Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Janice Hardy's Query Pitch Blurb

STATUS: I spent most of today on the phone. Some days are just like that. Now that it’s after 4, I’m going to now tackle my TO DO list.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TAINTED LOVE by Soft Cell

This morning I realized it’s been a while since I spotlighted a client’s query. I always find it interesting to talk about what caught my interest and hopefully it’s a good learning tool for blog readers as you revise your own query letters.

Today’s story is a little different as Janice didn’t query me by email per se. I actually met Janice at the Surrey International Writers Conference that is held in Vancouver, British Columbia. And no, Janice is not Canadian; she actually hails from Georgia. She just happened to be at the conference.

She had signed up for a 10-minute pitch session with me so she “queried” me via a verbal one-on-one pitch.

I have to say, that the first thing that caught my interest was the title: THE PAIN MERCHANTS. What’s even more interesting is that the publisher ended up not going with this title. See the cover I’ve included below. Go figure. I found the title immediately interesting and I knew that I wanted to read the sample pages she was going to submit after the conference. In fact, I emailed Sara to be on the lookout for them.

For some reason, I don’t have the original letter she sent with the sample pages but I did save her pitch paragraph from that letter. Since that’s the crucial part, I’m including it here. Tomorrow I’ll share the letter I sent to editors when I submitted this work.

From Janice’s cover letter:
Seventeen-year-old Nya couldn’t find good luck in an empty pail. As one of the city’s many orphans, she survives on odd jobs and optimism — finding both in short supply in a city crippled by a failed war for independence. Then a bungled egg theft, a stupid act of compassion and boys unable to keep their mouths shut, expose her secret to the two most powerful groups in Geveg: the pain merchants and the Healer’s League. They discover Nya is a Taker, a healer who can pull pain and injury from others. Trouble is, unlike normal Takers she can’t dump that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it from person to person, a so far useless skill that’s never once paid for her breakfast.

When an accident floods the city with injured and Takers start disappearing from the Healer’s League, Nya’s talent is suddenly in demand. But what she’s asked to do with her healing ability feels as wrong as fish with feet. That is, until her sister Tali goes missing — then walking fish don’t sound so bad after all. Because finding Tali means taking on the League, and to do something that stupid she’ll need what only her “useless skill” can get her. As her papa used to say, principles are a bargain at any price, but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?



Janice’s pitch blurb annotated:
Seventeen-year-old Nya couldn’t find good luck in an empty pail. As one of the city’s many orphans, she survives on odd jobs and optimism — finding both in short supply in a city crippled by a failed war for independence. KN: I’m caught by Janice’s voice in the opening lines. “Couldn’t find good luck in an empty pail” and “surviving on optimism.” I’m looking forward to reading on. Then a bungled egg theft, a stupid act of compassion and boys unable to keep their mouths shut, expose her secret to the two most powerful groups in Geveg: the pain merchants and the Healer’s League. KN: I knew I was right to ask for sample pages. There is the contrast between the theft and the act of compassion that makes me interested in this character. Not to mention had the “uh-oh” moment that a secret revealed to powerful people can only be trouble. They discover Nya is a Taker, a healer who can pull pain and injury from others. Trouble is, unlike normal Takers she can’t dump that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it from person to person, a so far useless skill that’s never once paid for her breakfast. KN: Here I have to understand the world and Nya’s power so Janice explains. But then she hints at the issue. This is a “useless skill” that I’m now assuming is not going to be considered useless by these powerful people. Intriguing.

When an accident floods the city with injured and Takers start disappearing from the Healer’s League, Nya’s talent is suddenly in demand. But what she’s asked to do with her healing ability feels as wrong as fish with feet. KN: Plot catalyst that starts the story. I don’t know what is as wrong as fish feet but I still love the voice and I’m thinking the story is going to tell me if I start reading. Also, That is, until her sister Tali goes missing — then walking fish don’t sound so bad after all. KN: Ah, this situation is going to put our character in a compromising situation. Now her sister is at stake. What is she willing to do? Good set up of conflict. Because finding Tali means taking on the League, and to do something that stupid she’ll need what only her “useless skill” can get her. KN: I have to read this now! As her papa used to say, principles are a bargain at any price, but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?
KN: This last line just nailed it for me. I like stories where the character might have to grapple with moral ambiguity.