Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Pitchwars Mentor Bio/Wishlist 2017

Photo of myself, wearing goofy hat and made as small as possible. And yes this post is recycled.


And so begins the brag-fest. Let's get this part over:

First, the oh-so-astonishing and exciting bio:

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two college-going kids. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, Picture Book Party, and Sun versus Snow. Her Birth of Saints trilogy, starting with Grudging (November 17, 2015) and Faithful (November 15, 2016) and Steadfast (December 2017)  is published by Harper Voyager. Another epic fantasy, Kindar's Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing.

Find me on twitter at @Michelle4Laughs

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I'm a fan of all things SFF. I'm into Star Wars, Star Trek, Hunger Games, all the Marvel movies and even the DC movies. I mourned when Agent Carter got cut and laughed my ass off at the first Sharknado. I'm your girl for a Terminator marathon or Firefly or Supernatural. I'm a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan and don't care what it costs to go to the World Series (again). I love football--BEARS!--but turn up my nose at basketball unless my son is there. I'm a bookworm and always have a book going. 

As for music, I'm more on the classic rock or even current rock side rather than pop. I like Styx and Billy Squier, Robert Plant, Theory of a Deadman and yes, even Nickelback.   

Moving on.

I'm not going to fill this post with gifs. I'm not going to shout and boast. Simply put, I know contests. I know agents--lots of agents. I've hooked many writers up with their agents through contests--or helped them on their way so they could do it themselves.

Many of them are now PitchWars mentors. They are very talented writers, and I'm thankful I happened to spot them.

If you don't know, I'm the host of Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, New Agent and Sun versus Snow as well as Picture Book Party. I also post interviews with agents on my blog to help querying writers. I've been running contests for five years.

My contests have resulted in dozens of success stories and many books. Check out this Goodreads list of books that came out of my contests. I've read thousands of entries and know what works to catch an agent's eye in contests. I can spot unique.

All four of my adult mentees from two years of Pitchwars have signed with agents. (They are with New Leaf and The Kimberly Cameron Agency). 

I'm an expert with query letters. I can help you polish it and give it voice that will help you long after the contest is over. Let's face it, adult-age entries don't do so well in contests (that's proven), but that's a different story when it comes to querying after a contest ends. I know what to do if you get an offer and I can help you while you're on submission.

You want the real-deal mentor, then you want me. (Sorry other mentors.)




Enough said. I humbly drop the mic and walk away.

My Editorial Style:

I prefer to work by email or chat. I'm not a fan of talking on the phone. I don't ask for a synopsis, but you will need one for the agents. I always remember that this is your baby and the ultimate decision on changes is yours.

I tend to ask for partials and then a full during submission. This might hurt me, but I won't be giving feedback unless I request addition pages. I just don't have time because of my other contests.

You can probably tell from this post that I'm pretty straightforward. I'll come flat out and tell you what I think needs improvement.

I usually start my final mentees with line edits and big picture notes on the full manuscript as their first task using track changes in Word. We do as many rounds as necessary. Then we move on to working on query letters and pitches as those take less time.

I'll stick with you after the contest is over to get you signed with an agent. I can offer advice when you do get that Call. I'm also looking for mentees that become critique partners and help mentor my contests. 

What am I looking for?

This year, like last, I am mentoring in the adult category. 

And I'm being very selective in what I'm looking for: fantasy and a few types of science fiction (light science fiction, dystopian/post apocalypse).

I want adult fantasy and especially adult epic fantasy, though I'll look at all other kinds of fantasy. (And truthfully, only one of my three picks over the lasts two years has been an epic fantasy.) That's urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, historical fantasy, magical realism, steampunk, gas-light, dark fantasy each and every kind of sub-genre of fantasy. If you have a thriller or mystery with strong speculative fiction elements, I could go for that (and have two years ago).


-I do like some romance, but I'm not your person if your story includes tons of it. If the MC bats her eyes and moons over guys/girls a lot, it's not for me. I don't like romance as the main plot in fantasy. I do enjoy it as a sub-plot. 

-The romance I do like tends to be a will they/won't they attraction. Think Luke and Lorelei in the early seasons of Gilmore Girls. 

-I'm not your person if your word count is over 130,000 or under 70,000.

-I'm probably not your person if you have vampires or werewolves or Fae as the main plot, but you never know. I picked a book about Fae that I loved for a contest and it sold in a Big 5 deal! (Yep shamelessly namedropping.) So I'm not a huge fan of paranormal.

-I prefer no love triangles unless they are done very well, low-key, or have a unique take. I like romance stories but I don't mentor them.

-I'm not a big fan of ghosts or assassins but a small amount of them in a plot can be fun.

-I'm fond of anti-heros and rascal (especially male) characters, but I'm not your person for whiny/bitchy or complaining main characters. Save that for YA.

-I'm not your person if you believe your manuscript is practically perfect as is. You have to be willing to revise--not huge, rewrite-the-whole-thing revisions, but some. That could mean cutting chapters or whole sections.

-If you have graphic sex scenes and aren't willing to tone them down, please try someone else.

-I'm okay with killing off characters. I do that, too. I'm not okay if they are your main (POV) characters.  I quit GOT in the second book because when Ned Stark bit the dust. It is about the characters for me, not the country.

-Extremely dark fantasy is probably not for me. Nor is very intense emphasis on a modern-type military. I prefer my military of the more historical type. 

-I'm probably not going to spend time checking out a mentee bio. I just get too busy for that unless I request a full.


-I do want unique concept and settings. Something that stands out of the crowd. That can mean diversity! (I hope!)

-Some romance is great. As long as it isn't the MC's only focus.

-I keep a special eye out for diversity--any type of diversity and ownvoices. I will be tagging entries with diversity and passing any that aren't for me to other mentors, if this is allowed.

-I will consider dystopian or post apocalypse, but I'm not the best for other types of hard science fiction as I don't read as much of that. I've seen a few space opera that I loved but let other mentors have them.

-I want magic and big worlds. Though my own magic systems are usually subtle.

-Humor will hook me every time. I love characters who joke during the bleak times. (I probably should have put this first.)

-I want characters with secrets they're hiding and lots of backstory that comes out gradually, not in the first chapter. (Also really key for me.)

Some of my favorite authors include: Brandon Sanderson, Kate Elliott, Michael J. Sulllivan, Robert Jordan, Kristen Britain, Jim Butcher and more.

If you have something like the Green Rider series, I want to see it. If you are into WoT (if you know what this means, you're my kind of writer) and The Dresden Series, I want to see it. 

Please make sure you are sending adult fantasy my way. Don't waste a mentor slot sending YA or MG fantasy. Due to the contest structure, I'm restricted to the adult category. I'll just delete any YA or MG or NA.

On a side note, I know it's hard to pick a mentor when you only get to send four or six subs. It will be difficult to pick just one mentee. I'm looking for something I really love as I MUST stick to one mentee this year. (Someone stop me if I try and go for two.) I hope you'll choose me to help you.

If in doubt or you want to know more about my editorial style, ask me on twitter (@Michelle4Laughs) or in the comments. 

Here are the "other" adult mentors:

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  1. Hi Michelle,

    My MS is multi-POV, and I don't want to spoil the ending (just in case...!), but something happens to one of my POV characters that contravenes your "Don'ts" list. Is this a deal-breaker for you, especially if I'd be willing to change it?

    Thank you!

    1. I can't say without seeing pages, but nothing is a deal breaker if I really connect to the story. And a willingness to change something that doesn't work with the story (if it doesn't) is a good thing.

  2. Hey Michelle,

    I have a completed manuscript that I feel meets all of your "Do's" criteria, but my worry for the next year-and-a-half as far as editing time is I work full-time and am in graduate school. Would this be an issue for you or any other mentor?

    1. Good question. Only you know how much free time that will allow you to edit with a mentor. You have to be able to put in the time commitment of shaping up a manuscript in two months for the agent round. It can be long hours of intense editing. Cutting chapters. Rewriting. Pruning through 90k worth of words with line edits. Your mentor will have put their faith in you to give 100%. If you don't think you can put in the time, then I wouldn't enter. If you think you'll be able to give this the time it deserves and still have a life then go for it!

  3. Hi Michelle,

    I got increasingly excited about picking you as a mentor while reading this post. My MS is epic fantasy with a huge world and its own magic system, with platonic characters who often use humor in their dark situations who also have entire histories to draw on for backstory. Pacing is similar to Wheel of Time.

    It's also 145k. I've been trying to cut it down, and in fact have asked my beta readers specifically to help me find places to cut. They all want me to add instead, even my more harsh critiques.

    Is the word count a deal breaker for you?

    1. Hi,

      Word count on something I fall in love with wouldn't be a deal breaker. But that would be because I saw ways to cut to get the ms to a more targeted number. I urge anyone with too high word count to find ways on their own to get that number down if possible. Please resist adding more words.

      My first ms was 156,000 words. It flopped big time out on query. At the time I was too inexperience and too close to the project to see how many excess scenes there were that did nothing to further the story. I've since done two rewrites and gotten the count down into the high 90k range and made the story a thousand times better.

      One suggestion is to make sure your chapters are achieving multiple goals and that could give you places to cut.

      I'm not saying your ms has to be cut because I haven't seen it. It could be perfectly tight and focused with no excess. I am saying it could hurt how marketable it is at that word count, so really try to look at it with unbiased eyes.

    2. Thanks Michelle!

  4. "I picked a book about Fae that I loved for a contest and it sold in a Big 5 deal" Um, dying to know which book this is.

    1. It's on my list of contest books and releases soon! https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/93296.From_Contest_to_Contract

  5. I'm a PB writer and a memoirist, but I just had to say that this made me giggle - from the recycled, goofy-hat photo to your GOT reference (I loved Ned, too). Great post.

    1. Thank you. I guess I captured some voice with the post then. :-)

  6. Hi Michelle,

    My novel is Urban Fantasy with a female protagonist in her early 20's. When I wrote it I had never even heard of New Adult as a category, but I think it might be classified that way although I think there are plenty of adult themes, etc. Is it worth sending to you or should I try to find more specifically NA mentors? Thanks!

    1. Hey Mike,

      I think if you ask around with other mentors you'll find that they will give you the same answer. NA is pretty much dead unless you write romance. I've heard from agents for the last couple of years not to label SFF under NA because there's no market. Even NA romance is a hard sell. So my advice would be to stick with adult.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. It's so hard to tell from a pitch but if romance is the main plot theme, then it's not for me.