Janet Sumner Johnson
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Pitches: A Reader’s View


25, 2013 |

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Today I come to you with my WriteOnCon Pitch Fest Blogger Cap.

If you head over to WriteOnCon’s blog, you will find all sorts of posts from various agents giving advice on writing a pitch. AND, if you go to the WriteOnCon Forum (open until March 10), you can get your pitch critiqued.

So, about pitches. Sometimes, I think we forget their purpose. We think it’s supposed to tell people what happens in our book.

Wait . . . what? Isn’t it? I can hear the questions already.

The real purpose of a pitch is to entice readers to read more.

The irony of it all is this: As a person writing a pitch, it’s easy to forget that. As a person reading a pitch, that’s all you think about.

So let’s pretend: You walk into a bookstore unsure of what to buy. So what do you do? You read back cover copy (and maybe a line or two of the beginning) until something grabs you.

First book you grab: The Hero’s Guide to Saving your Kindgom

This could be good, you think, so you flip it over:

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan.
Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who
saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and
yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only
as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change.

Rejected by their
princesses and cast out of their castles, the princes stumble upon an evil plot
that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over
their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and
other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could

Obviously, every person will have their own reaction to this pitch here is mine, Twitter style (just because):

And of course, what do I do? I buy the book (yes, I bought this one in real life, not just our pretend adventure).

So how might this help you?

First, realize that pitches are subjective. Not everyone likes the same things. I happen to love fairytales, and this pitch is absolutely aimed at people who like fairytales. If you have an intended audience, make sure they know this is for them.

Second, voice. It didn’t take much to set the tone, but “lousy bards” told me this would be a voice I’d appreciate. Work the voice from your book into your pitch.

Third, hook. This particular book plays off the fact that all of the princes in fairytales seem to be named Charming. Absolutely something I have laughed at for years. That is the line that sold me on this book. What is the hook of your book? What about it will make others connect to your story and want to read more?

Writing a pitch is not easy. The pitch I shared is a mere 112 words, and I guarantee those are some labor-intensive words. But try to look at it as a reader:

What in a pitch makes you go, “Ooh! I want to read that book!!”?

Best of luck to all you pitch writers!

Speak up:



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“Luck ‘O the Irish” Pitch-Fest!


08, 2013 |

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So if any of ya’ll haven’t heard, WriteOnCon is coming out of hibernation this winter to host the “Luck ‘O the Irish” pitch fest.

I happen to be a HUGE fan of these things (can’t imagine why . . .), so I jumped in with two feet and beggedapplied to be an official book blogger for the thing. Hurray! They accepted me, and now I have a shiny new badge over there on the sidebar.

So. Here are the deets:

here at WriteOnCon are organizing a mid-winter “Luck ‘O the Irish” pitch-fest,
where agents, book bloggers, and authors will team up to read and vote
for the best pitches of 2013.

You read that right! A pitch-fest! At WriteOnCon!

The details:
runs from March 18-22. Authors, book bloggers, readers, and our
fabulous literary agents will be voting on the pitches. The favorites in
each category will win prizes, including some great agent feedback or
membership in the official WriteOnCon mentorship program!

will only be a limited number of pitches accepted. That number is
unknown at this time, because it depends on how many agents attend.
We’re still recruiting agents and will let you know the final numbers as
soon as we do! Pitches will be selected randomly, so it doesn’t matter
what time zone you live in.

agents have selected their top three genres, and pitches will ONLY be
accepted in those genres. Again, all genres are unknown at this time as
we’re still finalizing agents, but don’t worry. We will make
announcements about genres and numbers as things solidify (sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss a thing!).
At this time, we are only focusing on the children’s market, so you can
know now that this pitch-fest will focus only on middle grade and young
adult genres.

announcing this now, before all details are finalized, because we’re
running a “perfect your pitch” workshop in February. This will take
place in the WriteOnCon forums, and will work much the same as the query
critique boards do during the annual WOC. You will post your pitch, and
your peers will critique it. We will have posts from industry
professionals on writing pitches and genre classification.

doing this for a good reason. We want your pitch to be as perfect as
possible once the submission window hits in March. We will only be
accepting your entry for the pitch-fest one time. We will not change
your genre or edit your pitch after it has been submitted. This workshop
during February is the time for you to fine-tune your pitch and get
feedback about which genre your novel really belongs in.

–Only one pitch per person. Put forth your best work.

should be for polished and query-ready novels only. That means if you
haven’t finished your novel yet, you shouldn’t pitch. Still revising?
Don’t pitch. The agents attending are looking for material, and when
they request, you want to be ready to send out your novel. We’re
announcing early to give you time to finish!

Dates to know:
February 18-March 10 – Forum peer pitch critiques (Carolin has the forum boards built! Check them out HERE)
March 11-13 – Submission of final pitches (this will be done through a Google form, NOT in the forum–details to come!)
March 14-17 – We build the boards in the forum (they will be hidden until March 18)
March 18-22 – Voting and commenting by literary agents, mentor authors, and book bloggers

We can’t wait to see you at the Luck o’ the Irish Pitch-Fest! Watch the WOC newsletter and site for more updates as we get closer to liftoff. Yeah, that was totally a mixed metaphor.

Hope to see you all there!

Speak up:



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13, 2012 |

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Life has a funny way of interfering with our best laid plans. I was all prepped to come back with gusto until Change showed up on my doorstep and took a sucker punch at my gut. Rather than give up blogging, I’ll only be posting Mondays for the next indefinite time frame or so.

I know. You are all HUGELY disappointed. But to make amends I offer a nostalgic license plate for you.


Do you get it? Isn’t that just awesome? Gosh I loved the 90’s (*subtle hint*).

And by the way, what are you doing here??? You should be at WriteOnCon!

Speak up:



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Getting Vested – The Long Answer


27, 2012 |

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A couple of weeks ago, I talked about Getting Vested in writing. Well, saavy reader Emily asked a question that I think deserves an answer:

Do you think being ‘vested in writing’ actually requires an output of ‘hard, cold cash’? Or do you think thinking and reading (and writing and writing) can be ever enough?

First, I want to clarify that this is simply my opinion. Second, no matter what I say, there will always be exceptions, so please take it with a grain of salt. Now on to the juicy stuff.

The short answer is “Yes.” Yes, I think being vested in writing requires an output of ‘hard, cold cash.’

The long answer is a little more convoluted, but it will bring us back to the short answer, so stay with me here. IMHO, there are two ways to invest yourself in writing:

  1. Spending Money
  2. Spending Time

I’ll start with #2. Any time you spend writing is investing yourself. This includes any form of writing. Blogs, journals, short stories, vignettes, longer works, whatever. Hopefully this is consistent writing, still, it all counts.

Time you spend educating yourself on the craft of writing is investing yourself. This includes attending conferences and workshops. It includes formal education. It includes reading blogs on writing, reading books on writing, and it includes reading books in the genre you write. Education is always an investment.

So here’s where we get to the meat of the thing. Look at that second list about educating yourself. Many of those things cost money. Conferences? Workshops? College-level classes? Money, money, and more $$$. Books on writing? Not so cheap. Books in your genre? Not SO expensive, but money, neverthe less.

Now I can hear you protesting.

“But I use the library.”

“I get books for free through blog contests.”

“I attend the FREE WriteOnCon Conference.”

I say, wonderful! Great resources. I love the library. I love WriteOnCon. I love blog contests!

But here’s the catch: Time = Money

I know, cliche-city, but it’s true. I work for myself and I know exactly how much my time is worth. I know exactly how much I am not earning when I choose to spend my time elsewhere. Spending time is a monetary investment.

Finally, I think there is a place where you must simply suck it up and pay the hard cold cash, because there is no substitution of time. As a serious writer, you should join a writing association. Whether that’s SCBWI, RWA, NWA, a local group or whatever, do it. Joining a group is a declaration to yourself that you’re serious. And bonus, it’s a declaration to others (i.e. agents and editors).

So yes, to be vested, I do think you need to shell out some cash.

What’s your opinion?

Speak up:



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Fun Times Ahead: The Rundown


15, 2011 |

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As promised, today I unveil my super fun plans!

With WriteOnCon here this week, PLUS I’ll be hosting scads of family for a family reunion, I had this brilliant idea (okay, I stole my brother’s brilliant idea) for a fun way to still keep up with my blog.

So here’s the deal—ever heard of Apples to Apples? This is just like that, only you don’t get to draw cards.  Here are the rules:

  1. Beginning Thursday, August 19, I will post a word on my blog each weekday.
  2. In the comments, you leave a word associated with my word. It can be funny, serious or whatever. (Just keep in mind that I am the judge, so you want it to be a word you think I would associate with the first word).
  3. At the end of two weeks, I will choose my three favorite entries for each post and award 3 pts, 2 pts. and 1pt. respectively. I will add up the points and choose three overall winners.
  4. You can vote on any of the posts until midnight EDT on Sunday, September 4
  5. Anyone can play! If you want to follow or spread the word, great. But not required. However, if you don’t think I have a way to contact you otherwise, be sure to leave an e-mail address (or something) just in case you win.
  6. I will announce winners sometime that next week. And YES, there will be prizes! Good ones.

To sum up.

I write a word. Example: Keyboard.

You write an associated word. Example: Letters; Typing; Music; Piano; Singing; Writing

I choose my favorites.

Three someones win a fun prize.

Easy? Easy. But if you have questions, feel free to ask.

During that time, I apologize that I won’t be able to visit your blogs (can you say beach house?!!), or respond to your brilliant comments like usual (assuming you have an e-mail address connected to your profile), but thanks for visiting and good luck! I can’t wait to read your pithy, hilarious, and overall genius responses!

Speak up:



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