Suffering From Query Flails? Query and #PitMad Pitch Critique Giveaway!

Queries: we hates them, Precious!

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Seriously, querying my first manuscript made me completely insane. My early queries were amazingly awful, so awful that I think back to one in particular and assume it’s why a certain agent I admire never requested any of my subsequent work. I used to get SO ANGRY because I’d written an entire BOOK, darn it! How could queries possibly be so hard?

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There’s an art to it, but it takes time to learn. Many writers I know (myself included) now write queries before or while they’re drafting a new manuscript. It’s incredibly helpful for identifying fundamental problems with plot, pacing, and character motivation. Janet Reid has written excellent posts on that topic.

And I did read them.

I still wanted to bang my head against a wall, and like Ramona Quimby, I got even madder when my family started slowly stepping away from the crazy. My poor husband. I’m afraid to count the emails I sent declaiming, “I’VE FINALLY GOT IT!” (I didn’t have it.)

But eventually, I caught on. And once you’ve hit the target once, it definitely gets easier.

I thought it might be interesting for #PitchWars applicants to have a look at the query that garnered me the most requests, so I’m pasting it in below.

Eleven-year-old Ada Roundtree was born and raised in Oddity, New Mexico, the strangest little town in America. She’s at the top of her class, and survives every school safety drill, but she has a zombie rabbit infestation in her yard, a ghost in her closet, and a hole in her heart.

When her twin sister wins the annual Greeley’s grocery store sweepstakes and, like all winners, disappears, Ada distracts herself by tracking down local legends to impress her hero, vlogger Malia. What Ada wants more than anything, though, is to get her sister (and her happy family) back.

When Malia foments rebellion against the powers that run the sweepstakes, Ada is eager to help, but she quickly discovers that Malia is out for revenge no matter what the consequences. With her sister’s life in peril, Ada’s fighting a two-front war– but she’s never been one to back away from a challenge. Ada Roundtree plans to have her frito pie and eat it, too.

ODDITY is a MG sci-fi, complete at 68,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Adam Rex’s THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY, and M.T. Anderson’s Pals In Peril series. Think of it as Welcome to Night Vale for middle grade.

Here are the things that I think worked about this query:

Correct formula: I gave my MC, the setting, the stakes, the word count and genre, and then I got OUT. The meat of your query should be about 200-250 words.

Simplicity: I didn’t name a laundry list of characters. I stuck to two. That was a little bit tricky, because, in all honesty, the primary antagonists were a bunch of evil puppets. I focused on the conflict between Ada and her hero because it showed character growth, and showed emotional stakes in addition to the more obvious physical ones. If I’d named the individual puppets or her sister, it would only have caused “alphabet soup” confusion.

Flavor: I thought about what made my book unique, and I included some of that flavor in my query. In all honesty, that can be the trickiest bit: showcasing voice under tight word constraints without being kitschy! Jaye Robin Brown deserves a major shout-out for insisting my query for CELERITY must be voicey back in 2013. It was great advice!

Comps: I was told repeatedly during “The Call” process that my comps were smart. They haven’t always been. Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series was one of my comps for my first manuscript. Now, lots of people love them some Susan Cooper–that wasn’t the issue– but you want your comps to be recent, successful, and specific enough to position you clearly in the marketplace. It doesn’t hurt that SMEKDAY became a Dreamworks movie (Home) this year. Both books differ greatly from mine in plot, but have a comparably weird vibe. Notice I pulled a fast one here, though. I gave two MG comps, then sneaked in a reference to an adult podcast. That was very deliberate. Night Vale is hugely popular. Many agents who don’t listen to it know *of* it, in part b/c it’s associated with Commonplace Books in NYC. I was inspired to write ODDITY when I saw how much my MG kids loved the podcast. I didn’t see any books that captured the fun of Night Vale on the MG market, and I was convinced that I’d eventually see “Bring me a MG Night Vale!” on #MSWL. So I really, really wanted that reference in there, and lemme tell you, it worked.

Here are my overall stats for ODDITY:
Total Queries: 65
Partials: 5 or so
Fulls: 13 (18 total after nudging)
Offers: 6

A few more brief notes: I did include a bio paragraph at the end. I don’t have any publishing credits, so I focused on my experience with the kids in my target market:

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Education, specializing in children with emotional disturbance. I taught in public schools for seven years, and continue to tutor students at all grade levels in a variety of subjects, from early reading to SAT preparation. I also homeschool my three children. In my spare time, I garden, knit, spin and run. I’m a founding member of a genre fiction critique group called Working Title.

After that, I always added: “Below, please find (whatever information they request with their query.)” MAKE SURE YOU CHANGE THIS EACH TIME, but again, it sets you apart because agents immediately know you’ve paid attention to their submission guidelines.

One last tip: make sure you have absolute command of the words you’re using, or don’t use them! You pique someone’s interest, you don’t peek it. You wait with bated breath. Baited breath is very different, and kinda gross. Here’s one useful article on words you don’t want to misuse.

NOW. The fun part. I know you’re all honing your queries for the 17th, and I’m sure you know by now that there will be a #PitMad event on September 10th for folks who don’t make it into Pitch Wars. Cat Scully and I want to help! (See? When she says she’s in it for the long haul with her mentees, she’s not kidding…and I definitely plan to do things the same way.)

Hit us with your best #PitMad tweet in the comments. I’ll leave the contest open until midnight on Sunday, then use Random.org to choose two winners. Each will receive a query critique…and if they don’t make it into Pitch Wars, they’ll get a twitter pitch critique in time for #PitMad!

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79 thoughts on “Suffering From Query Flails? Query and #PitMad Pitch Critique Giveaway!

  1. Hi! Thank so for sharing your query advice and I love this idea! Here’s one of my first ever PitMad Tweets!

    #PitMad YA #F Having an Angel for a best friend has its advantages but Rose has her own strengths. Who needs magic when you have sarcasm?

    1. OK, so first of all you thought to hashtag age category and genre, which is super smart, because we know some agents perform specialized searches to weed through all the pitches.

      Beyond that, what I want and don’t yet have in this pitch is stakes. I see personality, and ideally a good pitch has both, but in a twitter pitch stakes will trump voice every time. What an agent is likely to say about this one is that they don’t know enough about the plot to differentiate it from any other paranormal. What are Rose and the Angel up against?

      I’ll gladly crit your revision if you rework it and reply to my comment.

      1. Thank you SO much! I can’t believe I only just saw these responses, you really are going above and beyond. I find these twitter pitches really difficult, so I truly appreciate it. Here’s my attempt at a rework!

        #PitMad #YA #F Her father murdered, her best friend kidnapped. Rose wants answers, despite the danger. Are her Angel friends to blame?

  2. With the help of a fortress full of animals, Enid heals from her painful
    childhood. When a lost love returns, their bond threatens to destroy all she has worked hard to build. #wf

    1. I find myself confused by the hashtag. Is this women’s fiction? I ask because the phrase “fortress full of animals” makes me think it’s either historical or futuristic/dystopian sci-fi. If you used a term like preserve, or shelter, then I would identify your setting as present-day. (I can understand that it might be a fortress to her in a metaphorical sense, because of her emotional struggle, but I’d keep my pitch literal.)

      If I had to infer, I would guess that she’s created a preserve, or built her life around the vocation of running one, and that her love interest is someone whose goals are in conflict with hers. But that’s me reaching. I need to see it in the pitch.

      I’ll take a second crack at it if you revise!

  3. BAD THINGS COME IN THREES – Caught in the crossfire, combat photographer, Grace, must accept help from the enemy, or risk dying. #PitMad #R #A

    Loved the query advice. Thanks.

    1. I wouldn’t bother putting your title in your tweet, as it’s using up about 26 characters you could use to give me more information: like setting. Is your setting fictionalized, or is Grace in a specific, war-torn location that would be familiar to us? The setting determines who the enemy is, which helps us understand the stakes. Are they terrorists? Local insurgents? Is she accepting help from a citizen who is not necessarily a combatant? These are all interesting questions, and your answer will showcase what’s unique about your book.

      Of less importance in a pitch this short, but still something to think about as you revise, is this: why is the enemy helping? If, upon thinking about it, you realize that it’s an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation, or a “now we’re both in a mess” situation, it’s worth trying to work that into the pitch.

      *** I’m going to put this here so I don’t have to keep saying it: I will look at revisions if you add them to the comment thread under your original pitch. ***

    1. OK, so this one definitely makes me sit up a bit, but here’s what I want to know most: Does he create the game TO hide the secret? Does the game itself expose his secret? Both? Those links are crucial, and the wording changes to illustrate them would be very simple, but yield big results in term of impact.

      An alternative might be to amp up “neighborhood game” a bit, especially if it’s central to the plot. What kind of game is it? Would you describe it as something that explodes and becomes super popular? If so, I might use a word like craze, or obsession.

      This concept is really intriguing!

    1. Y’all, it’s succinct, it’s direct…so what’s the problem? It’s a formula rather than a pitch. By this I mean that you could get out half a dozen YA novels and they might all conform to this basic plot.

      So, instead, I’d think about what makes this story unique. I’ve got a bit of a cheat here, b/c I’ve seen Nicole’s query, so I know this is a story about a MC who develops a defense mechanism out of necessity, then finds it might prevent her from getting what she really wants. That’s what I’d focus on. That’s your hook!

      1. Sydney’s done dating after bf cheats; she has deep trust issues. The new guy might worth loving, if she can overcome her fears #WritePit #YA

    1. This is already a pretty intriguing pitch. My only concern is that you risk your MC seeming passive. I see that Shanta’s wants are in conflict with her husband’s, but is there an incident that forces the issue? I tweaked verbs for tense consistency, then tried this:

      Shanta’s husband wants India’s freedom. Shanta wants comfort and security. Will [incident] change her mind? #PitMad #WF #HF

      That leaves you 17 characters to articulate the incident. I’d love to see what you come up with!

  4. Hmm, how about a rough draft? Thanks for the opportunity to win a critique.

    #YA #pitmad 15yo violinist Elise thinks smoking the competition will get her once close dad to stop being distant, but winning hearts is about more than virtuosity

    1. The only real issue with this pitch right now is length. I tinkered, and came up with:

      #YA #PitMad Violinist Elise thinks smoking the competition will restore her bond with her father, but she needs more than virtuosity.

      Now you have 7 characters left over to play with.

      I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but it’s also a good idea to have several versions of a pitch, so you can schedule tweets without getting those annoying “You already tweeted that” notifications. Move the hashtags around. Change the wording a bit.

      1. Thanks for the suggestion. My word count didn’t count the spaces 😦 so I’m glad you trimmed it!

    1. Is your ms sci-fi? The term “chem-fiend” sounds specific to the world of the story. It can be a struggle to distill a SF plot into so few characters. I think I need to know more to help. Would you want to send me your query?

  5. This is seriously some of the most helpful query advice I’ve seen so far, thank you for sharing! Here is one of my pitmad tweets:

    She’s a 21st cent art historian. He’s an 8th century Saxon warrior. They have 1 thing in common: they both work 4 Ms. Vaillencourt #pitmad

    1. Oh my gosh, it is so stinking hard to fit worldbuilding and stakes into a single tweet! Drives me crazy. OK, so both of these characters work for this mysterious 3rd character, which means this ms has time-travel. BUT. We still need stakes. I would rephrase this to say something like:

      Art historian [name] must work with an 8th century Saxon warrior to [problem that needs solving].

      Or:

      Art historian [name] must [problem that needs solving]– with the help of an 8th century Saxon warrior.

      This way, the time travel is still clear. The fact that they work for this third person will intrigue the agent when they get your pages, even if it’s not in your pitch.

  6. Hi Sarah – thanks so much for your query advice and this opportunity! Here is my #PitMad tweet for a lower middle grade mystery:

    In this Jazz Age #mystery, 11yo servant sleuth must find a painting’s owner and elude her snobby nemesis to beat a robbery rap. #MG #PitMad

    1. Girl, I got nothing. This kicks all the butt. You had me at Jazz Age mystery, and I suspect I won’t be the only one. If I’m really nitpicking, you could say:

      In a Jazz Age #mystery , an 11yo servant sleuth must find a painting’s owner and elude her snobby nemesis to beat a robbery rap. #MG #PitMad

      You’ll have to weirdly space your comma like I did, or it will mess up that #mystery hashtag, btw. I know, right? You either have to look like you can’t hashtag, can’t space, or can’t punctuate. Gah!

  7. Hi Sarah, thanks for the practice!

    Can Lizzie sing her way thru the trauma of waking in a land of unpredictable magic? Will her assumptions get new friends killed? #YA #pitmad

    1. You’re welcome, Sue!

      I think I’m looking at another pitch with world vs. stakes issues. I end up with more questions than answers. For example, is her singing a form of magic, and does magic exist in her life at the beginning of the story, or is she from our world, and thus utterly taken by surprise? Also, we know her choices are life and death, but we don’t know why.

      Here are examples of possible fixes:

      When Lizzie wakes in a land where her voice magic is dangerously unpredictable, she must master it, or get new friends killed. #YA #PitMad

      When Lizzie wakes in an unpredictable magical land, her singing voice might save her new friends…or get them killed. #YA #PitMad

      These may not be consistent with your plot, but you can see the formula of “When this happens, MC must”, which is the heart of a twitter pitch.

    1. I so want to read this, which means your pitch is already working! I feel a bit nit-picky about the GB abbreviation, only b/c we use UK more than GB and so I didn’t “get it” until I reached the word London. I also don’t like leaving out article adjectives, b/c that could be misread as an unintentional grammar error. This will express your pitch and still maintain the necessary character count:

      In 2099, underwater Britain holds dark secrets. Lola journeys in a submarine & faces great peril in search of her beloved Papa. #PitMad #YA

  8. Great query advice, thank you! And thanks for pushing me to work on my Twitter pitch. 🙂

    To save her college hopes, an injured athlete competes for a scholarship in a literary-themed scavenger hunt across England #pitmad #ya

  9. Thanks so much for this opportunity! I’d love to get an extra set of eyes on my pitch. I actually have 12 different versions, so it was hard to select one. Yunno, because which one is a good one? Argh! But I finally chose this one:

    Agnes plays pretend in an old manor w/ secret passages & must solve an 8YO ghost’s murder before she’s the next victim #MG #Horror #pitmad

    Thanks again! And good luck to everyone participating!

    1. I think this is a terrific pitch, and I sure hope you’re subbing to Cat! (I mean, me too, but she’s the horror queen!) Here are some nitpicks w/spacing and punctuation:

      Agnes plays pretend in an old manor w/secret passages, & must solve an 8yo ghost’s murder before she’s the next victim. #MG #Horror #pitmad

  10. Hi! Thanks SO much for the great advice on queries and your incredible giveaway!

    Here’s my pitch:
    17YO Cordelia faces brutal pirate dad w/ the fate of the Merfolk race on her shoulders #ya #pitmad

    1. Wow, you have about 42 characters left to play with! Let’s start by taking some abbreviations out:

      17YO Cordelia faces her brutal pirate father with the fate of the Merfolk race on her shoulders. #ya #pitmad

      I suggest adding more information. Is Cordelia half mer-person? Something like:

      Cordelia can only save her Merfolk half-kin by facing down her brutal pirate father. #ya #pitmad

      This way, it’s clear that there’s a cause/effect link. Otherwise, I might think the Merfolk were in danger b/c of some other sort of disaster, and her father was just in the way.

  11. Thanks for the query advice, and the chance to win a critique!

    Salinna and her brothers encounter fantastic creatures and adventures as they travel to the Land of Myth to save their parents. #pitmad #mg

    1. I think we can make this more specific. What are they saving their parents from? Death? Transformation? A life of imprisonment or servitude? Also, can you give emblematic examples of what they face? Like this:

      Salinna and her brothers battle their way through angry gryphons and mudmonsters to save their parents from a magical curse. #pitmad #mg

      The Land of Myth part can wait until the actual manuscript, because in this case the specific name/set-up of the magical land probably won’t matter as much as your voice and your original take on the magical adventure novel.

      This also seems like a good time to mention that some of us, even with great pitches, do not get a ton of love in twitter pitch contests, and that’s OK! By participating, you’re still honing your editing skills, and frankly, some concepts just translate better through queries than pitches. If you know you’ve got a razor-sharp pitch and you don’t get stars, or you only get them from well-meaning friends who have no clue they’re giving you panic attacks, do not surrender! QUERY!

    1. This is another one that just rocks my socks off. It’s like the Count of Monte Cristo meets What Dreams May Come, and I don’t even care if those are comp-worthy (they’re probably not) because this pitch is awesome.

  12. Hi, thanks so much for providing this opportunity! Here is one of my current pitches.

    Life’s rough when you have mad scientists for parents and find yourself turning into random office supplies during math class. #pitmad #MG

    1. OK, I think I get it, but that office supply reference is throwing me off. I get that it’s an incident that provides flavor, but possibly we could tie it back to the fact that his parents are literally experimenting on him (at least, it sounds like they are).

      What about:

      Life’s rough when you have mad scientists for parents, and worse when you’re their guinea pig– sometimes literally! #Pitmad #MG

      You see the problem, right? We have a great setup now, but we still don’t have stakes. This might be enough to get you a starred tweet, but maybe not. Are his parents zany but benign, and is there a larger antagonist? Or are his parents the antagonists? I’d love to hear a bit more.

      1. Thanks so much for your reply! Yes, I totally understand what you’re saying. I know this pitch is lacking more than some of my others, but oddly this one garnered the most interest. I think I need to find that balance between creating flavor and making it understandable with clear stakes. Penny’s parents are harmless, but connected in a way that Penny doesn’t yet understand. Here is another pitch that might be better.

        “After discovering her magical abilities, a quest to find kidnapped kids leads Penny to a realm where magic is punished by death. #Pitmad #MG”

  13. Thanks for this! These other pitches sound great – and it’s not easy to do in 140 characters!
    Here’s my attempt:

    Having the golden touch with boys might seem like a gift, but for Zoe it’s a curse that could kill her BFF and her new crush. #PitMad #YA

    1. This is pretty interesting. I get stuck on whether the “golden touch” you mention is literal or figurative– like can she emotionally influence the boys, but with troublesome consequences? But overall I think the pitch reads as a YA retelling of the King Midas story, and goodness knows there are still #MSWL tweets out there asking for retellings! Well done!

  14. 5 scientists die tracking an injured right whale, & animal whisperer Alec knows it’s no coincidence. Now she needs to prove it w/o dying. #pitmad #YA
    Thanks for the opportunity!

    1. Is Alec a literal animal whisperer? If so, is she extremely good with animals, or does she have a magical ability? I’m betting it’s the latter. I don’t know that you need to work it into your pitch necessarily, but I thought I’d raise the question in case you hadn’t thought about it.

      This is a pretty good pitch overall. If I was going to jack it around, I might say, “Animal whisperer Alec fights to expose a group of whale poachers without becoming their next target.” That said, I think this pitch reads like a movie trailer and works.

  15. That’s a generous offer. Thanks for the chance.

    In gold rush San Francisco, Vespertine, and an amiably corrupt police sgt., use the books in her uncle’s shop to solve crimes. #PitMad #A

    1. I would read the heck out of this. You don’t need those bracketing commas around the police sergeant, because that’s not an aside, it’s part of your compound subject. You also have enough characters that you don’t need to abbreviate sergeant. So:

      In gold rush San Francisco, Vespertine and an amiably corrupt police sergeant use the books in her uncle’s shop to solve crimes. #PitMad #A

  16. When 13 year old LARP geek, Fink, finds a time travelling knight from Camelot, can they join forces to save King Arthur’s life? #pitmad #mg

    Thanks for the opportunity! I am new to Pitchwars and excited to learn more.

    1. Again, this pitch is pretty great. LARPing comes up on #MSWL, too. I know Beth Phelan and Bree Ogden have both mentioned it. You could hyphenate the age:

      When 13-year-old LARP geek, Fink, finds a time travelling knight from Camelot, can they join forces to save King Arthur’s life? #pitmad #mg

      Kinda hoping this ends up in my sub box so I can have a look-see.

    1. The Very. First. Thought. that enters my head is that Tituba is the name of a slave woman who was one of the first people accused of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials. I see from your pitch that Maddie is a time traveler, so I wonder if that’s the Tituba you mean. If so, you might reference the Salem witch trials in your pitch, or at least Salem, because not everyone will catch the Tituba reference.

      If I stretch, I can infer that Maddie might be Tituba’s descendent. That’s a really interesting hook, but I think it needs to come through more clearly.

      Time-traveling Maddie must save her ancestor, Tituba, from the Salem witch trials, or she’ll have no home to return to. #PitMad #MG

      You’ve still got 9 characters or so to play with. I’ll say again that it’s not necessary to put your title in your pitch. I strongly recommend against it. It eats characters you need for other purposes, and working titles generally get changed, anyway.

  17. Hello! Thank you so much for this opportunity. The advice is wonderful!

    Ivy’s plan to run away with her bff goes awry when a fairy enchants them into loving him, blinding them to what he is—monstrous. #pitmad #ya

    1. The first half of this pitch sounds lighter, and I found I was assuming it was MG until I got to the end. BUT, this also looks like a play on A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Cool.

      You could cut the friend to get some room:

      When Ivy runs away, she must escape the snare of a fairy who enchants her into loving him, blinding her to what he is—monstrous. #pitmad #ya

      Or you could cut the part about running away, which is really just a vehicle for the main conflict to occur:

      Ivy and her best friend must escape a fairy who enchants them into loving him, blinding them to what he is—monstrous. MND for #ya #pitmad

      MND is a standard MLA abbreviation, so if this really is a retelling and I’m not pulling that out of the weird recesses of my brain, I’d put it in.

  18. Thanks for the advice! I love reading successful queries to get an idea of what really works. Here’s my entry for the query critique:

    #pitmad #A When a man’s wife is kidnapped he must avenge her and blow whistle on human experimentation project he covered up for 50 years.

    1. Unless his name is something really long, like Abraham, I’d go ahead and put it in. You’ve got a few extra characters. I’d also put in the article adjectives you cut to save space, and cut the word project. You don’t really need it.

      #pitmad #A When [dude’s] wife is kidnapped, he must avenge her and blow the whistle on human experimentation he covered up for 50 years.

      My only other question is this: avenge, or save? If she’s dead, you can do this:

      Bartholomew must avenge his wife’s death and blow the whistle on a human experimentation project he covered up for 50 years. #pitmad #A

  19. Love this opportunity.
    10YO Darrah & Grant form a prankster alliance. Each hijinx grows riskier ‘til one dies leaving the other with a secret and guilt.#PitMad#MG

    1. Love your avatar, btw. Is that a dachshund?

      I find myself wondering how far into the story the death happens. The reason I say that is b/c it’s a huge spoiler to put in your tweet if it happens more than halfway through the book. If it’s actually the set-up for a story that’s primarily about one character, then I’d be less concerned about it, even if the other character is present in flashbacks or riddles. I might also omit the word guilt, and if possible substitute a more active word that gets at what the character *does*.

  20. 13-year-old Clementine discovers a modern Aztec underworld where the gods have tricked souls into staying. Can she take on the Pantheon to save her dad? #pitmad #mg

    This post about queries rocked my metaphorical socks (too hot for socks today!), thanks!

    1. This may already be bugging you, but the word pantheon, even though it’s totally correct, is throwing me here b/c it’s such a very Greek word. Naturally it takes up much more room to say “gods and goddesses”. Darn it. And you’re already over on character count. Don’t check these in Word, folks, check ’em in twitter…character count in software often doesn’t include spaces.

      Again, I have a bit of an in here b/c I’ve seen the query (see, there are some advantages to me running late!) What about something like this:

      Can 13 y.o. Clementine use her Grandmother’s lessons to outfox Aztec deities in a modern underworld, & save her dad’s soul? #pitmad #mg

    1. The names have me positive that these guys are twenty-somethings, and I’m so glad to see you’ve labeled it as Adult and not NA. I think I mentioned elsewhere that NA without strong erotic content doesn’t seem to be selling well.

      The only thing I’d say is that, b/c you have 18 characters left, you might be able to hint at the incident that provoked his breakdown, or be more specific about which drugs he’s addicted to. Other than that, this is very clear and shows stakes. Nice work.

  21. This is great advice! I have a lot of trouble with comps, but yours work wonderfully. I know I’D be excited about MG Night Vale if I were an agent. Thanks for the opportunity.

    Lidi risks her life to save a baby gryphon from the army. She’s determined to end the hunt—but must get past her parents first. #Pitmad #MG

    1. Always nice to meet a Night Vale fan! And now, the weather.

      Kidding.

      So, in this magical world, the army kills gryphons specifically, or any sort of magical creature? And her parents are military, or simply in agreement with the mainstream point of view?

      You could say:

      Lidi risks her life to save a baby gryphon from the army. She’s determined to end the hunt—but must oppose her parents to do it. #Pitmad #MG

      That clarifies things so we know it’s not an issue of her being forbidden for other reasons, like that they’re afraid for her. If that IS the actual issue, this one’s over by a character, but maybe you can solve that?

      Lidi risks her life to save a baby gryphon from the army. She’s determined to end the hunt-but must get past her worried parents. #Pitmad #MG

  22. 1 book of ancient myths
    2 warring siblings
    3 lost relics
    4 epic heroes
    =more than Kai bargained for when he moved to Finland

    Great post–thanks so much for sharing your query hook and particularly your bio. I’ve been struggling to see how my non-writing-credit type biography items could be worked in to my query, so this is really helpful!

    1. I kinda love this one. My only nitpick is that none of these show Kai’s agency. You have about sixteen characters left, though that’s w/o a hashtag. You might want to play with the wording to see if you can add an action verb besides bargained, or the word adventure. You can always take Finland out and pop Finnish up there in the ancient myths line.

    1. I’m a bit confused by the pronouns in this one. Jamie’s a girl, right? Oh, OK. I think I get it. Jamie has to find a boy the tree spirits asked her to find? Because they’re afraid he’ll end up dead or worse? At first I was thinking the tree spirits wanted the boy for their own purposes.

      So what about something like,

      11yo Jamie is sent by tree spirits to find a boy before he ends up dead, or worse.

      That’s good as far as it goes. I’m not sure you need the “friendless freak” part. It’s harsh, and social awkwardness is a common enough trope in MG fantasy that it doesn’t add anything original to your pitch. Think about why the tree spirits value him, or why she would be chosen, and rework the tweet based on that.

  23. Thanks for your query advice! It was most helpful.

    Linked to a Mayan ghost by a swim in a cenote, 12yo Jenna spends nights thwarting ritual sacrifice, fights 21stC bullies by day#PitMad#MG#TT

    1. This is pretty cool. My only point of hesitation would be whether “thwarting ritual sacrifice” is a bit more YA than MG. That said, this is a solid pitch. I want to know whether there are modern people conducting these ritual sacrifices, or whether she’s time-slipping in some way. That’s not a criticism of your pitch at all. It draws me in and makes me want to see a query and pages to find out more. That’s exactly where you want to be.

      The only other thing I’d be watching for is whether Jenna is a Caucasian kid immersed in a Mayan mystery. I hesitate to bring it up, b/c obviously there could be kids with Mayan heritage named Jenna…just be aware that agents may have concerns if your story seems to appropriate aspects of a culture that isn’t your MC’s. If the MC’s name was recognizable as being common in a modern country that was once part of the Mayan Empire, like Honduras or Mexico, I’d likely not mention it.

  24. I love the query information!

    When Moe uses her dreams to pull her stepbrother from a coma, she discovers there’s something about life he doesn’t want to return to. #YA

    1. Shauna, this pitch is terrific. Seriously. Keep it.

      BUT.

      You’re out of room for the #PitchWars hashtag! What about this:

      Moe uses her dreams to pull her stepbrother from a coma, & discovers there’s something about life he doesn’t want to return to. #YA #PitMad

      I wish you could get the wording “something about HIS life” in there, but I don’t want to monkey with it much, b/c like I said, it’s working.

  25. Great post! The “adult comp title for a middle grade audience” idea was really smart. I might try that myself. I wonder many agents have heard of HOGFATHER by Terry Pratchett.

    #MG #F #pitmad 3 kids vs. Santa, his elven hit squad, and his secret global surveillance program. X-mas is about to get real.

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