY cover copy tells us what Cammie is capable of (an impressive and fun list that captures our attention) but then launches into what she hasn’t done—and that’s fall in love with a boy.

4. The next sentence I love because it highlights what a teen girl spy would do to find out about her new crush and also highlights the main conflict of the story—which is that she can’t tell the truth about herself. We pretty much get an idea of what is going to drive the plot elements of this novel.

5. The last sentence is really just for fun—and mainly because it’s cute to think of “falling in love” as the most dangerous mission of all.

The whole description captures the tone and feel of the novel as well—and that’s what you want to achieve in your query pitches (even if you aren’t writing YA). Also note that it really doesn’t do much plot summarizing about the novel as a whole. It really just spotlights the main conflict (keeping her spy background a secret from the boy she likes).

Tomorrow we’ll tackle some non-YA examples.

22 Responses

  1. beverley said:

    Really excellent. I’m not much into YA but this is a great pitch!!! Definitely caught my interest. Would be a good movie too, I think.

  2. Marcille said:

    Kristin, I can see how this works for quirky YA. Do you suppose you could show us an example of a more literary, serious toned novel?

  3. marieconley3 said:

    Great pitch. An analysis. I’m not sure if this what you want, but here is hook of my Nanowrimo book.

    A defiantly spoiled woman who had never known the word no is up against her match a strong minded male. There is nothing she fears more than being controlled, but does he have what it will to tame her heart.

  4. Paul West said:

    I’m loving all this advice. It sounds great. Thank you Kristen (even if you did reject my novel, LOL)

    Here’s my latest pitch based on yesterday’s advice:

    “When Mark Wilkerson witnesses his family dying in a fiery automobile accident, he vows revenge against the motorist that caused the accident, but got away with only a dented fender. But how will he ever find the driver of that car? And how will he know it’s the right person when he does. Then, what will he do if he does find that person? Could he be heading for an even greater tragedy than the loss of his family?”

    I hope you’ll let me know what you think.


  5. marieconley3 said:

    It is just my opinion, but I think you have two many questions. I think the object is to make it as simple as possible while conveying the entire story.

  6. Anonymous said:

    Dear Kirstin, Kudos to the Queen of Queries. I owe you a debt of gratitude for teaching me about them in your excellent blog. The first time I wrote a query the way you suggested, the agent asked for fifty pages. So, a copy of this workshop on queries is staying close to my computer.

    Thank you for being smart enough to see the big picture and good enough to take the time to pass it on to aspiring writers. My work doesn’t fit your wants and I’ll not be querying you, so you know I’m sincere. Dorothy Ray

  7. David said:

    The veil has been pulled over the eyes of every mortal. Rare few have experienced or glimpsed the rushing elemental force of true magic. Those secret hidden moments and people who are affect so my lives with out even an acknowledgement from the world. Damian and Angela de Cardone are not those rare individuals, they were just ordinary abandoned teenagers in a house were Death has twice visited. The Reapers of Death aren’t what made them become special, not even their further abandonment by Damian’s best friend Raisa; it was the way Fate turned the tide and spread the veil allowing that rare glimpse by a spell gone wrong.

    This one moment, this rare glimpse was marked by the arrival of Erik with an offer; they could cross the veil into a mystical wonderland or forget all and return home. What will happen if they embrace their psychic powers and attend the training academy, and how will they feel if they miss the opportunity of a lifetime? Only time will tell what path the siblings take, but they are running out of those precious moments to decide because trouble is waiting outside their very front door and the darkness is not willing to wait to spill their blood.

  8. Anonymous said:

    This might be a dumb question, but are you, Kristin accepting Historical romance? I think many would love an outline of what you actually are in the market for.

    Like we know no more MC’s that are despicable, but what is it you truly want. YA, Romance, ?

    We love all the help you provide.

  9. Anonymous said:

    Anon 10:49, check out Kristen agency website and you’ll see she does accept historical. One of her clients, Sherry Thomas, has a great one coming out in March 2008.

  10. Yogamum said:

    Great advice, as always.

    But I just have to ask, is “Sweet Caroline” REALLY playing on your iPod, the day after the Sox beat the Rockies (again)? Really?

  11. Anonymous said:

    I’m stuck with the multiple POV problem. Would the following work? Or is it too cliche? And should I expand it further into a paragraph?

    When Fallon and Mara meet, they find they were orphaned on the same day, by the same battle, and for the same sinister reason, but when they decide to seek vengeance together, they find each has a different enemy and a very different idea of justice in mind, leading them down a deadly trail of misadventures with explosive results.

  12. Precie said:

    marcille–For a look at an effective pitch for a more serious literary fiction, see Kristin’s sidebar for “Jamie Ford’s query” and then check out Kristin’s editor letter for it.

    I can’t wait for that novel’s release!

  13. Beth said:

    Anon 7:41

    Well, I don’t know what Kristin thinks, but I like it. It could maybe have a little more specific detail, but even so, the conflicts sound intriguing.

  14. katie said:


    I’ve read so much advice about querying, and this is the most concrete, helpful I’ve seen yet.

    Thanks for taking the time to help us.

  15. Anonymous said:

    I mean she said last week that she hasn’t done chick-lit in a while and that it is basically dead.

    I would love for her to tell us more about what she actually wants.