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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Vampire Novel Pitch/Query Synopsis (for Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award)

   
Author Topic: Vampire Novel Pitch/Query Synopsis (for Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award)
Yufae
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ABNA puts a 300-word limit on the pitch, and it has to sell both my story and myself. Any tips? I'm open to advice on everything, from the hook to sentence structure to whether I've crossed the line into cheesiness at any point. I guess I should also add that the novel is complete, speculative (fantasy/horror) fiction, 55,000 words.

Pitch:

Vampires arenít pets. Itís important that you understand this from the beginning because if youíd rather go on believing that you can pick one up at the pound and tie it up in the back yard, then you and I really donít have much to say to one another.

Annie lives in San Antonio, Texas. Her story, Thirst, hearkens back to the horrific stories of the old blood-drinkers, except that Annie sees nothing horrific in ripping out veins in dance club bathrooms. She and her friend Will lack superhuman sexiness and donít dress in black leather; they discuss the advantages of high SPF sunblock. And Annie begins to accept the loss of her old lover, with the human psychologist who doesnít believe in vampires, not yet.

Will Annie drink her therapist? Can her friend Will get her into bed at last? And what will happen to the mortal infant who finds a home with a young vampire couple, a couple that Annie doesnít trust?

Thirst is a rare speculative fiction tale, one that will horrify you, not with styleless writing, but with a vampire who follows murder with bubble baths. Readers of vampire novels will enjoy Annieís sarcasm, understand her struggle to accept the death of her sweetheart, and relate to her desire to drink the blood of annoying people.

Thirst is my third novel. While the first two gave me invaluable experience and made great kindling, Iím hoping to share Thirst with real people, not just with my hamsters. My work has appeared in Toasted Cheese Literary Journal and Cover of Darkness Magazine. I have an M. A. in English Language and Literature from Abilene Christian University. My husband and I live and teach in South Korea, a country sadly devoid of vampires.

[This message has been edited by Yufae (edited January 15, 2009).]


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Rob Roy
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Yufae,

good pitch. I especially liked the little tag line about South Korea being "sadly devoid of vampires." New Zealand doesn't have any either. We have Taniwha instead, and I rather think a good Taniwha would put a whole coven of revenants to flight.

Ard-choille,
Rob Roy


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snapper
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I just saw this competition mentioned somewhere, probably the critters workshop notes. Anyway, I have never written a pitch but have had opinions on a couple cover letters to agents before. Letís see what you got.


quote:
Vampires arenít pets. Itís important that you understand this from the beginning because if youíd rather go on believing that you can pick one up at the pound and tie it up in the back yard, then you and I really donít have much to say to one another.

If this is an exert of your novel, then itís a good one and an appropriate way to open your pitch. Give them a brief sample of your writing. If it isnít, find your best, about the same size, and put it in. If it is, you need to say so, and say who this isÖ
quote:
This is my main character AnneÖ

quote:
Annie lives in San Antonio, Texas. Her story,

Cut. You have limited words. This does nothing to advance your pitch. Trim the fat, add muscle.
quote:
Thirst, hearkens back to the horrific stories of the old blood-drinkers, except that Annie sees nothing horrific in ripping out veins in dance club bathrooms.

At first glance, this read contradictory. However, ripping out veins in dance club bathrooms is an eye catcher.
quote:
She and her friend Will lack superhuman sexiness and donít dress in black leather; they discuss the advantages of high SPF sunblock.

You need commaís around Will, not sure what superhuman sexiness is, and the entire sentence reads fragmented. I suggest a change.
quote:
And Annie begins to accept the loss of her old lover, with the human psychologist who doesnít believe in vampires, not yet.

This sentence reads backwards to me. I think not yet should be cut as well. Reverse whatís behind the comma with whatís before it.
Then you had three questions that are meant to intrigue the reader.
quote:
Will Annie drink her therapist?

Donít care enough at this point.
quote:
Can her friend Will get her into bed at last?

Canít imagine why I would care at any point.
quote:
And what will happen to the mortal infant who finds a home with a young vampire couple, a couple that Annie doesnít trust?

Where the hell did this come from? You canít just drop this in our laps like that. It sounds like a trailer to a 1930ís cliffhanger short.
quote:
Thirst is a rare speculative fiction tale,

Do you mean rare as unique? From what I read so far it looks a lot like a Twilight copycat novel.
quote:
one that will horrify you,

Presumptuous. You better deliver on that promise, and quick. If not be the end of the first chapter, it better be in the second.
quote:
not with styleless writing,

Not sure what you mean by styleless. I donít believe itís a real word (English majors hate it when you attempt to use an adjective that doesnít exist). Do you mean it is absent of style that writes over the average readers head? Or it has a style that any Pultizer nominating committee would salivate over? Either way, cut that line out. Never write about what your story isnít. You want to preach positive, not down play any potential negatives.
quote:
but with a vampire who follows murder with bubble baths.

Intriguing. Now to find a way to work that in to make it compelling.
quote:
Readers of vampire novels will enjoy

Presumptuous. Cut it. They are six words that could be used better.
quote:
Annieís sarcasm,

Watch it. One could read that as your MC is unlikable, and that is a kiss of death to a novel. Annieís sarcastic wit is more friendly
quote:
understand her struggle to accept the death of her sweetheart,

This better be relevant to your storyline. You may want to dress it up somehow.
quote:
and relate to her desire to drink the blood of annoying people.

Now this is good.
quote:
Thirst is my third novel.

This is good. It suggests that you have experience.
quote:
While the first two gave me invaluable experience and made great kindling, Iím hoping to share Thirst with real people, not just with my hamsters.

This is bad. This suggests that you arenít any good. Although it is cute, donít let it see the light of day.
quote:
My work has appeared in Toasted Cheese Literary Journal and Cover of Darkness Magazine.

Not a bad idea promoting past successes. However, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal doesnít sound like a widely viewed publication (no disrespect intended to the fine people at Toasted Cheese Literary Journal). I suggest that you change this so it looks like you have done better without lying.
quote:
I have previous publishing experience in short fiction with my latest appearing in Cover of Darkness Magazine.

quote:
I have an M. A. in English Language and Literature from Abilene Christian University.

I donít know if that helps but it sure canít hurt.
quote:
My husband and I live and teach in South Korea, a country sadly devoid of vampires.

This is very clever and I encourage you to leave it in.
300 words? Thatís about how many youíll find on the back cover of any paperback in the bookstore. Find your favorite novels and look at that back cover or the inner sleeve of a hard cover novel. And look how they did it. The back cover is the first hook of any novel. With the exception of word of mouth recommendations, I have never bought a book that didnít have a back cover that drew me in to reading the first page (and you better have a good first page if you want me to spend my money on your book).
With the exception of your exert, I think you could cut from a third to half of your summary. The rest should be an outstanding example of your writing within the novel. Let your writing speak for you. Write your summary so it showcases your plot as a original, compelling, page turner.
Remember, you are a salesperson at this point. Sell your writing, the same way a car salesman sells a car, by letting them test drive it. I believe your pitch should look something likeÖ
quote:
Outstanding portion in your novel
This is an exert of my vampire epic, Thirst. Anne is unlike most women living in San Antonio. A woman that is dealing with the loss of an old lover, spends her evenings trolling the local nightclubs, and does her best to stay out of the hot sun of the Texas prairie.
Anne is a vampire, but isnít like the vampires of legend; superhuman, irresistible, and dressing in black leather. Her and friend, Will, talk of the advantages of high SPF sun block but avoid talk of his feelings for her. Her sarcastic wit is a cover for her pain. She seeks the aid of a psychologist to deal with her loss during the day, and rips out the veins of victims in dance club bathrooms at night. Sheíll follow a murder with a bubble bath and isnít above drinking the blood from people that annoy her. Anne fights the urge to drink her therapist and wonders why a mortal infant lives with a young vampire couple. A day with Anne is unlike any day youíll ever experience.
Thirst is my third novel. I have previous publishing experience in short fiction with my latest appearing in Cover of Darkness Magazine. I have an M. A. in English Language and Literature from Abilene Christian University. My husband and I live and teach in South Korea, a country sadly devoid of vampires.


That will leave 70 words for an exert.
Hope this helps!

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annepin
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Is it possible to read the pitches from previous novels? If so, I recommend doing that. I'm a bit unclear on what they might be looking for, but this pitch didn't sell the book for me. It was a bit muddled.

Vampires arenít pets. Itís important that you understand this from the beginning because if youíd rather go on believing that you can pick one up at the pound and tie it up in the back yard, then you and I really donít have much to say to one another.
This intro just confused me. To my knowledge, no one ever has vampires as pets. It was even more confusing after I read the rest of the pitch. There's nothing in it to suggest that vampires might be taken as pets. While I appreciate the stab at humor and the voice, it left me confused as to why pets come into this at all.

Annie lives in San Antonio, Texas As your first sentence, this really falls flat. The fact that she lives in San Antonio is uninteresting. Her story, Thirst, hearkens back to the horrific stories of the old blood-drinkers, except that Annie sees nothing horrific in ripping out veins in dance club bathrooms This is the send time you've used this device, that is, telling us what something is not. In the intro you tell us vampires aren't pets. Here, you tell us Annie doesn't feel a certain way. This might work once; twice, imo, is pushing it. She and her friend Will lack superhuman sexiness and donít dress in black leather; they discuss the advantages of high SPF sunblock Okay, cute. This is the first sentence that might hook me. And Annie begins to accept the loss of her old lover, with the the help of a {? I think this is what you're trying to say}human psychologist who doesnít believe in vampires,period might serve you better here. not yet okay, nice. This is the first bit that actually suggests there's a story going on here.

Will Annie drink her therapist? Can her friend Will get her into bed at last? And what will happen to the mortal infant who finds a home with a young vampire couple, a couple that Annie doesnít trust? Huh? Bombarding me with questions really isn't making me interested in the book. I'm rather lost right now, to tell you the truth. I have no idea what the story is. So far it seems like a hodgepodge of events. You have no logline. You might not need one for this purpose, since your objective is to entice readers to get your book. Nevertheless, I have little sense of what the story is.

Thirst is a rare speculative fiction tale I'm averse to someone telling me something is rare, one that will horrify you or what something will do to me--I'd rather the story and characters evoke these emotions, or at least promise them] , not with styleless writing Not sure what styleless writing is, and again, the same device--telling us what something is not, or what something won't do, but with a vampire who follows murder with bubble bathsthis tidbit is fantastic. this is a great example of letting your story do the work for you. I almost think you could lead with this. Readers of vampire novels will enjoy Annieís sarcasm Will I?, understand her struggle to accept the death of her sweetheart, and relate to her desire to drink the blood of annoying people Again, will I?.

Thirst is my third novel. While the first two gave me invaluable experience and made great kindling, Iím hoping to share Thirst with real people, not just with my hamsters. My work has appeared in Toasted Cheese Literary Journal and Cover of Darkness Magazine. I have an M. A. in English Language and Literature from Abilene Christian University. My husband and I live and teach in South Korea, a country sadly devoid of vampires.Cute bio.

There are definitely some cute bits in there, but over all to me it's too slippery. At the end of the day I know more about what the novel should do to me than what the novel's actually about.

As always, these are only the opinions of one aspiring author. Take what works for you and leave the rest.


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Nick T
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Hi,

Snapper and Anne's advice is great.

One link I'll add is Miss Snark's blog

http://misssnark.blogspot.com/

I have no idea how to search through the blog (there's years of material on there), but there is a heap of material about how to construct a pitch to an agent.

Regards,

Nick


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annepin
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This is slightly different from pitching to an editor though, isn't it? I thought the general public voted on it. I think this will change the pitch.
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Nick T
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Hi Anne,

Yep, you're right, it would change the pitch. Sorry, I didn't know that the Amazon breakthrough novel award was based on pitching to an editor/general public. I hadn't heard of it before.

I think there's still probably a few helpful tips in Miss Snark's blog, but you'd have to modify them a bit.

Cheers,

Nick


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Yufae
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Thanks, everyone. My experience with pitches and cover letters is almost nonexistant, and the ABNA makes matters even more difficult with their incredibly specific requirements and the fact that the pitch will be read by editors and (if you make it past the editors) the public. But it's tons of fun, so if you've got a more or less publishable novel in your files, why not give it a try? Anyway, thanks again. Your suggestions are more helpful than I can say.
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JenniferHicks
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I've never written a pitch or query letter, so keep that in mind. You have a playful voice that I find intriguing, and I like the idea of vampires worrying about sunblock. The main thing I see missing is a catalyst. What is that one pivotal event that drives the action of your novel? Without that, the pitch feels unfocused.

The BookEnds blog just finished sharing and critiquing several query letters from writers who got published. Might want to check them out: http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/.


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MartinV
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I was absolutely hooked. A good pitch. I'm jealous.
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Yufae
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Thanks for all your help. My entry has made it to the quarterfinals!

Here's the site: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001UG39T2


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Owasm
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The miss snark blog mentioned above hasn't had an entry since 2007.

You might try looking at http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

She actually has reviewed a number of vampire-related fiction.

One thing I've read is that unpublished works don't impress editors or agents, so the fact that you've generated kindling
(although a common but true fate for many of us) might not be the polish on your creds that you need.

- Owasm


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