Chris Stewart is editor-in-chief of Del Sol Press (@DelSolPressBks), and an editor with Pitch2Pub.com, an online competition matching writers and editors for manuscript critique before submission to agents. Chris is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Some of her publications include Poetry, Ploughshares, Five Points, Blackbird, The Cortland Review, and Smartish Pace. Chris tweets @EditorStewart and provides manuscript editing and critiques. Find tips, tools, information, and inspiration on her website: www.therealwriter.com.
Read my latest post on The Writer's Edge:
As someone who organizes readings and a large literary arts festival with workshops, author appearances, and exhibitors, over the last ten years I have developed a list of writers who I will not work with again. And rest assured, I’m not the only one who does this.
Why? Because they didn’t follow directions. It’s that simple. Who's on it? Writers who acted like the organizer/staff were their personal assistant/manager. Take note of the following ways to avoid this blacklist and be a true professional!
Need help polishing your pitch/query/pages for upcoming Twitter pitch comps?
The comp I just participated in as an editor, Pitch to Publication, or #p2p16, just ended for pitching and the author/editor pairings will be announced this Saturday (March 12).
I'm excited to start working with my first choice!
If you weren't chosen, there are still plenty of opportunities for you to pitch:
So let's get your submission ready!
Slots available now. Space is limited.
Email: email@example.com with "Pitch Comps" in the subject line.
I'm participating in Pitch to Publication (a pitch competition on Twitter) as an editor and just finished my #tenqueries yesterday. We must tweet two sessions of ten queries, but I tweeted 45 of my 95 submissions. Don't be impressed. Several editors did all of theirs. The cap was 100.
Here are my overall stats:
Feedback for 45/95 subs.
Ask: 10 partials.
Genres: Adult, New Adult, Women's Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Magical Realism, Thriller.
I also had submissions with LGBTQ, indigenous people, biracial, and Latina main characters. So happy to see them! If you're a person of color who writes, keep writing and keep pitching. We need more diversity in both authors and characters in the book world!
Below are all of my queries. If you're part of #p2p16 you can check and see if you missed yours (I tried to hint!), or you can learn from my feedback.
Yes = Love Maybe = Like No = Pass
Q45: A/LF. Biracial MC - excellent! Q is too symbolic/cryptic. Be clear, direct. Show develop. of story/character. NO
Q44: A/Satire. Stories. Writing fun, love voice. Q- 2 wild a ride. Not my style of dark. If like Gaitskill, use as comp. NO
Q43: That last query was Adult Fantasy. Good luck!
Q43: WC out of control! Tells me problems with: char devel, plot, pacing, struct. Either 2 books or cut back by 70k! NO
Q42:F/West. 1st 1/2 of Q fab. 2nd random. How abt dead/dream mother 4 swap instead? More confl. Intrigued tho'! YES
Q41: A/T/S/M/R. First: pick a genre! Second, love your confidence Mr. Ribeye, but Q is all flash & no substance. Focus!
Q40:A/SF/R Post-apoca almost off Earth, hurray! Not drawn in by secondary char or plot tho'. Set it on shuttle! NO
Q39: A/M. Q is rushed & needs rising action 2 bridge 2 killer. Rare male narr! Good fath/dghtr tension. Pgs got me. YES.
Q38:A/MR. War vet, PTSD--current. Q missg rising action--need add'l detail/action. Like writing, char's, but didn't grab
Q37: A/UF/R Nd better set up of world/context. Shifter? Clan? Slavers? Love fem MC as unlikely hero. WC bit low. NO
Q36: NA/LF/R Apprec. the asexuality angle--topical--but taking care of siblings higher concept than rest of plot. NO
Q35: SF/R Do Androids Dream of a Bk Deal? Antag. motiv. nds wrk & Chaucer refer. odd but loved pgs. Better pay off! YES
Q34: LF/Upmrkt/WF--long tradition of sibling saga novels but not a fan. Too many siblings & only 2 seem compelling. NO.
Q33: Regency Hist. You saw me coming, didn't you? Story needs developing in Q, hoping that's the case in pages. YES.
Q32:NA/LGBTQ - happy to see gay twist on "teens in love/one or both dying" novel. But overdone for me! NO.
Q31: WF/T/P Storm, dying husband. Q 2 brief but enough (& great pgs) to get my attn! Low WC could be issue. YES
Q30: A/HF/M. U had me @ 'minstrel actress' and time period, but MC unclear in Q and not enough confl NO
Q29: A/Upmrkt/CF. Love older male MC/POV! Sucker 4 rd trip, sm towns, lost love. Gd writing WC low. Taking chance: YES.
Q28: A/SF. Wld love post-apoca OFF Earth (anyone?). Mind upload--cool. Doesn't pay off in Q. Strng female MC-good but NO
Q27: A/SF. Love MC bros. When/where told too late in Q. Orig. outlaw story sounds better. Write that! Not as SF. NO
Q26: LF/MR. Indigenous ppl- great! But Q doesn't use culture. Char's cld b any bckgrnd. Write bk described 1st para.! NO
Q25: A /Upmrkt/WF. WWII & love letters--great! Q stalls once survivor found. Not enough conflict for me. NO
Q24: A/Spec. More NA. Thght of movie Upside Down. College setting bland. Future? Explain dimension/bonding/abilities. NO
Q23: Verb shifts. Love idea. Not enough time to fix. Clean up & submit in fall! If ranger exists, send me #. ;) (2/2)
Q23: A/Upmkt/R. Q- LOL! Love style but need substance. Where's confl.? Who's MC? Omnisc. narr. a prob. Go 3rd. (1/2)
Q22: A/NA/R. 2 much rising action & confl. Good Russian angle. Model/NYC cliche. Pgs: overdescribing! Seems A not NA. NO
Q21: A/PR. Great Q & title! Love bro & sis trapped in past & confl. Pgs: punct. issues, slow start. Dig idea so MAYBE
Q20: Love 2 voices/sides in 1 char & disorder. Q needs more devel. 1st few pgs aren't the start. Intrigued though. YES.
Q19: Like POC. Intrigued by Iran but not enough devel. Wasted pgs w/ title etc. Quote is old proverb, not Madonna! :) NO
Q18: A/WF Love London! Q needs MC age. Perhaps add music refer. too. Not enough confl 4 me. Pgs too slow/expository.NO
Q17: That was a NO. (Make LBJ more real/human.)
Q17: A/HF/T WC low. LBJ interesting. Time period good. What's new/unique we don't know abt him? Needs more development.
Q16: WC low. Q sets up female POV. Story starts male. Who's MC? Needs more than trial & higher stakes. Good writing. NO
Q15: Love war novels but not enough abt MC as person, situation, drive. Nice writing but slow pgs: mostly atmosphere. NO
Q14: Tone/voice perfect. Why not famous detective bro POV? TV show raised stakes. Must b unique. Good writing so MAYBE.
Q13: Sucker 4 Scotland (duh, see last name)! Seems paranormal not suspense. Role/power vague but like pages so YES.
Q12: Repetitive 1st para in Q. Past relatshp w/ evil antag vague. No context 4 sister. Too brief, unclear, 1 layer. NO
Q11: A/T WC too low. Again, writers not good MCs, Realm interesting but Q missing too much detail & too abstract. NO
Q10: A/Lit Hist. Great Q. Love time period/prem/char's. Nds larger war context but want more. May hv 2 fight othr ed! :) YES!
Q9: Upmrkt/WF Q/prem has depth. Good cultur. char/confl. Holmes ref odd. Pgs nd bal btwn narr's, not 100% sold on writ. but MAYBE
Q8: A/F Strong fem MC. Great confl. Divided fam needs clarity. Not sold on Shakes. ref. yet. Pages GoT-ish (good). MAYBE
Q7: DT/A Great Q, comps, platform! WC cld b 2 low. Gd confl. Gr8r threat vague. Many plot thrds. Pgs: tension, authority. MAYBE
Q6: Ok Q. WC could be higher. Char/conflict/rising action need dimension. Arthurian legend topical. Not quite unique enough. NO
Q5: Gr8 Q. Love title & plot depth. Needs genre focus & clarity--2 many ppl. Open awk w/ yoga/info/senses. Need grounding. MAYBE
Q4: More A/WF than LF. Like MC/voice. Hits tropes. 30s better than 20s. Needs deeper pers confl/goals. Pgs good but slow. MAYBE
Q:3 A/LF WC low. MC=Writer not good choice. Needs goal/confl, action, hook. Sounds smart. Like life Imit. art, but less phil. NO
Q2: A/Thriller. WC good. Q starts strong. Needs devel. Bad guys vague. Who is MC as person? Pers. goal/confl? Pgs: less expo. NO
Q1: A/Upmkt Like alt MCs & friendship. Title implies romance. Q gives away end. Missing hook & confl. Opening pgs need hook. NO
P2P Writers: If one of these is yours and you have questions, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org with "P2P Query for (book title)" in the subject line.
I am currently reading the ten partials I requested (and also have editing work to keep up with) so that's my priority. Will get back to you as soon as I can and thanks for trusting me with your book!
Everyone else, the next Pitch to Publication competition is in October, 2016. Stay tuned!
Posted at 05:58 PM | Permalink
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I am again one of the editors participating in the exciting Pitch to Publication competition, the brain/heart child of the fab Samantha Fountain (@fountainwriter).
Writers pitch/query 3 editors; editors choose 1-2 writers to work with via developmental edit; writers then pitch/query 3 agents. Starts March 5th.
Fifteen (15) super cool editors are participating, covering just about every genre. Check them out!
My profile: http://pitch2pub.com/editor/therealwriter
During the #askeditor sessions for P2P16, I'm seeing a lot of the same questions about pitches, query letters, etc. so here are the formulas I give my clients for writing the pitch and query letter.
FIRST: ASK YOURSELF SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR BOOK
Who is your audience? What do they want (in life and from your book)? What do you want them to feel?
What is your main theme? (A universal idea or message that stretches through the entire story. Examples: triumph over adversity; what it means to be human; identity crisis...)
What is your writing style?
What is unique about your book?
What is your genre, title, and word count? :)
Write out answers to these. Make a list of words that convey key information about your character, conflict, plot, setting. Pick words that convey emotion! Jot down a few metaphors and images as well.
Then be direct with yourself. Ask yourself: What is this book really about? Be clear. You can finesse things later.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF THE SAME PITCH: these should all have the same core ideas, words so you can pull them out, easily. At first they might all highlight something different about your book.
Once you've written them, go back to the questions above to guide you in bringing the pitches into balance. (Also, seriously consider if this is an issue that requires revising your book.)
LOG LINE: Sometimes called a "hook line." This gets confusing because editors use different terms, I know! The log line is not the same as the hook in your pitch (hook explained below). The log line is the summary of the premise of your book in one sentence. The 25-35 word pitch. Get in character (protagonist and antagonist) and summarize conflict through a major/key plot point (action). Make it exciting! Get in what is unique about your book and also setting, if possible.
Example: ''A cold businessman falls in love with a warm-hearted hooker he hires to be his date for a week." (PRETTY WOMAN) Note the nice alliteration on "heart" and "hooker."
ELEVATOR PITCH: A bit longer--3-4 sentences. Start with "I have a Word Count Genre novel entitled Title. It's the story of Log Line."
Then add a few more details: Get in setting, develop the main character a bit more (add an adjective), rising action OR theme statement (theme statement: "a coming of age novel," "a tale of good and evil," etc.) Should be less than a minute to say. Thirty seconds is best.
THE BASIC PITCH:
As you go through the parts below just get everything in. It’s going to be a mess at first. Accept that now! Don’t edit/censor as you write. It helps to write in fragments of sentences or just list words. That will keep ideas flowing and the inner editor/censor at bay.
Then, the goal is to edit it down. Brief is best!
1. The first sentence quickly sets up the High Concept and identifies the characters. Give a sense of age, an adjective, a name, some identifier for the character that does a lot of work for you –'lawyer’ ‘divorced’ – words that provide a built in sense of the character—and setting (SCENE SET) AND should also include the HOOK (what gets the reader's attention in the opening of a story and makes them want to keep reading. It begs a question the agent/editor must read on to find out more about).
Ex. (Donna Tart, The Goldfinch): "Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother."
Key bits highlighted. You want to know more, right? How did he survive? What kind of accident? And your emotions are engaged because he's young and he's lost his mother.
See how this can't really be your log line? It's not finished. More is needed to propel the reader into "what then?"
This is often the messiest bit! Just get it all in and tweak it later
2. Insert sufficient MAJOR COMPLICATION(s) deriving from a PLOT POINT (the first event/circumstance/action that significantly changes the course of the plot). Antagonist should make an appearance. It helps to list your major complication first – then the plot point that makes it happen.
3. Insert a dose of RISING ACTION (like the second act of a film). Perhaps further complications if those don’t take too much room.
Basically, after the dust from the major complication has settled, what happens? If there are a couple of sub-complications that happen as the story rises to the climactic moment then add them (BUT not too complicated and not too much info! Don't choke your pitch with secondary characters and subplots or sub-complications that require too much explanation. And only one secondary character and one subplot if they are easy to convey).
4. Wrap up with a CLIFFHANGER. A description that doesn’t give away the climax. A cliffhanger begs the ultimate question of the story. Once this question is begged, you want the agent or editor to ask for more. And once they do, you will have engaged them enough to perhaps sell them on the idea of your novel.
Hint but don't reveal (unless they ask. Then tell them the ending). You can use both questions and a statement in the cliffhanger, but watch being overly dramatic.
5. You can also add a theme statement. “TITLE is a story of good and evil, love and hate, set against the mysterious, sensual backdrop of Buenos Aires.” These are not always necessary, but it’s a good thing to try to give them an added sense of your book.
DO NOT gush about you or what others have said about your writing. This is not a Theme Statement About You and, unless you're Donna Tartt or Jodi Picoult, you haven't earned that copy.
6. Lastly, what is the "unique world" of your book? What is its unique aspect? Is it an element of the setting? Character? Tone or voice? Plot? It can be a twist on something familiar, but there has to be something about your book that sets it apart. Get that in somewhere, if you can, now that the pitch is written.
**If you're part of Pitch to Publication, check the link above for specific instructions on what info is required.**
HOW TO GIVE A PITCH (in person):
When meeting with an editor or agent you want to give them the following information:
YOUR NAME. (People often forget this!)
PLATFORM. (Your credentials - "creds") These must establish you as the authority on the subject of your book and/or your writing skills/experience. Do you teach? Where? Where have you published (key places, not neighborhood newspaper)? Are you a Twitter phenom? Say so. Give your MFA if it is in creative writing. Other degree if it establishes authority on the book's subject. If you write for a newspaper or magazine, or have a job in writing, publishing, let them know that. Pick 2-3 things max. Don't overwhelm them.
TITLE AND GENRE. Genres get more specific by the day. Keep up to date!
COMPARABLES ("comps"). Who do you write like? Give author and book. Minimum of two. Or you can mix authors/books/films. "If (author) wrote (book)." Or: "Author/book/movie meets author/book/movie."
YOUR PITCH. 200-250 words max. You can even get to 150. It is possible! Don't give lots of details, think more broadly. Have cliffhangers (but also be able to summarize the end of your story quickly should they ask).
REMEMBER TO REPEAT THE NAME OF YOUR NOVEL before you give your pitch: "In (book title)..."
At the most, your pitch should take 3-5 minutes. Any longer and his/her eyes will glaze over and you've lost them.
In general, it's fairly easy to plug the pitch into a QUERY LETTER (each item is a paragraph):
1. Greeting/opening: why are you querying this agent? Establish connection to them, their books, blog post, conference talk. Be brief.
2. "Title is a Word Count Genre novel about Log Line similar to (or with elements of) Comparables."
3. Pitch (in one paragraph if you can manage it).
5. "The novel is complete and available immediately (or upon request)."
6. Closing. Be human/real here (and throughout, really). Thank them. If it's the holidays wish them happy holidays. Be natural. If you can't then just say thank you for their time and consideration.
There are many ways of writing a query letter. Just Googling will make your head spin. This is fairly no nonsense, which I'm a fan of.
Whichever you follow, don't wax on. White space and brevity are your friends. Definitely don't write two pages. And don't instruct the agent or editor (if querying a press) on the market.
The agent or editor should be able to scan your letter and get what they need.
Be professional but be you. It's like dating. You have to find "Agent Right."
Good luck and hope to see your submission at P2P16!
Excited to announce that Del Sol Press (of which I am now Editor-in-Chief) has just opened a first novel competition! Deadline is April 15, 2016.
The judge is Madison Smartt Bell.
THE 2016 BEST FIRST NOVEL COMPETITION Del Sol Press seeks to publish exceptional work by both new and recognized writers. Our emphasis is on original, unique, and accessible work with an edge.
We are only interested in the very best work, regardless of source or type. The competition is open to all authors writing in English regardless of nationality or residence, and is available to published and unpublished authors alike. Genres we are looking for include literary and upmarket fiction, mainstream or general fiction, mystery/thriller or speculative fiction with a literary edge, serious women's fiction, and unique experimental work.
Finalist manuscripts will also be considered for publication. A second manuscript may be submitted for a reduced fee.
First Place Winner Receives A $1,500 honorarium, paid May, 2016, and book publication by Del Sol Press in fall 2016, plus 20 copies of the winning book. Second and third place winners receive free tuition to the Algonkian New York Pitch Conference where they can pitch their novels to editors in the commercial publishing business. Del Sol Press would like to thank Algonkian Writer Conferences for providing this opportunity.
-Writers who are at least 18 years of age and who live inside the United States.
-Simultaneous submissions are acceptable (as long as you let us know immediately if the manuscript is accepted for publication elsewhere).
-Excerpts from the manuscript may have been published previously in magazines, journals, anthologies, chapbooks, or self-published books, but must be submitted in manuscript form.
-If the work has previously been published by an independent small press or eBook press, it may be entered but only if the author has regained the rights.
-If the work is currently published and the rights remain with the publisher, the work does not qualify. If the work is self-published, it may be entered in the contest.
-If the work was previously published by a major commercial New York publisher (Penguin, Random, St. Martins, etc), or any of imprints of that publisher, it does not qualify as a "first novel" and therefore cannot be entered.
-Employees, volunteers, and board members of Del Sol Press, their partners, spouses, and immediate families, and immediate family, friends, and former students of the judge are not eligible.
More info and to submit: Del Sol First Novel Competition
Posted at 05:34 PM | Permalink
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Well this is kind of nice! Next stop: the world!
"Your service, The Real Writer Editing Services, is ranked as one of Thumbtack’s Best of 2015 in the Proofreaders category as a result of your great customer reviews. This is a terrific vote of confidence from your customers in the past year—and a great way to stand out this year. We're proud to prominently feature your business on this page of our website."
I appreciate the appreciation! Now if they only had a badge you could post on the website. I mean, it is 2015....