Dec 24, 2013

One on One Contest details.


I know I've been killing you with all this secrecy surrounding the One on One contest. I apologize. Being so near the holidays, I wasn't sure if I could pull it off. Even announcing it was a gamble....

At noon (EST) on January 4th, I will accept the first fifty queries to make it into my inbox. Of those fifty, I will choose the ten best to post to my blog. Equipped with only three votes, the writers who make it into the contest will read through each of the other entries and vote on their favorites. Of course, you can't vote for yourself.

You have only three votes. You can use those votes on one query, or you can use one on three separate queries. How you spend you votes is completely up to you. I will break any ties.

The query with the greatest number of votes will win one on one time (30 minutes) with an agent to ask about anything from query advice to opinions on the current state of the publishing market. Winning doesn't guarantee a request. That is completely up to the agent's discretion. The agent may browse the other nine entries and make requests there as well.

The agent for the contest is the wonderful Pooja Menon. Below is a brief bio and what she's looking for.

Pooja MenonPooja Menon joined Kimberley Cameron & Associates as an intern in the fall of 2011, with the aim of immersing herself in the elusive world of books and publishing. She soon realized that being an agent was what she was most drawn to as the job was varied and challenging. She represents both fiction and non-fiction for Adult and YA markets.

In fiction, she is interested in literary, historical, commercial, and high-end women's fiction. She's also looking for mysteries/thrillers and horrors. She's most drawn to stories with an international flavor, vibrant characters, multi-cultural themes, and lush settings.

In fantasy, she's looking for original, layered plots with worlds as real and alive as the ones that were created by J.K Rowling and Tolkien.

In YA, she's looking for stories that deal with the prevalent issues that face teenagers today. She is also interested in fantasy, magical-realism, and historical fiction. She's also looking for voice driven contemporary (both the light and frothy/romantic angle and the darker ones that deal with darker themes), steampunk, fantasy with a fresh take, mysteries/thrillers, and horror/gothic.

The interview will take place in the comments of a special post on my blog. At the present moment, there isn't an interview date set in stone, but it will be on or after the 15th of January. I'll announce the date as soon as she gets back to me.

Formatting for submissions:
Emails should be sent to catchyemailtitle (at) yahoo (dot) com

Times New Roman or a similar font. No indentation and a line break between paragraphs.

Subject line: Title/Genre

Body of Email:

Full name
Email address
Story Title

(This should be the query only. No bio or the like.)

Just a heads up, if you made it into Nightmare on Query Street you will NOT be picked for the One on One contest so please don't enter. Also, this contest is only open to completed, critiqued, and query ready manuscripts.

Any questions, ask them in the comments.

Visual Examples of Bad Queries

I've had this post archived for a while now because I wasn't sure if it would be helpful. But I'm going to take a gamble and post it anyway. As the title suggests, I'm going to show you what a bad query would look like if it were a movie trailer.

If you think about it, a query and a movie trailer are do the exact same thing. So, without further ado, I present the trailer for World War Z and C Me Dance.

What's right with this trailer.

Okay, so we meet our hero (Brad Pitt), who's a beloved family man. There's an emotional attachment to him because we see him doing what he must to keep his family safe. And I mean, who wouldn't root for a father trying to save his family.

What's wrong with this trailer.

There's a lot of eye-candy (which amounts to shock value in a query). It dazzles, but it the scope of things, it tells us nothing about the movie. We see masses of people swarming and crawling over each other for a reason that isn't even hinted at. When I first saw this trailer (before I watched the movie and heard about the book) I assumed it was people desperate to get away from a greater threat, and because they were 'exposed' the Army was sent in to kill them. More or less, I thought it was Brad Pitt's version of Resident Evil, during Raccoon City's quarantine.

I was surprised to discover it was a zombie movie. *Shrugs* But the zombies were the running kind, so that was pretty cool.

All in all, the trailer gave us a hero to root for and that's about it. The stakes were kind of lame because the family was taken to safety a little more than halfway through the trailer (and you can tell grunt of the story occurred after that). The antagonist isn't made clear, and neither is the conflict. Or what has to be done to resolve the conflict. Those are must-haves in a query.

What's right with this trailer.

Um...the music isn't terrible...and all the spelling was right...mostly. I don't know what the C is for in the title.

What's wrong with this trailer.

Voice is paramount in a query. This trailer is a prime example of what happens when voice is completely omitted. Everything just falls flat. Really flat. Lack of voice doesn't make a query terrible, it just sucks the excitement out of it. Kind of like this...

Batman is a query with no voice. Catwoman, Batgirl, and Harley Quinn are queries with voice.
I don't own this image.
In C Me Dance, we have a protagonist who is a dancer. Um...apparently, the devil wants her to stop dancing so he sends people/demons with weird eyes to appear out of nowhere and stand unreasonable close to her (mind you, I've watched this trailer a dozen times just to deduce that. With an agent, you only get once). Other than that, I have no idea what the story is about. I don't know what happens if she stops dancing or what the devil will do to her if she continues. It isn't clear what the protagonist has to do to ward off the antagonist, and I can't follow the events that transpire.

All in all, the trailer doesn't really give us anyone to root for. The dialogue seems forced and the 'tense' moments fall flat because *shrugs* I don't care about the MC. The voice is non-existent and none of the characters were developed in the slightest way. This trailer compares more to a rough story outline than a query.

Those are the only two trailers I have for now, but if you found this post helpful at all, give me a shout and I'll continue my hunt for trailers that would make for bad queries. I'll also keep my ear to the ground for terrible batman gifs.

Don't forget, contest coming up in January. It's a small contest so keep that in mind. Details coming soon.

Dec 23, 2013

A Query Kombat Success

The highlight of my day is when I get the chance to share a writer's success story. The road to publication is long and tough. It's littered with setbacks and failures, harsh critiques and shelved manuscripts. But along the way, you find that inspiring success story that makes you realize that each and every obstacle, each failure, each pothole means something. You get stronger and better as you overcome them. You meet people, you lose touch with people, you find yourself, and--sometimes--you lose yourself. That's a part of the writer's struggle. It's a part of a writer's success.

Now, without further delay, I give you AMY (AJ) PINE's success story.

While this is the story of how I got my publishing deal with Entangled’s Embrace line, it’s also a story about the possibilities offered by writing contests and the wonderfully inviting online writing community.

So, back in May, I entered my first new adult manuscript, IF ONLY, in Query Kombat. My QK name was O Captain My Captain. I know—is she referencing Whitman or Dead Poets Society? Hint: it’s in the book.

If you are a querying writer, then you know. You KNOW. Writing the query is rough. Sending out queries to agents or pubs is terrifying but also exhilarating. Entering your query and first 250 words in an online query contest where you put your pitch out there for others to read and critique? ALL OF THE FEARS. At least, that’s what it was like for me. I had never done a writing contest before, but when Michelle tweeted about Query Kombat, I decided I had to start somewhere. Plus, the contest was accepting new adult entries, and I just happened to have a completed new adult manuscript. A lot of writers entered the inaugural Query Kombat, and there were more entries than there were spots to fill. I was very fortunate to get chosen for one of those spots. I made it in to round one of the contest but lost to my opponent by one vote. It was a fabulous round, really intense, both of us tied for much of it. Throughout all of this, I connected with other Kombatants in the comment fields and on Twitter. Everyone cheered each other on, even those in brackets against each other (me and my opponent included). And even though I didn’t make it through to the next round, I met so many new writer friends and had wonderful notes on my pitch from many of the participants and the judges. I printed out all of the comments and used them to rework my query.

And then I entered another contest.

NA Alley, a great blog for all things new adult, held a pitch contest in June with editors Karen Grove and Nicole Steinhaus of Entangled’s new adult imprint, Embrace. The catch? They didn’t want a whole query. My pitch could only be THREE sentences. So that new pitch I polished using the QK comments—I had to shrink it down to three sentences. With the help of my critique partners, I did. My three paragraph query turned into this:

It’s been two years since twenty-year-old Jordan was in love—which means it’s
been forever since she, well, you know. But now she’s off to spend her junior
year in Aberdeen, Scotland, the perfect place to trade in her reissued V-card.
Sexy, sweet Griffin may be her perfect, no-strings-attached match, yet Noah, the
boy with impossible blue eyes, a knack for quoting her favorite movies…and a
girlfriend, makes her reconsider what love means and how far she’s willing to
go for the right guy.

Two weeks after posting my pitch, NA Alley announced the contest results. Entangled requested my full manuscript, and I submitted to Karen and Nicole on June 25. Entangled is great because they tell you upon submission that you will hear back within thirty days, and I did! Four weeks after my submission, I got an email from Nicole asking if they could have it for a few more weeks. Of course I said yes. Exactly three weeks later, I got an email from Karen Grove asking if we could talk on the phone. Again, YES. We set a call up for a couple days later. I was super nervous on the phone, but Karen was so nice. What’s more, she loved my book and wanted to publish it.

This pitch for this book that I was so scared to put out there, especially in an online contest setting, found a really great home. Now I’m in the middle of edits and hoping to stay on track for a February or March release!

Query Kombat gave this manuscript its start, so thanks Michelle, Mike, and SC for giving me that initial opportunity. Thanks also to freelance editor Taryn Albright for her excellent Reader Report and my wonderful CPs/betas (Jen, Natalie, Megan, Amy, Lucas) who helped me edit the manuscript and pitch and who are still seeing me through revisions as I get closer to publishing.

I guess I’m a pretty good advocate for writing contests. They’ve worked really well for me. If you are considering an upcoming contest (maybe Sun vs. Snow), know that so much good can come from participating, no matter what the outcome. By the way, guys, this all happened before getting an agent. There are so many different roads to publishing, and with IF ONLY, the contest route took me to a really great destination.


Amy (AJ) Pine writes stories to break readers’ hearts, but don’t worry—she’ll mend those hearts with a happily ever after…maybe. The first book she wrote was YA, but now she’s two-timing her first love with NA. Her debut new adult contemporary romance, IF ONLY, releases with Entangled Embrace in 2014. She's repped by Courtney Miller-Callihan with SJGA. You can find Amy on twitter: @AJ_Pine, Facebook, and at

Dec 18, 2013

Contest Coming Up in January!!!

Okay, so I know I've been neglecting my blog for a while. I haven't forgotten about it. I'm trying to get my WIP prepared to start querying by January 15th, so I've been neck deep in edits and CPing for others.

One thing I wanted to remind everyone is that I have a small contest coming up. I hope to do it two or three times a year, but we'll see how that goes. Just to give you a sneak peek, the One on One contest is opened to the first FIFTY submissions. There will be only one winner. The prize for that winner is a 30 minute, one on one interview with an agent (via my blog).

That's all you get for now. More details coming soon.

Dec 4, 2013


I'm extremely happy to announce that Lisa Sills in now repped by the awesome Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary. Below, she's given us a little recap of her road to publishing adventure. Enjoy.

To start this story, we’re first going to go back to eleven years and half my life ago. I was a precocious kid and I’d always loved reading, so I decided I was going to write a book. And I did. It was called The Sills and the Mystery of the Museum.
Some back info: I’m a quadruplet so I have three brothers the same age as me. Anyway, myself and my brothers were the stars of this novel—particularly one of them, who I liked a bit more at the time. He was a conflicted anti-hero, and I was the star who saved the day. We were super geniuses and we built a laboratory under our little brother’s room that no one knew about. Yeah. I know.
For those of you curious, here’s a photo of me and my brothers:

So anyway, I wrote that book—all 27,000 words of it—and I decided I was going to get it published, but this was eleven years ago and I didn’t have the internet and no one I knew wrote, so my query letter—direct to publishing houses—said: “It’d be cool if you published this before my twelfth birthday.” Did I mention it was handwritten in two copy-books because I didn’t have a computer?
That was the first of the many query letters I sent in my teen years—all for terrible, awful novels written by a precocious 12-15-year-old who had no idea what she was doing.
Tens of rejections followed, and I grew up and got sense and took a break from querying because with age came the awning realisation that my books were a bit rubbish. They had potential and they were all ‘good for my age’, but good for my age wouldn’t get me published.
Around about age seventeen, I discovered literary agents and I decided I wanted one. Since then I’ve written a bunch of books, each of which was a step closer. Rejections became partials, partials became fulls, and fulls became…rejections. Nearly wasn’t close enough.

In the summer before I turned twenty-one, I had this weird idea for a novel about a kid called Nick who combats his troubled past by fighting crime in full-on superhero gear. This was going to be a novel about growing up and moving on and forgiving your past and your demons in small-town Ireland: a Contemporary YA that was weird and strange, dark but ultimately hopeful. I spent two weeks writing Citizens of Optimism—I think I wrote about 6,000 words of it on my 21st birthday, because that’s just how cool I am.
The story from there is pretty self-explanatory. I sent it to CPs and Betas. Early criticism was harsh, but completely true. At one point, I restructured the whole thing. Fast forward maybe seven months and six drafts to this May and it was as finished as I could think to make it. So came the submission process. We’re all familiar with the submission process, so I’ll jump straight to the hard facts:
Queries drafted: 9.
Contests entered: 1. QueryKombat. I was knocked out early on, but the various comments/opinions really helped to make the query stronger.
Queries sent: 14.
Full requests: 5.
Offers: 2.
Agents: 1. Laura Zats, of Red Sofa Literary. I’m not one for indulging in superlatives, so instead I’ll say you know when you sometimes just get a feeling about someone and you think, “this could work?” That was how I knew.

So now here I am, with an agent, and a novel, and another novel in-the-works that I’m really, truly hopeful about. I am my own worst critic, and I opened Citizens of Optimism for the first time since May a couple of days ago, and I had this unrelenting want to cut it all up and make it better.
I’ve grown a lot as a writer in the last year—in fact, I’d say my 21st year was the year I learned to write, and now I have this uncertain future and this uncertain novel , and I guess it’s time to see what happens next?
And it’s terrifying. Everything about this is terrifying. I’m so private about my writing—always have been—and I have a tendency to flip-flop from self-belief to gutting self-doubt in ten seconds flat, so subbing will be…interesting. I’m trying to be better—trying to be more open about my writing, which is half the reason I’m writing this. Still: it’s terrifying!
I don’t know what happens next, but as much as it’s terrifying, it’s breathlessly, achingly exciting.
If you’d like to know a little more about me, you can find my blog here, or read my drivel about film-making, writing, and whatever pops into my head on my twitter.