Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Pitch for The Reluctant Spy



Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod (Wikipedia)

Last Sunday I ended my posting by saying that this week I’d share with you how I started writing Three Roads Diverged. However, instead, I want to return to The Reluctant Spy for one or more postings. According to the Amazon contest rules in which I entered that manuscript, I couldn’t really write about it until now.
         Why now? Because on Wednesday of this past week, Amazon posted its list of those entrants whose pitches had won them a place in the second round of the contest. My name wasn’t on that list. Please know I’m not discouraged; my getting through the first round depended on judges liking not only historical novels but also first-century Palestine ones. That’s asking a lot.


River Jordan (Wikipedia)

         Perhaps more importantly, my pitch had to grab the judges’ attention. In early January I struggled with writing three hundred words to beguile a judge into wanting to read more. Click here for the “pitch” posting on my Wednesday blog and here for what I wrote on this blog.
         Today, I’d like to share with you my contest pitch.

Pitch for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest

Ephraim, a first-century scribe, moves toward a crossroads: To betray—or to save—an old enemy. He hasn’t a clue how to solve his own dilemma. The truth is that he’s played many roles, but perhaps none harder than balancing between envious savior and reluctant spy. Can he manage both without undermining the foundations of his own life? And how much pride will he swallow to do so?
         There’s no doubt Ephraim can destroy his archrival. After all, just a few months ago his treachery led to the beheading of another man. Now he’s hit rock bottom, hunting desperately for the way to reclaim his honor. It’s all a question of what he’ll risk in his headlong flight from righteousness.                    
         From the intrigue of Jerusalem to the crossroads of Bethany, from the gossip of provincial Capernaum to the deadly threat of Golgotha, Ephraim journeys over more than muddy roads. The rat-infested cells of Machaerus Fortress looming over the Dead Sea cannot be any darker than the labyrinth of his own tortured mind.     
          His journey into the abyss of despair could end in redemption or ruin. One man holds the knife that can sever the muddle Ephraim’s made of his life. And this one man is the next victim of his betrayal.                                               
          Blackmail. Adultery. Intrigue. A crisis of faith. The themes of The Reluctant Spy remain as relevant today as they were two thousand years ago. Ephraim knows he can't change the past. But if he could let go of it, both he and his Galilean rival might escape the machinations of Jerusalem and Rome.


Sea of Galilee (Wikipedia)

What do you think? I know all of you want me to succeed. But please put aside your liking for me and for my writing and consider if this pitch on the book flap of an historical novel would grab your interest. If not, please tell me why. No suspense? Ephraim’s problems uninteresting? Too much information?
         Any suggestions for the reordering that information? For building more suspense? For whetting your interest? 
         The reason I ask is because I plan to use some paragraphs from this pitch in the query letters I’ll now begin to write. Just as I needed to attract the Amazon judges’ interest, I’ll soon need to pique the interest of agents.
         Thanks for any help you can give me. Peace.         

20 comments:

  1. I have no suggestions--it piqued my interest as it was!!

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    1. Dear Fishducky, thank you. Peace.

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  2. I found it intriguing just as it is. I cannot undertand why it was not a good pitch as it stands. The only thing I might suggest is to understand a little of WHY he got into this fix. Is he a good person or a bad one? The phrase about his "tortured mind" made me shy away from learning more about him. That's about all I can pick out, Dee. I hope it helps in some way!

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    1. Dear DJan, your suggestions make a lot of sense to me and I'll work with them as I compose a query letter next week to send to agents. This week has gotten busy and I'm going to go to the movies on two afternoons and see "The Life of Pi" and "The Silver Lining Play Book." (I think that's the title.) Peace.

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  3. I find it intriguing as it is, but I have to admit I don't know anything about writing query letters. As for the Amazon contest, they receive so many entries that much of it has to be a game of chance. The most qualified manuscripts don't necessarily make it through. The same is probably true with almost all publishers, I'm sorry to say.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Dear Janie, going through 10,000 pitches or even through 2,000 for each of the five categories must be a major task. So I agree, it is pretty much a game of chance both with these Amazon judges and with agents. Peace.

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  4. Hi, Dee:

    I found it excellent, but I do have a suggestion: lose the third paragraph and then see how it reads. I found that the sudden discussion of places interrupted the emotional engagement and flow. I think the trick is to keep with the emotions that so easily translate from ancient times to present times. It might also help, as DJan suggests, to offer a bit more of a clue about how he got into this situation. The reader needs to identify emotionally with the central character and his situation. I think you've got it ..almost. I understand that the third paragraph really sets the scene and time, but in the description meant to grab attention -- the timeless emotions are most important.

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    1. Dear Kathy, I'm going to use your suggestion as well as DJan's to help me compose a winner of a query letter---or at least I hope it will attract the attention of the agents to whom I send it. Thanks so much for helping me out. Peace.

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  5. This is not going to help you much, but like it as is. It was thorough, yet not too long, providing enough information to whet the appetite but not too much so as to be overwhelming.

    I agree with Janie: in contests of that magnitude, I don't think they can give due diligence to all the entries.

    The last paragraph alone of your pitch would be enough to make me want to read it.

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    1. Dear Shelly, I do so hope that one day you will be able to read the manuscript as a published novel!!!! Oh, joy in the morning! Peace.

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  6. I don't know anything about pitching a story, but I would also like to know if he's the hero or the villian. Sounds like a very interesting book!

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    1. Dear Nancy, thank for this suggestion. I need to make clear that he's really both in the arc of the story. Or maybe it's just that he's a human being with flaws and that he experiencing throughout the story real growth in the human spirit. Peace.

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  7. Dee, I agree with Kathy that the third paragraph, though very descriptive, breaks the flow and the atmosphere of what is a very interesting and intriguing pitch. I would certainly pick up and take home a book with a pitch like that.

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    1. Dear Perpetua, thanks for letting me know that Kathy's suggestion is yours also. It's clear that I need to delete that paragraph. I'll need to get the whole pitch down to fewer words for inclusion in a query letter to an agent and all of you who have commented have truly helped me know what to do. Peace.

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  8. Dee,
    I'm so excited to see what your exciting future as a writer will hold :)
    -E

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    1. Dear Elisa, thank you for your belief in my writing. Peace.

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  9. Adding more info about Ephramin"s agony might lead to greater curiosity. I also agree with the commentator who suggests leaving out the last part. It takes away from the tension you are trying to create in your pitch. It's too much information.

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    1. Dear Heidrun, yes, I'm going to leave out that 3rd paragraph. I've got to do some cutting and polishing to get this right. Peace.

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  10. Also I would suggest a different placement of the words you keep. Use the questions of his doubts as the finale. It makes for even more tension for the reader.

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    1. Dear Heidrun, thanks for this good suggestion. I'll do some rearranging. Peace.

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