Monday, January 18, 2010

Pitch for Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest

I'm going to enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. They ask for a 300 word itch. Here's my 297, with some very good feedback I've received on the list-serve on Amazon for exactly that purpose. Please feel free to add your two cents. Nickles and dimes are better. Feel free to hammer it (how much change would that be?).


On her knees, hands tied behind her back, Portia looks up at the two government agents who will torture her before killing her. Why would she give her life for the boy who showed up at school halfway through the year? Sure, he's special. But Portia doesn't care about politics. So why is she helping Calum escape from their boarding school? After all, he's not interested in her. He's dating her roommate and former best friend. As one of the agents touches the knife to her skin, Portia acknowledges the sad fact; she's broken her strict rules. She's fallen in love with Calum.

Portia’s Broken Rules tells the story of Portia, the consummate popular girl who knows all the tricks for getting the right boy, handling herself at the party, and staying in the spotlight. It also tells the story of Calum, the lower-class guy who finds himself at the elite prep school. And the story of Jenea, Portia’s mousy best friend who finds herself in a relationship with Calum. So what if Portia has secretly fallen for Calum, despite all her rules? It’s the most innocent love triangle in the world.


Except that world is the most elite prep school in Phalangium, a country where the upper class maintains control through The Subjugation, the ritual Highs use to take control of the bodies of their servants; to humiliate, to punish, to kill. Calum, a Low, could destroy the strict caste system if he can’t be assimilated, because he knows how to perform The Subjugation. If Calum steps out of line he’ll have to be killed, along with anyone foolish enough to get too close to him. There is no innocence in Phalangium. But in the midst of so much pain, can there be any real love?

Comments so far:

Barbara J. Angstadt says:
Benjamin -
I really like your pitch; it starts out sounding like a fairly routine boarding-school novel (except the government agents bit, a teaser to the final paragraph) and then it adds the twist at the end. Personally, I'd love to read your book. It sounds original and edgy. Good luck in the contest! :-)

Sheryl Dunn (SWOOP) says:
Benjamin, don't use any wording similar to "tells the story of" in the pitch. That's telling. Just show us what the story is about with the emphasis on your main character.

Kieth Massey says:
Hi Benjamin,
I wonder if you shouldn't bring in a description of the alternate world/country where this happens a bit earlier, perhaps even highlight it as a fusion of a fantasy world with elements of a typical teen's existence. For me, I was reading this as our world/country, albeit one in which a young person is facing down an intelligence officer, so when the final description came, it seemed intrusive to me, kinda like, oh, all the above was taking place in Phalangium, etc.
My two cents.

Vivian Davenport says:
The story starts out sounding like Portia's story but the last paragraph makes it sound like Calum's story. It's difficult to critique the pitch without knowing whose story it is.
We should know the sci-fi/fantasy aspects of this in the first paragraph, not the last.
If this is Portia's story...
The first paragraph has way too much detail about Portia. The first two sentences are real grabbers, and I think you should answer the question right away, not wait until the last sentence. You could combine two things like: [She loves him, and she loves him more than her country's strict caste system.] Then start the next paragraph with info about the Highs and Lows and The Subjugation.
If this is Calum's story...
Don't start off with Portia.
Now why is a lower-class guy attending an elite prep school? Is he attending there under false pretenses?
Capitalize the title.
Drop the 'finds him/herself'. They weren't dropped from a plane, were they?
Good luck!

Any other suggestions out there?


Anonymous said...

It is hard for me to offer an opinion on this because I have heard and read so much more of the novel than the pitch provides, and I know that the novel will most likely be serialized.

"This is a story in three parts . . ."
"This is the story of Portia, Calum, and Jenea." (I found the descriptions of the three characters to be confusing and this organizing sentence might help other readers/skimmers.)

I like that you play up the relationship aspect to lure in female readers, but don't forget to play up the action and violence. I mean, I could care less about Katniss' relationship issues, but I plowed right through the first hunger games like a shark on a blood trail.


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