Kids, this is a Blueprint for a Book Summer Challenge Bonus Episode. I’ll be dropping these weekly throughout the Summer 2022 Challenge. Some of you are already signed up and challenging away, turning in weekly assignments and pushing yourself to get this done.
Some of you are #AmWriting supporters who’ve put your $$$ where your <3 is (that’s an old school pre-emoji keyboard heart, in case you’re wondering). We appreciate you—and so you’re getting these bonus episodes too.
This is a longish episode in the hopes of offering you some shortcuts to writing a short thing—that often feels super-hard.
Here’s my shortcut to a starter sentence for your logline for fiction/biography or narrative nonfiction (read on for memoir and prescriptive non-fic):
On the verge of/About to/Just after/Just before CURRENT LIFE, a NOUN who HAS A PROBLEM discovers/is drawn into/some other action THE INCITING INCIDENT/PLOT PROBLEM and STAKES, but when TWIST, s/h/the/y must SOLVE INTERNAL PROBLEM to SOLVE PLOT PROBLEM.
Here’s my current one. I can transform this into jacket copy by adding some proper names and sparking it up—but starting with a terrible run-on sentence like this can be really helpful.
On the verge of losing a chance to start over in the small town she loves, a woman who believes her flaky mother destroyed her life by depending on fortune-telling and magic discovers that cookies with the images of the family heirloom Tarot cards she stole long ago have the ability to change her life and the lives of others, but when her attempts to control the cards play right into the hand of a witch more powerful than she’d ever imagined, she must recognize that true power lies in letting those you love make their own choices in order to save her daughter from sacrificing herself to a destiny that might not be her own.
For memoir, it’s similar but a little different.
On the verge of/About to/Just after/Just before/description of where author started, AUTHOR AND WHY WE CARE ABOUT/RELATE TO THEM (usually includes dramatic core narrative or how core narrative is universal) does/endures/experiences THE PLOT and learns THE CHANGE in order to survive/grow up/find something/achieve something.
Finally, for instructive/prescriptive nonfic:
AUTHOR/EXPERTISE offers a guide to/provides lessons in/ demonstrates/shares THE OSTENSIBLE THING BEING TAUGHT and gives readers/shows THE REAL TAKEAWAY FOR LIFE.
These are really logline cheats (and the Publisher’s Marketplace stuff I promised is WAY below)—but you can do the same thing by grabbing your comp books, looking at the jacket copy and then taking out all the specifics and replacing them with generalities, then use the various transitional words—on the verge of, but when, forced to, faced with or studied, learned, translated, to help readers, readers will learn—to make your own awful Frankenstein monster version.
How to listen: if you’ve listened to any previous Bonus episodes or Minisodes, this one should already BE in your podcast feed. If not, click on the link to listen and you’ll find yourself at amwriting.substack.com. You COULD listen there, but we’re guessing you’d rather get all subscriber episodes, from now on, in your usual podcast-listening app. It’s easy, and you only have to do it once to get every #Minisode from now on right where you want it.
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What follows (and will be too long for the show notes, you’re going to have to click through to the website to see it) is the Publishers’ Marketplace from 7/20/22. DO NOT LET IT WORRY YOU. Sure there are lots of CEOS and second-time authors here (and a neurosurgeon, jeez) but there are also debut authors and plenty of people you’ve never heard of. I love these, they’re very informative about what the INDUSTRY is looking for. It’s all there, fiction to memoir to non-fic to children’s and YA down at the bottom. Heck—bonus in the form of some agents and editors you might be interested in. The links probably won’t work, though, as I think they require a PM subscription.
Emily Jane's ON EARTH AS IT IS ON TELEVISION, in which the world is rocked by the arrival of alien spacecrafts that appear over major cities only to disappear as suddenly as they arrived, leaving humanity to wonder why they came and what happens next, to Adam Wilson at Hyperion Avenue, for publication in summer 2023, by Holly Root at Root Literary (world). Rights:
Author of THE WIFE UPSTAIRS Rachel Hawkins's THE VILLA, a dual timeline Gothic suspense following two women on a trip to Italy, where they uncover the deadly legacy of their rental villa, tracing back to one unforgettable summer in the 1970s whose events reverberate into the present day, to Sarah Cantin at St. Martin's, for publication in January 2023, by Holly Root at Root Literary (world English). Foreign: Heather Baror at Baror International Film: Jon Cassir and Berni Barta at CAA
Noa Yedlin's STOCKHOLM, the basis for a Israeli television series optioned by Amazon Studios, a dark comedy in which four lifelong friends in their 70s conspire to hide the corpse of their friend, a leading contender for the Nobel Prize in economics who has been found dead just one week before the prize's announcement, a plot that begins as a tribute to the legacy of their late friend but becomes a revealing journey that will test their bonds, their sanity, and the lengths they will go for redemption, to Daniella Wexler at Harper Via, by Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein at McIntosh & Otis, on behalf of Steph Thwaites at Curtis Brown (world English).
Michele Dunaway's WHAT HAPPENS IN THE AIR, in which a photojournalist returns home only to find her father involved in a feud that could endanger the town's hot air balloon festival, and she and her widowed high school sweetheart are the only ones who can fix it, to Megan Broderick at Harlequin Special Edition, in a nice deal, in a three-book deal, for publication in January 2023, by Jennifer Herrington at Harvey Klinger (world).
Sidney Halston's VALENTINE'S HATE, an enemies-to-lovers holiday romance, featuring an anti-Valentine's Day heroine who, while preparing for her best friend's Valentine's Day wedding, runs into the man who ruined her love for the holiday many years ago, through a series of unfortunate events they end up sharing a hotel suite, to Tessa Woodward at Avon, for publication in winter 2023, by Sarah Younger at Nancy Yost Literary Agency (world).
Willow Quinn's THE RIDE, a debut rom-com pitched as FORCES OF NATURE meets ALONG CAME POLLY, where a straight-laced architect who analyzes and calculates his every decision has no choice but to journey down the path less traveled, in more ways than one, when he hitches a ride with an eccentric free spirit, to Gilded Press, in a nice deal, for publication in the summer of 2023 (world).
email@example.com Rights contact(s):
Author of IMAGINING ELSEWHERE Sara Hosey's SUMMER PEOPLE, in which a neurodiverse seventeen-year-old girl hoping to enjoy her last summer before college in her small, sleepy town instead discovers the body of a friend in the polluted town lake, forcing her to investigate and find justice for his death, even if it means implicating her own family and community, to Sue Arroyo at CamCat Books, with Helga Schier editing, in a nice deal, for publication in summer 2023 (world).
Former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors and Harvard economics professor Jason Furman's INFLATION, about how to understand inflation and think about it, how worried we should be, and when it's likely to abate, to Joe Jackson at Princeton University Press, by Rafe Sagalyn at ICM (world English).
National Magazine Award-winning writer Richard Conniff's ENDING EPIDEMICS: A HISTORY OF ESCAPE FROM CONTAGION, the story of how we came to understand the infectious diseases that once killed us and how we might escape such diseases in the future, to Robert Prior at MIT Press, for publication in spring 2023, by John Thornton at The Spieler Agency (world). Rights:
Associate professor of surgery and a practicing transplantation surgeon at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Joshua Mezrich's XENO, a transplant surgeon's view of the history and future of xenotransplantation, to Robert Prior at MIT Press, for publication in fall 2024, by Eric Lupfer at Fletcher & Company (world English). Rights:
Stu Horvath's MONSTERS, ALIENS, AND HOLES IN THE GROUND: A GUIDE TO TABLETOP ROLEPLAYING GAMES FROM D&D TO MOTHERSHIP, a decade-by-decade examination of the evolution of tabletop roleplaying games, to Noah Springer at MIT Press, for publication in fall 2023 (world). Rights:
NYT contributor and cultural critic Lindsay Zoladz's FEAR OF A FEMALE GENIUS, a feminist history of the idea of artistic genius and a critical journey through the lives and work of many female artists, writers, and musicians who transformed male-dominated fields, including Joni Mitchell, Yoko Ono, Elaine May, Hilma af Klint, and Mary Shelley, as well as several previously unsung female artists, all of whom inspire and argument for a new and more expansive understanding of genius itself, to Jackson Howard at MCD/FSG, in a pre-empt, by Ethan Bassoff at Ross Yoon Agency (world). Rights:
Vice provost at the University of Montana and author of PASSIONATE UPRISINGS and HYPHEN Dr. Pardis Mahdavi PhD's BOOK OF QUEENS: THE TRUE STORY OF THE MIDDLE EASTERN HORSEWOMEN WHO FOUGHT THE WAR ON TERROR, the story of Middle Eastern freedom fighters—horsewomen who safeguarded an ancient breed of Caspian horse—and their efforts to help themselves and defend their homelands from the Taliban through combat, ally training, and counterintelligence, to Mollie Weisenfeld at Hachette Books, by Jessica Regel at Helm Literary (NA).
The late Joseph Mitchell's THE BOTTOM OF THE HARBOR, illustrated by Joana Avillez, to Modern Library, with Kaeli Subberwal editing, by David Kuhn and Kate Mack at Aevitas Creative Management for the illustrator.
Author of DEMON CAMP and a NYT Magazine and Harper's contributor, as well as a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing Jen Percy's GIRLS PLAY DEAD, blending personal narrative and cultural reportage to examine coming-of-age, trauma, and the ways women survive and heal from violence, told through the unforgiving wildness of the writer's upbringing in rural Oregon and the prismatic stories of battered women, cultists, psychic disconnection, and utopian visions, to Thomas Gebremedhin at Doubleday, in a six-figure deal, in a pre-empt, by Jin Auh at The Wylie Agency (NA).
Clark Fredericks's untitled memoir, about how the abuse the author suffered as a young boy fundamentally altered his life: from his inability to maintain relationships to bouts with addiction and gambling, his closely held secret culminated in slitting his abuser's throat with his childhood hunting knife some three decades later; covering his subsequent incarceration and rehabilitation, and his current work fighting for meaningful legislative reform, while offering hope and strength to those suffering in silence, to Amar Deol at Atria, by David Halpern at The Robbins Office (world English).
Columnist for the Nation Magazine and the author of A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF SPORTS IN THE UNITED STATES Dave Zirin's THE PEOPLE'S HISTORIAN, a biography of Howard Zinn that examines his life and work as a progressive icon and thought leader through the story of the times that shaped him -- and America, based on access to Zinn's papers and the full cooperation of his family, to Brent Howard at Dutton, in an exclusive submission, by Susan Canavan at Waxman Literary Agency (NA).
Frankie Cosmos drummer and journalist Luke Pyenson and Real Estate multi-instrumentalist Alex Bleeker, eds.'s THEY'RE FEEDING YOU TONIGHT: ON TOUR AND AROUND THE TABLE WITH INDIE MUSICIANS, an anthology of essays, photos, and ephemera that lets readers pull up a chair to the table with a diverse lineup of inspiring indie musicians around the world, sharing meals and travel experiences, peeking intimately behind the curtain at the commonly misunderstood way of life on tour, including original, unpublished contributions from over 25 indie favorites including Fleet Foxes, Pavement, Animal Collective, Weyes Blood, and many more, to Olivia Roberts at Chronicle, at auction, by Soumeya Bendimerad Roberts at HG Literary (NA).
Bloggers, lifestyle influencers, and cohosts of The Good Life podcast Stevie Hendrix and Sazan Hendrix's THE GOOD LIFE, a guide for making each part of each day an installment and investment in a beautiful life; showing readers that the acceptance and belonging they desperately want is something that happens in the heart—one good day at a time, to Brigitta Nortker at Nelson Books, for publication in October 2023, by Bryan Norman at Alive Literary Agency.
Podcaster and television personality Jinger Vuolo's BECOMING FREE INDEED, sharing how the author began to question the harmful teachings of her childhood to find and experience true freedom in Christ, to Stephanie Newton at W Publishing, for publication in February 2023, by Bryan Norman at Alive Literary Agency.
Bloggers, podcasters, cofounders of Marriage After God, and the parents of five children Aaron Smith and Jennifer Smith's 365 PRAYERS FOR MY MARRIAGE, guiding couples in praying for their marriage to reflect Christ into a hurting world, to Carolyn McCready at Zondervan, with Carly Kellerman editing, for publication in October 2023, by Bryan Norman at Alive Literary Agency.
Middle Grade Fiction
Author of the Kiki Kallira duology and the forthcoming THE VERY SECRET SOCIETY OF IRREGULAR WITCHES Sangu Mandanna's VANYA AND THE WILD HUNT and VANYA AND THE SHIFTING SPIRE, pitched as AMARI AND THE NIGHT BROTHERS meets Nevermoor with a touch of How to Train Your Dragon, following a neurodivergent British Indian girl who is swept away to a magical school where she trains to become a monster hunter and learns to fully embrace her different and wonderful brain, to Jennifer Besser at Roaring Brook Press, with Luisa Beguiristain editing, a joint acquisition with Sam Smith at Macmillan UK Children's, in a significant deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2024, by Penny Moore at Aevitas Creative Management (world). Film:
Caldecott Award-winning WE ARE WATER PROTECTORS author Carole Lindstrom's two untitled books, to Mary Kate Castellani at Bloomsbury Children's, in a two-book deal, for publication in 2024 and 2025, by Natascha Morris and Sarah Fisk at The Tobias Literary Agency (world).
Picture Book Fiction
Carrie Kruck's IGGY WHO BREATHED FIRE, about an ordinary girl with a quite extraordinary condition, in a magical twist on girl power and a reminder to us all to treasure the fire within, illustrated by Erika Meza, to Sylvie Frank at Disney-Hyperion, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2024, by Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency for the author, and by Claire Cartey at Holroyde Cartey for the illustrator (world).
D.J. Steinberg's ST. PATRICK'S DAY, HERE I COME and YOGA, HERE I COME, in the Here I Come series, illustrated by Emanuel Wiemans, to Penguin Workshop, in a two-book deal, for publication in February 2023 and November 2023, by Kelly Sonnack at Andrea Brown Literary Agency for the illustrator.
Picture Book Non-fiction
Author and illustrator of NEITHER Airlie Anderson's ONLY, a story that explores the spectrum between introversion and extroversion, about a bird that doesn't like the same loud and boisterous activities as its friends, preferring alone time in its quiet nest, but also doesn't want to feel lonely, to Deirdre Jones at Little, Brown Children's, for publication in winter 2024 (world).
Co-founder of Multicultural Children's Book Day Mia Wenjen's FOOD FOR THE FUTURE: SUSTAINABLE FARMS AROUND THE WORLD, an exploration of 12 amazing ways we can grow food while caring for our planet, illustrated by Robert Sae-Heng, to Lisa Rosinsky at Barefoot Books, for publication in spring 2023, by Lary Rosenblatt at 22MediaWorks for the author, and by Jess Lomax at Inkling Illustration Agency for the illustrator (world). Rights:
Don Tate's A POEM FOR DUDLEY RANDALL, a biography-in-verse about Dudley Randall, a poet, poetry publisher, and leader in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, illustrated by Laura Freeman, to Howard Reeves at Abrams Children's, for publication in spring 2025, by Caryn Wiseman at Andrea Brown Literary Agency for the author, and by Janet DeCarlo at Storybook Arts for the illustrator (world).
Young Adult Fiction
Joelle Wellington's THEIR VICIOUS GAMES, pitched as Ready or Not meets The Bachelor, following an 18-year-old Black girl offered entrance to the 1%'s twisted games after her acceptance to her top choice college is rescinded, but once she accepts the challenge, she finds that she has two choices—win the game or die, to Alexa Pastor at Simon & Schuster Children's, in a major deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2023, by Quressa Robinson at Folio Jr. (NA). Rights also to Penguin Random House UK. Rights:
NYT bestselling author Morgan Matson's PROMCHANTED, a rom-com about two teens who, en route to the prom, find themselves in the Disney film SLEEPING BEAUTY and must team up to keep the film's events on track, to Brittany Rubiano at Disney-Hyperion, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2024, by Emily van Beek at Folio Literary Management (world).
Author of SETON GIRLS Charlene Thomas's PEEKABOO, in which a tiny town is firmly divided—with Have-Lots and Have-Nots—and a girl knows all too well which side is hers; but when she meets a stranger at the annual Halloween carnival, she gains the power to get everything she wants—until her addiction to perfection uncovers the town's biggest secret of all, to Andrew Karre at Dutton Children's, for publication in fall 2024, by Ann Rose at Prospect Agency.
Lambda Award-winning author of SKYE FALLING Mia McKenzie's DORIS STEELE, a comic novel about a pious, small-town teenager who travels to Atlanta in 1960 to get an abortion and finds herself smack in the middle of the civil rights movement and the secret lives of queer Black people, ultimately discovering the transformative power of leaving your bubble, even for just one chaotic weekend, to Caitlin McKenna at Random House, by Alexa Stark at Writers House (world). Rights: