Pitch It To Me, Baby!

Competition Time!

Enter by January 6th 2018 for the chance to win Query critiques!


Are you gearing up to query agents in the new year? Would you like to win a critique of your submission package?

Once your manuscript is polished, it’s always helpful to get some fresh, impartial eyes on your query package. Before I began querying, I was lucky enough to have the help of other authors who had already been through the process. So, as a way of paying-it-forward, I would like to offer help to those about to embark (or those who have been trying without success).

I wish I could offer help and critique to everyone reading this, but unfortunately between my own writing, looking after my family, and working night shifts I simply don’t have enough hours in the day (even on the days when I’m on the go for the whole 24 hours!)

SO, I thought I’d run a little competition. I’m hoping it will be helpful to EVERYONE who enters because, even if you don’t win, it’s an opportunity to practise your pitch! (And I will attempt to give useful feedback on every pitch – depending on how many entries there are!)

First Prize: A thorough critique (overall feedback and in-margin comments) of your WHOLE submission package (Query Letter, Synopsis and First Three Chapters)

Second Prize: A thorough critique of your Query Letter AND Synopsis.

Third Prize: A through critique of either your Query Letter OR your Synopsis (you choose)


I will give the winners these thorough critiques privately, via email, so no need to be shy.

However, I will give feedback on the entry pitches within the comments section – so please request ‘no feedback’ if you don’t want me to do so. (Otherwise I will assume you are happy for me to comment publicly, and for others to do so as well. Many eyes giveth the best feedback!)

How To Enter

Pitch me your manuscript in the comments below, in 150 words or less.

Include your Twitter handle so I can contact you to exchange email addresses if you are a winner (and make sure you’re following me: @NJCrosskey, so I can DM you)

If you’re not on Twitter, you can still enter. Just make sure you follow my blog via email so I can contact you (I will NEVER send marketing emails or DMs)


This competition is open until January 6th 2018. I will contact the winners directly.


Rules and Disclaimers

I will pick my favourite pitches on January 8th 2018. This is entirely subjective. But then, so is publishing in general…

I am not an editor, agent, or other expert. I’m just a fellow author looking to help out others – so please take all comments/critiques in the spirit of helpfulness in which they are intended.

I reserve the right to cease communications, at any stage, with anyone who is rude or offensive. (Responses to my past critiques have ranged from ‘Oh my God! This is so helpful, thank you so, so much!’ to ‘What do you know, bitch?!’ – Guess which types of people are now in my contacts as writers I will ALWAYS help out, and which ones are blocked? 😉 )

If you’re querying/about to query agents, I’m going to assume you want honest, to-the-point comments. If you don’t, don’t enter.

If you and I have already had correspondence via email, you are not eligible to enter. This is because I consider you a friend. So just go ahead and ask if you want me to look at anything, silly billy! 😉


Good Luck! SO excited to read your pitches!


37 thoughts on “Pitch It To Me, Baby!”

  1. When scientists are baffled and corporate investors angered by the unexplained misbehavior of dozens of drone spacecraft sent to collect minerals from the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, the lucrative mission is taken over by three manned spacecraft, one of which is destined to become the last sample of human life in the universe. Slade Hobart, captain of the mining vessel Laersk, believes that as the last living human being it’s her responsibility to chronicle the final days of mankind in a celebration and condemnation of her own species. From the command chair of her marooned ship, she keeps watch over the pile of bodies that were her crew, now resting frozen and dried on the surface of Ganymede. Close by her side she keeps the body of only one, Joseph, a teenage boy who stowed away on the multi-year mission to pursue his prophesy of the end of man’s days. @edwardvarga

    1. This sounds like a really intriguing concept! The bit that made me go ‘Ooooh!’ was the line ‘as the last living human being’ – I think THAT’S your hook. My suggestion would be to open with that idea, rather than the backstory to it. An opening along the lines of:
      Captain Slade Hobart is the last human being alive.
      Or words to that effect, raises so many questions I think I would find it impossible NOT to read further to find out why, how and what she’s going to do.

      Her character is the thing that most interests me in this pitch. (Why is she keeping a dead body? I HAVE to know!) So, in my humble opinion I would shift the focus, and open with her. Wherever possible, start with the protagonist, the conflict they face and what’s at stake – because those are the driving forces behind your plot.

      Thanks so much for entering, and good luck with your queries 🙂

  2. Currently, the majority of the body heat that humans produce is eventually lost through our skin and into the atmosphere. This novel explores what happens when the human race is able to harness that energy using technology, and what happens when that technology creates people who are too powerful to control. It follows six protagonists, the last on Earth who are able to use their converted body heat to do extraordinary things. These individuals unite to try and destroy the brutal military dictatorship responsible for their kinds’ extermination. As their plan unfolds, the five younger heroes begin to learn more about humanity, sexuality, love, and what binds them to each other and to ordinary people.

    @natejklol on Twitter

    1. Some very cool ideas in here! As with the previous pitch, I’d recommend you shift the focus and open with the ‘human angle’ (e.g. your protagonists – obviously given that you have six you can’t describe each one individually, but presumably they have a common plight, so I would open with that, as opposed to background information).

      Do the protagonists have a collective name, or is there a name for their condition? If so, you could use that to introduce them as a collective. For example:

      The Heat Converters are facing extermination.

      It’s a crappy name, I know, but you get the idea. From there you could go on to describe their abilities and the conflict they face. They are the heart and soul of your plot, and I imagine their journey is an exciting one!

      Thanks so much for entering, best of luck with queries!

  3. Ten years ago the world shifted, turning Arissa Mannan’s fears into an ability to detect damning wounds within another’s psyche, but exposing the cruel revelations drives them away. At twenty-nine-years-old, Arissa now uses her insights to act as the wife her husband wants, but at the cost of her identity.

    Then Arissa meets Lin Hara, a woman with supernatural allure that exposes Arissa’s bisexuality. Drawn together through their supernatural connection, Arissa is determined to discover who she is while clinging to both her husband and Lin. Arissa either chooses between them, or harnesses her ability to open their minds, but divulging insights could repulse them. To learn control, Arissa must accept herself and overcome her own internalized lies before she can fight for their love and make her own happily-ever-after.


    1. I really, really like the concept of Arissa’s personal journey to overcome her internalised lies. This sounds like a story that deals with some hard-hitting and necessary themes, whilst also providing an exciting speculative plot. I’m a big believer that truths are often best examined through fiction – and I can really see the potential for that in this.

      A couple of things confused me, which is making it a little hard for me to effectively suggest restructure. I’m not sure what the ‘shift’ in the world means? I think that might need a little clarification. Regardless though, I wouldn’t open with ‘Ten years ago’ – it gives the impression that you’re pitching backstory rather than the plot itself. I’d jump straight in with Arissa and the conflict she faces now, and work the backstory in after.

      I found the line: ‘Arissa either chooses between them, or harnesses her ability to open their minds, but divulging insights could repulse them.’ a little hard to follow, and had to reread to fully comprehend your meaning, so I’d recommend rephrasing for clarity.

      Some very interesting concepts, thanks so much for entering – best of luck for your submissions!

  4. Altaris is a story about a young man who’s dream is coming true with his acceptance as a cadet for the winged guardians known as the Sun Legion.

    When the academy proves more difficult than he could have imagined, Wren’s drive to prove his worth vaults him into the middle of an escalating war against the terrorist, Cardinal, and his aeronautical fleet of Thunder Raiders.

    Now, with one deadly Raider attack thwarted and another on the horizon, both Wren and the Sun Legion will be forced to make decisions and sacrifices that will echo for centuries as the soul of a nation hangs in the balance.

    Thanks for hosting! This is a really cool opportunity!


    1. This is a well-structured pitch. You’ve opened with the protagonist and his situation, then gone on to provide more detail and introduced conflict and stakes.

      I’m concerned that your opening line isn’t bold enough to do this justice. It comes across as a little unsure, and I think you need to be more forceful and (rightly!) loud and proud about your plot! There’s no need to say ‘is a story’ – you’re sending a fiction query, so it’s a given. So, that comes across as filler and makes the pitch sound apologetic. I’d suggest something along the lines of:

      Wren’s dream comes true when he is accepted as a cadet for the winged guardians known as the Sun Legion.

      The title of the book can go in the ‘business paragraph’ (after the opening pitch). But, if you do decide to keep your opening line as it is, change ‘who’s’ to ‘whose’

      On the whole, a nicely structured pitch with clear conflict and stakes – just needs to be a little bolder, but all the right elements are there!

      Thanks so much, and good luck!

  5. 12-year-old Pip Gillies has lost interest in most things since the death of her grandmother, even her beloved kickboxing. But then she finds an enchanted wishbone embedded in a mysterious colour wheel.

    If the bone is split by two people, it grants the wish of whoever yearns hardest. But there’s a catch: the bone re-forms. If broken again by somebody else, it revokes the previous wish.

    The wheel also releases four animal spirits, which possess Pip and her friends. The spirits confer special fighting powers on the young kickboxers, but are also starting to suck them into a perilous, decaying Otherworld.

    When the bone falls into the hands of Pip’s worst bully, it unleashes its inevitable chaos. Ultimately, Pip must decide whether to claim the bone’s last wish for herself or leave it to Georgia, a young carer to a very sick mother. @orridge_anna

  6. All fifteen year old Hazel wants upon arriving to her new town is to reconnect with her brother and her friends who moved a year prior, as well as doing well in school, but things don’t go to plan when a marking appears on her back, markings that only appear on elemental dragons. But she isn’t the only one, as she meets others along the way who are exactly like her, and seeking answers in any way they can. From then on, Hazel is thrown into a world where discrimination sets apart students from one another in the form of two political parties, and she has no choice but to join the more sinister of the groups for her own protection. As well as facing horrors inside the walls of her tiny town, a dragon reborn from the scale of the last of its kind, seeks to escape its prison.


    1. This is well-structured and sounds intriguing.

      The opening sentence is very, very long (try reading aloud) which makes it difficult to follow. I would recommend rephrasing and splitting into separate sentences.

      Maybe something like:
      Fifteen year old Hazel moves to a new town, hoping to reconnect with her brother and her old friends. But things don’t go according to plan. When a strange marking, usually associated with elemental dragons, appears on her back her life is thrown off course.

      Not suggesting you use those exact words, but that’s just an illustration of how you could play around with your opening to make it easier to follow.

      There’s some great concepts in here, but I think you need to make your sentences clearer and punchier in order to convey them more effectively. I really like the political element, I’d like to see that clarified (and perhaps in its own paragraph)

      Thanks so much for entering, wishing you the very best!

  7. Disillusioned with beauty, the former Miss U.S. Beauty, Candice Rickson, dreams of being a marine biologist. Reduced to being an exotic dancer to pay her way until her mother’s self-induced accident allows her to reclaim her pageant awards.
    Revolted by her mother’s experience with the film industry, Candice vehemently rejects an offer from an aspiring talent agent she didn’t recognize as a childhood friend. Todd remembers her dreams and intelligence from their youth but didn’t realize how much he still cared for her. When she rebukes him, he thinks all hope of reconnecting is lost.
    Choosing to disguise her natural beauty while at college, she hopes to avoid amorous advances and Todd, who will be attending the same college. But she doesn’t fool Todd for long. Swayed by his efforts to prove his affection, she may have found a man to love her for her heart and her mind.


    1. Another well-structured pitch. You’ve opened with the protagonist and given us a reason to feel sympathy for her, then gone on to effectively describe her conflict and aspirations, and the obstacles in her way.

      There’s a couple of instances of repetition that sound a little clunky when read aloud, but these are easily fixed. The repetition of ‘beauty’ in the first line (although obviously one is a title, it still sounds a little clunky when read aloud) can be got rid of. Personally, I would cut ‘Disillusioned with beauty’ and just open with: Candice Rickson, the former Miss U.S. Beauty, dreams of being a marine biologist. The fact she doesn’t like the beauty industry is implied because she wants to get out of it.

      Your second sentence needs an addition (perhaps: But she is reduced to…) currently it doesn’t make complete sense as a stand-alone sentence. In the last sentence, you’ve used ‘college’ twice, so I’d either use a synonym for the second instance e.g. ‘who will be attending the same institution’ or just rephrase so it isn’t needed.

      Overall, a strong, well-structured pitch that only needs minor tweaking 🙂 thanks for entering, and best of luck!

  8. Descended from the only super-soldier to survive when an asteroid destroys the earth, Rack is bonded to the king. Rack’s ability to sense the king’s emotions means he knows when he needs protection. And when the king’s a power-hungry dictator who doesn’t play well with others, he really does need protection.

    Rack’s talents include superhuman strength, absolute loyalty and inescapable clairsentience, but what he’s really good at is avoiding meaningful relationships. Until he meets a girl who finds a chink in his armour.

    Tsunia gives him hope that he won’t always be the ice-cold killer he sees in the mirror. But atonement comes at a price. To help Tsunia curb the king’s unpredictable tyranny, Rack must turn his back on the man he was born to save. If the king dies and their mental bond is severed, Rack will pay with his mind, his heart, and maybe even his life.


    1. This is a really strong pitch, and you’ve given me issues putting my finger on why it feels just ever-so-slightly ‘off’.

      Now, I’m somewhat speculating here, but my overriding impression is that you have great ability, but a lack of confidence in your prose. There’s slight ‘over-explaining’ which makes me think you are (needlessly – you’re good!) not sure of your own explanations. I think this just needs to be a little bolder.

      You’ve used Rack’s name quite a bit, which is one of the things that makes me feel you’re unsure you’ve been clear enough (you have!). I’d make the opening more forceful. Something like:

      As a descendant of the last surviving super-soldier, Rack is bonded to the king.

      On the whole, I really am nit-picking. This is SO CLOSE to being spot-on that it probably makes no difference. All I’m really saying is keep in mind you’re having to be a salesperson here, so if you could be a bit more bold I think you’d nail it. If you do rework it (I’m not convinced you NEED to, I do think it works) feel free to drop me a DM with it.

      Thanks so much, and all the best!

      1. Thank you, that’s really helpful. And probably the story of one of the things wrong with the whole book 🙂 I’ll have a play with it.
        Thanks for your time!

  9. All humans are born without a biological sex. Thanks to advances in science and medicine, the diminished population has finally been on the rise over the last century. Laws, colloquially termed The Sex Amendments, have been put into place to ensure the population is large enough to prevent another possible extinction:
    1. Declaration Deadline: Everyone must declare whether they will become a male or female after the age of 13 and no later than the age of 17.
    2. Marriage Deadline: Everyone must marry by the age of 22. Since reproduction is of highest importance, this marriage must be heterosexual.
    3. Conception Deadline: Every married couple must conceive their first child before the youngest person in the couple reaches the age of 25.
    Throughout the novel, multiple points of view show the repercussions of conforming to the rigid sexual assignment process and risking the loss of one’s identity.


    1. This is a really, really interesting concept. I can see lots of potential for a great novel based around this idea!

      My only issue with this is it feels like you’re pitching the concept, rather than the novel itself. I’ve come away knowing a lot about the backstory, and the world your characters live in, but nothing of the actual plot or characters themselves. I’d suggest shifting the focus a little to the characters/plot and trying to work the concept in around them.

      VERY intriguing premise, and highly topical. Wish you the very best of luck with it!

  10. Sophie believes that in order to succeed at becoming one of the most successful Make Up Vloggers on social media, (which is an actual career and not a hobby, thank you mum) she needs to focus purely on that goal and forget everything else. Marcus is letting his inherited gardening business coast along, he has some ideas but lacks any motivation to get started, (dad stop mithering you are supposed to be retired). The two are forced to work together despite their mutual animosity. Can Sophie inspire Marcus to take his business more seriously? Can Marcus prove to Sophie that you can be professional and have fun at the same time? More importantly can they move away from their mutual dislike and stop winding each other up? With an unfortunate business sabotage, an accidental sex tape and a high profile award at stake what could possibly go wrong?

    Thank you 🙂

    1. This is a really well-structured pitch, and very current premise. I can really see this having great appeal in the YA market.

      Now, this is a judgement call you’ll have to make for yourself, but I would suggest cutting the first-person brackets. I say this because I have seen several agents saying they find things like that ‘gimmicky’ and they’d rather just have a professional third-person pitch. Obviously, that isn’t ALL agents, and it could well be that there are some who would like it. But, I’d play the odds. Using the brackets might work for some but put others off, but not having them won’t put anyone off.

      Thanks so much for entering, good luck with your queries!

      1. Thank you so much for taking the time to feedback, I really appreciate it. I suspect your right it’s a touch gimmicky. Thanks again 😊

  11. Adelaide DusBeco is the heiress to the Pangean Empire, which sends its sick, disabled, and criminal citizens to the Isle of Nor to die of starvation. Like all citizens of Pangea, Adelaide believes physical strength is of the utmost importance. That is, until she has a seizure the day she is to be crowned.

    Banished to the Isle of Nor by her own father, Adelaide reclaims some of her health and discovers her magic thanks to an elderly man. She begins finding her place in a new world she didn’t know existed: the continent of Nor. Nor is ripe with modern day technology, but this technology degrades magic and the health of those with magic blood.

    When Nor discovers Adelaide’s identity, they want her dead just as much as her father. She must choose a life of exile, hiding, and dodging assassination attempts or fighting to reclaim her throne.

    1. Second Place Winner!

      A really well-structured pitch with some very intriguing ideas. I feel there’s a few sentences that could be tightened, but I’ll go over those when I do your critique 🙂 well done!

  12. There are two reasons no one ever notices thirteen-year-old James Rash. One, his magical and famous older siblings—The Septacular Septuplets. The other, he was born without magic.

    Since no magic equals “no use” to his family, James must never make mistakes—and hasn’t for seven years. Unfortunately, when he does, it almost costs the lives of his four sisters and three brothers.

    After discovering his punishment is death, James flees to the forbidden Rash City: the only place where magical and non-magical people coexist. There, he stumbles upon unhinged avenger Jo King, who intends on stripping the septuplets of their powers.

    Unaware of the danger waiting for them, James’ siblings sneak to Rash City to bring him home. When the septuplets split up across the city, Jo King follows to pick them off one-by-one. Now, James must track down his siblings first … or risk becoming an only child.


    1. This is a really strong pitch. A sympathetic protagonist, clear stakes and some very imaginative plot elements.

      I found the second paragraph a little hard to follow. I feel you ought to rephrase it a little to make it clearer. It’s a great idea, but I had to read it twice to fully comprehend.

      I think you’re almost there, but a little tightening (try reading it aloud if you haven’t already, it can really help you see when a sentence could be ambiguous) and it would be really solid!

      Thanks so much, best of luck with querying!

  13. Kieron Lawson is an inexperienced, lamentably antisocial lord with a penchant for heroic fables and an aversion to touch. He longs to evolve—to master the grace and charm typically seen in heroes of legend—but life soon teaches Kieron that reality cannot be held to a fantasy standard. While embarking on a classic quest to save the princess, he meets a man named Eidolon. A worldly, enigmatic thief who steals from him, tells him truths that others dare not, and evokes feelings he doesn’t understand. A simple quest quickly goes awry as the tired tropes of a hero’s tale fall apart and a relationship that starts out in animosity resolves into an intense, uneasy understanding. The deep connection between these two men forms the core of this character-driven series.


    1. First Place Winner!

      You made me fall for your protagonist instantly. You’ve presented a clear picture of a flawed, likeable and intriguing character in your very first sentence. Then you’ve gone on to give me his conflict and desires, and introduced another character I really want to get to know! Given that you’ve stated your work is character-driven I think, in this instance, you’ve done the right thing by focusing on the characters. I’ve come away wanting to get to know these guys. Well done!

  14. The night before Cadence starts high school, a shooting star crashes in her backyard and a pocket-sized Pegasus climbs out of the crater. His name is Equuleus and he tells her he is a constellation and sent to protect an unknown girl descended from Virgo and Orion from an assassin sent to end the bloodline. Cadence sneaks Equuleus to school and they look for clues to unearth the identities of the descendant and the assassin.

    At a field trip to Space Center Houston, Cadence accidentally creates a brilliant blue light when she touches the moon rock. She is the descendant. Now they must race to figure out who the assassin is, because she isn’t the only one in danger. Her mother is pregnant and her future sibling shares their constellation blood. Her whole family is threatened unless they can unmask and stop the assassin before it’s too late.


    1. Some really imaginative and interesting concepts here!

      I think you need to tighten some of your sentences a bit, some of them are a little overlong which meant I had to reread to fully comprehend. (Especially the second sentence)

      I’d suggest starting a little snappier. Something along the lines of: When a shooting star crashes into Cadence’s backyard, starting High School is no longer her biggest concern.

      Some really clear (and exciting) stakes and great ideas! Thanks so much for entering – good luck with your queries!

  15. Life has never been easy for 16-year-old Ruby, but when she and her mom finally escape Ruby’s violent dad, things look up. Her mom continues on to Chicago for a job, while Ruby stays behind with her grandparents. Free from her father’s drunken breath and grabby hands, she tries not to worry about her mom, and daydreams about how to break into the movies.

    When she sees a strange car in town, Ruby knows that her father has probably already tracked her down to kidnap her or worse. When her mom returns for a visit, he brutally attacks them both.

    Terrified he will return, Ruby runs off and plans to hop trains somewhere far away from her father. But she becomes lost in the woods and falls into the underworld. Unsure of what’s real, she must face the truth about the abuse she’s suffered to find her way home.


    1. I love this concept. It’s a very powerful idea that works metaphorically as well, and I think if handled sensitively could be a really important story that may help and inspire readers.

      I feel like this is such a powerful idea that it really needs a bold pitch. It’s a bold thing to write about, after all. In places it feels like you’re not confident enough in your ability to explain. You’ve used Ruby’s name a lot (which can be indicative of a writer’s concern that the reader isn’t following what they’re saying), I think you could rephrase to be a little bolder, which would make this more powerful.

      I’d suggest reworking the opening. Perhaps something like:
      After fleeing from her abusive father, sixteen-year-old Ruby is finally free to pursue her own dreams. But when a strange car appears in town, it’s clear her nightmare is far from over.

      I don’t think you need to detail her mother moving and then visiting in the pitch. It’s a detail that isn’t necessary in order to get to the crux of the matter (they are attacked and she runs) so it’s detracting from the main hook (I’m concentrating on trying to follow the sequence of events when I don’t actually NEED to in order to get to the main point)

      It’s a really powerful idea. Thanks so much for entering, and good luck with queries!

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