3 S.R. Johannes: Winners of Agent Pitch - Onto the next round

Monday, February 14, 2011

Winners of Agent Pitch - Onto the next round

First - Im sorry everything took longer. And thank you for being supportive and patient.

Okay - so here's the deal....

I could NOT get my list down to 5. So I choose the top ten I would like to read a query from. I will say these were - for the most part - great pitches with good ideas.

Most of my notes include the sentence: "But, what is different?" BE SURE in your pitches and query letters that you hone in and highlight the ONE thing that makes your book different. Especially the paranormal and angel books!

Because I know how frustrating it is to enter and wonder why you didn't get chosen, I will offer all of you some extra love on V-Day! :)

If you submitted a pitch in THIS contest and want to know WHY I didn't choose your pitch in the top 10 or as an Honorary Mention, you can email me your pitch and I will share my notes with you in case it helps you perfect your pitch. sjohannes@bilaninc.com

Next Steps for WINNERS:

1) I'd like these people to post their query letters on today's post by the end of this week (Fri 5PM EST). After 5 - the query will not count. Your query letter should have more content in it plus a bio aspect. I'd like to have everyone see how the pitch moves into the query letter. If you don't want that - you can email it to me offline st sjohannes@bilaninc.com

2) Of these 10 - I will pick three to get a query critique and send me the first three chapters.

3) I will choose my winner from those.

May sound involved but my name will be attached to it.


I shared why I chose these pitches so you could see my thought process. From what I hear, Im pretty sure agents and editors choose in same way - what calls to them for whatever reason. Could be a very random thing.
  1. Rita Monette (MG) - I like the Louisiana setting with the voodoo.
  2. Janet Johnson (MG) - The voice pulled me in on this one (love the appendix line) but I would work on it to give more. It didnt tell me the story.
  3. Mai (YA) - im intrigued because of the creating a person - Very "Weird Science" and I loved that movie. I would play up the girl more than the rest of it.
  4. Lisa - I chose this because I think likes classics redone especially in mysterious houses :) I love the twist on Jane Eyre.
  5. MarcyKate - Loved the idea of letters in her writing. Also Alyssa loves mysteries in mansions. The runaway millgirl peeked my interest.
  6. Wendy Lawrence - (MG) I've seen time travel fighters (be sure to read Time Raiders- i think it came out in the last year) but i really liked the voice so Im interested to see how it is different.
  7. Shannon ODonnell - (MG) Again, the voice pulled me in. The idea of a Naughty Camp for Boys was funny to me.
  8. BJ Andersen - First - she did her research and is right - Alyssa loves wishing stories. Second, the voice was evident.
  9. Marie Reardon - at first , the angel/heaven/Hell thing threw me off (I would take play that down). But I like the idea of stealing memories ( Very Inception-ish for kids)
  10. Rachel - I like "contemporary humor" of Operation Sex Appeal - seems kinda like the new movie (A) a little.
Honorable Mentions:

I wanted to mention these because I may have picked them had they offered more information. The premise was intriguing but in a stack of 100, it simply didn't stand out only because it was too short or too general or not different enough.

I thought this might help you hone your pitches more b/c that is all it needs:
  • Christine Arnolds (YA) - liked a story about a girl who controls the elements. Very MindBender but it sounds like its MG for some reason?
  • Dorothy Dreyer (YA) - a story about Muses (reminds me of Al Brooks and Sharon Stone movie Muse.) Though the pitch with the Zeus part and being grounded sounded a bit MG to me.
  • Holly Ann - I love the monsters under NYC but I didn't get enough of the story. Reminded me of a YA Neverworld by Neil Gaiman
  • Magan - I like the idea of girl falls in love with alien - but didn't understand the whole story.
  • Amy - the split conscious thing grabbed me but I couldn't get my head around it. May need to pull this out more? Also - the first 2 lines confused me as to who this girl was?
  • Tanya Reimer - I was intrigued but I needed more. I like the world with no males but didnt understand any more.
  • Karen Atkins - I think you need to explain more who Bree is and how she is involved in your query? The ONLY reason ( i thought this was a good pitch) I didn't choose this is b/c I just started a book "kinda similar" (but DONT WORRY, ours are obviously probably very different) I just didn't want to get "corrupted" by your idea at all (or scared of you because I like you! :)
  • Elena Solodow - I liked this but it was way too short. Didnt give me enough to stand out.
  • Angelica Jackson (YA) - I like the historical aspect to this combined with paranormal. But how is it different?
Congrads to everyone!


Tanya Reimer said...

Thanks for the great contest and the honorable mention! In a stack of entries this amazing, it's great that you tell us what to add, or what intrigued you. Wow. You impress me, girl.

Congrats to the ten finalists, great job.
Thanks Shelli!

Unknown said...

Ahh...thanks, Shelli! I'm still flabbergasted that you held this contest. I expect great things for your 2011. :)

Janet Johnson said...

Woo hoo! Thank you! And I'm in awe . . . there were so many great entries.

I especially appreciated your comments about why you did or didn't choose them. Very helpful!

Now for a double and triple look over my query . . .

Thanks again for this great contest!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Oh, wow. I am shocked to see my name on that list, Shelli--you had so many great entries. Thank you tons and bunches!! I'll have my query posted shortly. :-)

Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow!

Dorothy Dreyer said...

Awesome! Thanks for picking me as an honorable mention. That made me smile! :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Congrats to the winners.

Jenilyn Collings said...

Wow! Lots of amazing pitches. Congratulations to the winners!

Lydia Kang said...

I loved so many of these pitches--congrats to the finalists!

Donea Lee said...

Congrats to the winners and thanks, Shelli, for the opportunity! Best of luck to everyone ~ :)

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for the contest! I didn't win, but just playing was awesome. Good karma for you, and good luck to the semi-finalists!

Kelly Polark said...

Thanks for a great contest, Shelli! I can't imagine how long it took you to contemplate the entries! What a hard decision! Thanks for your time and contest!!!
Congrats to the winners!

B.J. Anderson said...

Thanks for taking the time to do this awesome contest, Shelli! I was so excited and grateful to see my name on the list. :D Thank you, thank you, thank you! Also, I hope everything turned out all right with your family event.

kathrynjankowski said...

Congrats to the winners!

I'm glad I entered, as I got an email from an agent—from an agency closed to unsolicited queries—inviting me to send my query and the first 5 pages when the book is ready to go (which should be very soon).

So, thanks, Shelli, for the opportunity to pitch!

Angelica R. Jackson said...

Congratulations to the winners, and good luck in the next stage! And thanks, Shelli, for the feedback on my honorable-mention-worthy pitch!

Court said...

Good luck to all the finalists. And for everyone else, keep entering contests like this one. Many thanks to Shelli for hosting a great pitch contest. You never know when agents are watching contests like this one and looking for something that might suit their taste. I got an offer from an agent at a closed house to query her and send five pages. Entering gave me that open door. It might do the same for you, too. Keep writing folks.

MarcyKate said...

Wow! This has officially made my day :) Thanks so much for running this contest - I can't wait for the next round!

Lisa Galek said...

I'm so honored to be chosen! There were some really great pitches! Thanks, Shelli!

Here's my query:

Katie Morland is about to spend the weekend in a haunted house. Lucky for her, the guy of her dreams is sleeping right across the hall.

Sixteen-year-old Katie has always been sweet and caring, but sometimes she's just a little too naïve for her own good. Thanks to her newfound obsession with horror movies, she's become convinced ghosts and ghouls actually do exist. So, when Katie meets Hal Tilney, who's not only charming and smart but also happens to live in one of the most haunted houses in America – the home where "The Amityville Horror" took place – she thinks she's found the perfect guy for her. The down side? Hal believes all the stories of hauntings and demon possession were just one big hoax.

When Katie is invited to visit Hal's house, she has high hopes the weekend will send chills up her spine in more ways than one. But in Amityville, Hal seems distant and unfeeling. Could the source of Hal's sudden coldness be his infamous house? Katie is determined to find out if demons do haunt these halls and if she can win Hal's heart forever. But, little does she know that indulging her horror-fueled imagination might lead to something really frightening – losing the guy she loves.

HIGH HOPES, my 68,000-word young adult novel, is a modern retelling of Jane Austen's classic, Gothic parody, "Northanger Abbey." I have a bachelor's degree in English and currently work as a writer and editor.

Jemi Fraser said...

Congrats to everyone! Wow - your notes will help a lot of people! I wasn't at the right stage to enter this contest, but I'll learn lots from your notes and comments! :)

Gail said...

Shelli, you are amazing! That was alot of work and difficult choices to make, I'm sure. Very 'pay it forward' to many people. Of course, we've known about your generous side all along!

R Chazz Chute said...

Dear Shelli,

Thank you for the Pay It Forward Contest. I appreciate the time you put into it. Though I wasn't your flavor, a lovely agent read my pitch on your blog and asked for the full query and pages.It worked out in a peachy way.

Cheers and all the best,



Unknown said...
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Lori M. Lee said...

Wow, I'm so excited! (This is 'Mai,' I just changed my display name lol)

I will post my query as soon as I finish revising it! Thanks so much, Shelli!

Marie Rearden said...

Shelli, thanks so much for this incredible opportunity! I just wish I had some writing background/accomplishments to fill a bio paragraph. :)

Dear Shelli Johannes,

Kat Wake thought surviving college meant pulling decent grades and impressing the right people. She never dreamed life after high school might actually kill her.

With Freshman year under her belt, Kat is determined to change her snore-fest of a life. She just has to A) date fewer losers and B) open her mind to, well, everything. And, oh yeah, C) figure out why that smirking blonde woman keeps popping up in her dreams. A car crash throws them into a doctor’s waiting room, but this time, Kat isn’t dreaming. She’s dying.

She stands in the doorway of the afterlife where the dream woman and gatekeeper, Doc, waits to offer Kat a choice: trade in her ho-hum life for a walk into the unknown, or return to it with the secrets she’s learned, on one condition. She must steal the memories of a man who wants to talk about this secret place. Kat accepts and escapes death, refusing to give up the life she’s worked so hard to improve. But Doc’s simple request turns deadly when the man Kat’s hunting begins pursuing her for more information about the next life, and he’s not alone. She must dig deep for the courage to hold up her end of the deal or risk losing her own memories or worse, the life she just got back.

My paranormal Young Adult novel OUTTA THE BAG is complete at 67,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Marie Rearden

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Shelli, thanks again for this opportunity. :-)

Here's my query:

Eight-year old Scott may be lazy and messy and mean to his sister, but it’s not until he ruins her birthday party with a well-aimed cup of worms that his fed-up parents ship him off to The Naughty Boy Factory. Now, unless Scott can find the courage to confront the factory’s evil director, he may lose his chance to become the one thing he wants most in the world—a ninja.

At The Factory, naughty boys are transformed into Scott’s worst nightmare—perfect gentlemen. Thanks to an evil director, her scary robot guards, and the B.A.D. center (where the really bad boys are brainwashed), Scott and his group reluctantly do as they’re told. But after being marched through a series of better behavior stations, including the Ear Enhancer, the Mouth Wash, and the TongueTorium, Scott worries too many changes could mean too little fun.

When the Hands and Feet Department announces his running, wrestling, and sneaking-up-on-sisters days will soon be over, Scott decides things have gone too far. After all, skilled hands and feet are pretty important to a ninja. It’s all or nothing—end up polite, perfect, and boring or escape!

Scott and the Naughty Boy Factory—where Roald Dahl meets Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island—is complete at 17,400 words and is available upon request.

I’m a high school English teacher with a master's degree in Education, as well as a member of the Montana Educators Association & Federation of Teachers and a committee chair for the Montana State Reading Council.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Shannon O'Donnell

B.J. Anderson said...

Thanks again for doing this, Shelli! Ok, here's my query:

Twelve-year-old Sean McDonald made a stupid wish to be an only child instead of lost in a family of seven siblings. Now his only sister is at the bottom of a mile-long heart transplant list, and Sean thinks he's to blame. Feeling guilty, he sets out to fulfill her dream of traveling to Ireland before her time runs out. But his family doesn't have money to buy patches for hand-me-downs, let alone an overseas plane ticket. Then Sean meets Hagen, an escaped mental patient hiding out in the McDonald family chicken coop.

Sean's first thought is to call the cops, but Hagen's talent for mixing potions gives Sean a money-making idea. In exchange for half the profits, Hagen agrees to make “wisdom” elixir to sell to Sean's flunking classmates. When the school bonehead starts pulling A's, Sean and Hagen's business takes off. If they're caught, Sean will be expelled, his sister will be out of luck, and Hagen will end up in a straight-jacket. But maybe Sean doesn't need money to help his sister. Maybe all he needs is a little belief and a bit of magic. Hagen has the magic. Sean just needs the courage to believe the unbelievable.

Complete at 35,000 words, SEAN MCDONALD'S ELIXIR OF INFINITE WISDOM is a contemporary middle grade with elements of magical realism.

I've had short stories published in the Genre Wars Anthology ("Fully Loaded," February 2010), and the e-zine, Electric Spec ("The Chrysalis," September 2007). Three more of my short stories were quarter-finalists in the L. Ron Hubbard, Writers of the Future Contest. I am a member of SCBWI and Pikes Peak Writers.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my project.

B.J. Anderson

MarcyKate said...

Thanks again for the opportunity! My query letter is below:

Dear Agent,

Ever since seventeen-year-old Tessa James moved to Manchester, she’s done her damnedest to ignore the rumors of ghosts in the theatre next door. Even when letters in a foreign language—and her own handwriting—appear on her nightstand. But then the accidents begin and they’re much too similar to the notes to brush off.

Tessa discovers the letters are pieces of a diary, and the tale of Ava Dubois, a runaway millgirl turned rising starlet, begins to unravel. As Tessa is unwillingly drawn into Ava’s past, connections to the present become stark—and scary. Her employer, the Castle Theatre, is about to produce Hamlet, the very play canceled by Ava’s untimely death in 1935. Bizarre accidents plague the theatre staff, while the steady stream of letters force Tessa into a dangerous game. Between the séance, the boiler room with a mind of its own, and the poltergeist willing to kill to protect his secret, she wants no part. But the spirits won’t leave her alone, nor will the suspicious detective investigating the accidents. Now she’s on a mission to make the letters stop—because each entry gets a little more real than the last. Not to mention the rising body count. If Tessa doesn’t checkmate her ghosts, she just might be next.

I'm seeking representation for THE GHOST WRITER, a YA ghost story complete at 60,000 words. I have a MS in Arts Administration from Boston University. As the former marketing director of a professional theatre, I have the skillset to actively promote my work. That theatre and its legends of hauntings inspired my book.

I would be happy to supply sample chapters or a full manuscript of THE GHOST WRITER upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

MarcyKate Connolly

Janet Johnson said...

Okay, time to let go and paste the thing. Thanks for the opportunity, Shelli!

My query:

When her best friend's house is threatened with foreclosure, ten-year-old Annie Jenkins is full of ideas to save it: selling her appendix on e-bay, winning the lottery, facing off with the bankers . . . Anything to keep Jason from moving two states away. Then fate drops a present in her lap---an old chest full of pirate clothes and a treasure map from the neighborhood grouch, Mrs. Schuster.

Certain the map is real, Annie and Jason set out to find the treasure, but nothing goes as planned. An accident sends Jason to the ER, and his unemployed, uninsured father grounds them from each other. But Annie refuses to give up. After consulting her new friend, the grouch, Annie is confident the treasure is buried in Jason's backyard smack dab in their turkey pen.

Now all she has to do is convince Jason to ignore his father's short fuse then overcome her paralyzing fear of turkeys. It should be a snap. But when her plan goes wrong, and they destroy Jason's family's garden, Annie discovers there are worse things than your best friend moving away.

THE PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY FRIENDSHIP is a 40,000-word contemporary middle-grade novel about dealing with change. I am a member of the SCBWI, and have a BA in English and an MA in French literature.

Thank you for your time and consideration on this multiple submission.

Janet Johnson

Lori M. Lee said...
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great contest! I really enjoyed reading everyone's pitch. I've emailed you my query. Thanks again!

Wendy Lawrence