A Fantasy Author's Adventures in Fiction & Life

Month: May 2020

Book stall
Am I selling my book to the best of my ability? Photo by Maico Pereira 

With thousands of pitches set to pour through Twitter’s #Pitmad feed for literary agent and indie publisher perusal on Thursday, it’s time to tell you everything I know about crafting a quality book pitch. I’ll include tweet pitch examples, and advice which applies to query letter pitches and advertising material aimed at readers. If you’re writing a pitch as promotional material for your book, bear in mind that this post focuses on pitches aimed at literary agents and you will have more wiggle room with readers.

Book Pitch vs. Blurb

On Twitter, you will see people use ‘pitch’ and ‘blurb’ interchangeably. A pitch is NOT a blurb. A pitch aimed at literary agents or publishers will not get you requests if it doesn’t include specific ingredients, address them clearly and well (see below). Pitches often conform to particular formulas, like ‘Character is X, but when Y happens character must A or else incur terrible C.’ There are variations, which include essential pitch ingredients (see below). Whereas, a back-of-book blurb may or may not include all the essential ingredients of a pitch. A blurb may also include bonus details to appeal to readers, like thematic statements. (Thematic statements are mostly NOT included in pitches because they take up limited space and are usually not what sells a book to industry professionals).

Book Pitch vs. Log lines

You may see people advising, ‘Don’t name characters in pitches. State their role or what makes them unique instead. Definitely state their uniqueness, but I suspect this advice confuses log lines with a pitch. A log line is generally telling the audience (eg. at the movies) they’re in for a wild ride or a fun journey. It’s not trying to get a literary agent or publisher to care about or take interest in a main character. Its not trying to persuade busy agents and editors that they like this character so much or relate to them so well that they want to spend their limited time reading about this character. ‘Little Timmy’ is more likely to generate sympathy or to be relatable than ‘little no-name’. So I advise against log lines in Twitter pitches (in a query letter it may work), and for either, I say name your main character!


Over the past year, I have critiqued an estimated 100+ tweet pitches for various parties (not including revised pitches). This has helped me note patterns in essential ingredients and maximise opportunities to hook a reader. However, quality ingredients don’t guarantee a quality end product. So I won’t just list ingredients, I’ll explain why it’s important to address them well, then give advice on how to do so.

Essential Book Pitch Ingredients

Main Character
Inciting event, central conflict & stakes
Character growth that must occur for the MC to resolve conflict and avoid stakes or impossible choice the MC must make

Before we dive in

Remember that your pitch isn’t just saying ‘this is a great novel’. You’re telling an industry professional why they want to represent your novel. So how does your novel differ from others in your genre? What is unique about your character, inciting event, conflict, stakes & character growth? As you draft and revise your pitch, keep checking that it highlights what is most unique and compelling about your novel. Try to be as specific as you can in your pitch.

Note For SFF & Multiple POV Writers 

It’s tempting to write an opening which introduces the wonderful world you have created -but don’t. In a tweet pitch and even in a query letter, you aren’t selling your fantasy or scifi setting. You’re selling an intriguing character, with a compelling personal role to play in a conflict involving significant personal stakes. This is why it’s so hard to pitch multiple points of view. Its also why, if your novel has multiple points of view, I recommend giving the main characters a pitch to themselves, to do justice to each character’s arc. You may also write like to attempt a 2 pov pitch. A two pov tweet pitch normally has a sentence to introduce each character and a third sentence explaining their roles and stakes in the conflict.


Seated woman in green dress wielding knife.
Photo by Ferdinand studio 

Your main character is your hook. Your goal is to introduce them that piques interest and or invite a literary agent or publisher to connect with them. (Do name your MC- thats a mental hook for details about them to hang on and makes more sympathetic than ‘random, un-named office worker’.)
A character description could be a single adjective, or a job title. Ideally, it will show or state what your character draws on to help them confront the conflict and be specific to your character.
Eg. fear of swimming from near-drowning as a child, in a story of personal growth in which she sees a child drowning offshore at a deserted beach. However you introduce your character, consider: what is the most unique thing about them? What helps them resolve the conflict and what are the most engaging word choices to show or describe that?

Character Intro Examples

“17 YO Jorden’s specialties are baking apple pie, hand to hand combat and leaping before he looks.” -Debbie Iancu-Haddad @debbieiancu.

“Elective mute Ashari remembers nothing before the void in her mind.” -Halla Williams @hallawilliams1.

If you’re struggling to find space for an engaging character introduction, you could use the inciting event as your hook and frame your introduction with it, as I have done here. “Thrust to power by death in the family, peace-born Ruarnon…” -Elise Carlson.

Inciting Event and Tension

You might like to frame your character introduction with ‘when’ to lead into the inciting event. ‘When’ is a good opening to lead into a collision of worlds, desires or wills etc. It amplifies the fact that the character we’ve just met and connected with is about to have their world turned upside-down and leaves us wondering how and what the outcome will be. (Try not to use the phrase ‘turned upside-down’. This phrase is common to many stories and can sound generic. If you use it, highlight the way in which that character’s life is changed. Or their emotional response/ reaction, to keep the focus on what is ‘unique’ about your story). Ending with a clash of wills with another character, or clash of morals between the character’s beliefs and actions -with an obstacle to their goal or resolution of the conflict- is a good way inject tension.

Inciting Event Examples

“His suicide mission: Build a bomb, destroy a space ship and save the world.” -Debbie Haddad.

“Having lost her memory in a storm, she chooses the unlikely safety of becoming a mercenary for the enigmatic Captain Westorr.” -Halla Williams.

“Monsters live under beds, but Julie is sure there’s one in her ceiling.” -mine.


Two white birds grappling in mid air
Photo by Chris Sabor on Unsplash

An important thing to note with conflict is that in a pitch you don’t create conflict by saying ‘there’s a war on.’ Conflict here doesn’t refer to external plot events. It refers to your main character’s personal struggles within those events. Or to struggles in relationships necessary to achieve story goals, or to moral or ethical dilemma’s your main character faces. Again, inclusion of these personal elements creates opportunity for readers to connect emotionally to your character and story and for your pitch to hook them.

Of pitches I’ve critiqued, I would estimate that half do not clearly state the external conflict and or the main character’s role in it. Author bias really kicks in here. You know your story so well that your subconscious fills holes in your pitch. But critical readers can point them out, so you can fill holes and clarify that pitch for industry professionals. This is where I highly recommend trading pitch feedback with other writers.

Conflict Examples

“But falling in love wasn’t part of the plan…” -Debbie Iancu-Haddad.

“There’s only one way to find out and stop being scared -climb the tree beside the house and meet the THING!” -my picture book pitch.


Once you have introduced a character and conflict which has hooked our interest, we need to know not only the external stakes, but the personal stakes your character faces. A pitch in which the stakes are ‘or the world will be destroyed’ is generic. Also, the world/ fantasy kingdom x’ is an anonymous entity the reader knows nothing about, so it has little impact on us. A character however, is someone we can connect with, so when you threaten that character, we feel something. If external conflict is key to your story, be sure to state the character’s role in it and the personal stakes their role entails.

(Conflict and) Stakes Examples

“…completing his mission means sacrificing the girl he loves.” -Debbie Haddad.

“But ‘safe’ is a relative term. For both of them.” -Halla Williams.

Character Growth and Impossible Choice/ More Tension

Perhaps the greatest place to hook a reader into your pitch emotionally is when you state how your character must grow or develop to overcome the conflict. If main character Jane hates estranged uncle Tom, but his knowledge is crucial to preventing granny’s murder, and Jane must forgive Tom’s past mistakes to enlist his help in saving Granny -that adds tension.

Specific demons from your character’s past (or other obstacles/ shortcomings) they must overcome to resolve the conflict are often what makes me lament your book not being in print yet. Think about how your character must change to overcome the conflict they face and try to include it in your pitch. If you struggle to identify how your character changes (I did in my first Pitmad), this may be a sign that your novel isn’t ready to query. It may signal that your main character’s arc needs another structural edit (as mine did.)

Impossible Choice Example

“…she must use her voice or let her captain perish.” -Halla Williams.

But Wait, There’s More

The Save the Cat Formula features an addition that may be difficult to fit in a pitch, but can make a pitch highly engaging to read. This final ingredient to kick your pitch up a level is adding a complication to your character’s ability to resolve the conflict. Then indicate how this complication raises the stakes. What factor makes it even harder for your MC to achieve their goal? Does a friend betray them? Do they lose an asset crucial to success at the eleventh hour? Can you jam this complication and an indication of how it raises the stakes into your pitch?

“When a monster army invades…” (the second conflict in my novel).

Tweet Pitch Examples which got Agent Likes

The above pitch elements may seem like a lot, and you may only fit some of them into each pitch -which is why it’s great you get 3- so you can highlight different elements in each one. Here’s the pitches I’ve referenced above -each reference is often sections of 2 different pitches.

Debbie Haddad’s Pitches (You’ll find her website here.)

Halla William’s Pitches . You’ll find her website here.

Late June update: Halla is now agented -congrats Halla!

My (Elise Carlson’s) pitch.

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How Do I Achieve All This in a Book Pitch On My Own?

You don’t. Whether you’re writing tweet pitches or a query letter pitch: tweet on #AmQuerying and #WritingCommunity asking who’s happy to trade pitch feedback. Offer to give others feedback in exchange. Most of what I’ve learnt about pitch craft came not from reading blogs like this, but from reading MANY tweet pitches. It also came from reading query letters -critically- and providing feedback to help other writers strengthen their pitches. Not all of this knowledge applied directly to my own pitches (to date), but all of it has given me valuable insights.

If you’d like to join a Discord Server focused on querying and including tweet pitch and query and synopsis feedback channels, let me know by replying to this tweet or using my contact page.

Another way to learn from other writers is to enter ‘#Pitmad’ (or other parties hashtag), and the genre tags you will pitch on into Twitter’s search bar, then reading the top pitches from previous parties. Some will unfortunately be rough and in need of editing, but many will be jaw dropping and great mentor pitches to learn from.

More Book Pitch and Related Resources

I’ve listed the pitch parties I’m aware of, which months they’re held in and links to Pitch Party websites here.

You’ll find resource links spanning Query Letters & Synopsis to Finding and Communicating with Literary Agents, in this post.

If you’re new to Twitter, the bottom section of my Social Media For Writer’s is full of advice to help you get started, and I’ve cataloged other #WritingCommunity hashtags to help you navigate the community in this Guide.

Querying Links: Letters & Literary Agents

Query Resources

Query Letter (&Synopsis) Advice

If you thought writing and editing your novel was the hardest thing you’ve ever done -bad news- its not. Writing a query letter which clearly introduces your main character, conflict and stakes isn’t easy. Doing so concisely is harder still. Crafting a query which invites industry professionals to connect with your character and care about their conflict which overall entices them, may seem impossible, at first. Great query crafting is an art (different to novel writing unfortunately) and requires honing a specific skill set. Luckily, there are many great resources listing the ingredients you need. More importantly, there are resources which model what skilful inclusion of pitch ingredients can look like. This post is a collection of querying help links to help you through query craft, communicating with literary agents and publishing.

Query Craft Links

My tip -don’t use emotionally distancing statements like, ‘it is revealed that.’ Keep your pitch in your MC’s pov with ‘She discovers that…’

Querying Your First Novel. This is my outline of the query letter writing, critiquing, editing and readiness process. It includes having realistic expectations around rejections and networking with fellow querying writers for much needed support in the trenches.

My favourite query letter instructions, in which humour illustrates nailing pitch components, is Patrick Bohan’s Mad Libs Formula Blog Post. It features a fictional pitch involving Bob the Builder and his Deathray.

For a detailed outline of query letter & pitch structure, literary agent preferences and specifics like “how do I personalise?” see my post on Query Letter Specifics.

A good successful, annotated query example is Susan Dennard’s. (She also has great articles covering writing, revising, agents and publishers.) 

For 600+ Successful Query Letters (cataloged by genre, with links to the letters) see this brilliant spreadsheet by Carissa Taylor. It will help you with everything you can do right in a query letter.

For examples of everything you could possibly do wrong in a query letter (and occasional excellent queries) -read QueryShark’s Blog. She’s a literary agent, and the right hand archives list query letters and her critiques of over years. Bad news -yes you have to browse by date. She recommends reading them all. But if for example, you write fantasy and most queries aren’t fantasy and have different weaknesses to yours, I’d read just her comments after the first 10-20 letters or skim for queries of your genre.

Then, moving beyond querying introductions, Advanced Querying Tips -by Sylvia Liu include many tid bits you won’t know not know if you haven’t talked much with querying writers. (Courtesy of @GenevievePuttay.)

When your query is ready, you may like to pitch your novel to Indie Publishers and literary agents in Twitter’s Pitch Parties. Here’s a pitch party list (with their website links), and a post on Crafting Tweet Pitches to help you with that.

Comparison Titles

Part of your successful query will be choosing appropriate comparison titles. These show literary agents there is an existing market for you book and that you know what it is. They can also indicate a lot about style, themes and overall novel features. This article explains comparison titles and has advice on finding them. I recommend googling ‘top 20 (insert genre & age) books of 2020/ the 4 previous years. You could also tell your local librarian a bit about your novel and see what comparison titles they can suggest. Then there are sites like whichbook.net (courtesy of @storiesbysusan), which let you enter criteria for characters and plot, to hunt comp titles on.

When you think your letter is ready, here’s a handy graphic to help you check.

Synopsis Tips

There’s varying advice on how to write a synopsis. I’ve heard “write one sentence per chapter,” but every chapter won’t always be a story beat. Some chapters just allow the reader to take a break from story beats and develop characters subtly -so they don’t need mentioning in the synopsis. I recommend writing only the main beats eg. a line for character/ world introduction, a line for the inciting event etc. A great resource for that is this article by Susan Dennard.

For more synopsis advice and tips on how your synopsis differs from your query letter, see this article by the

How to Write a Query Letter site. For advice on synopsis content, voice and more, see this article by literary agent Kaitlyn Johnson.

Query Motivation -#Pitmad If you need a deadline/ pressure to make you knuckle down -participate in #Pitmad. With four pitch parties a year open to all genres (in March, June, September and December) that gives you four regular deadlines to have your pitch (and final MS polish if you struggle with that) polished to perfection.

Critical Feedback

Query Letter (&Synopsis) Feedback

Knowing When Your Query Is Finished

Writing a query is HARD. Reading guides, tips and especially successful queries is helpful. But how do you know that you HAVE successfully applied most of the advice to your query? One way to assess this unhindered by author bias (knowing the novel and query too well) is getting feedback.

Free Query & Synopsis Feedback

You can tweet in the #WritingCommunity offering to trade feedback (like I did here). Then setting up a DM group to trade emails and documents. The best time to do so is before or soon after #Pitmad, when many writers of all genres will be preparing to query. Some Discord Servers may have a channel for seeking query letter and synopsis feedback (like mine).

Workshops I haven’t had the opportunity to attend a pitch crafting workshop. But I’ve seen the difference it makes to other writers query letters (it’s no coincidence two such writers got agent likes in #Pitmad). If you get the chance to attend one -I’d take it!

Professional Critiques: I’ve heard mixed reviews about the effectiveness of these. So I would ask for recommendations from other writers before paying for one. QueryShark will critique for free if you agree to the critique being displayed on her blog for others to learn from. Manuscript Academy offers paid critiques and paid consultations with literary agents.

Querying & Literary Agents

Women writing notes and placing sticky notes on a whiteboard.

Literary Agents Introduction

The first thing I stumbled across about literary agents was warnings against disreputable agents and frauds. If you haven’t read up on this, there’s good general information and tips on what to be wary of on Science Fiction Writers of America.
The Basics Eg. ‘why do you need a literary agent?’ ‘how do I submit?’ etc see AgentQuery.

Where and How to Find Literary Agents? See Eric Smith’s A Beginner’s Guide to Looking Up Literary Agents.

Wondering whether to query a new literary agent? Here’s an advice blog on pro’s and con’s.

Youtube Channels with Great Query and Literary Agent Info & Advice include former literary agent Meg Latorre’s Query Tips and Agent Information on her iwriterly channel (which has other great advice). And Alexa Donne’s Getting an Agent videos from her author channel (which is also packed advice).

I’ve listed four databases for finding literary agents below. You can also (if you write an AMAZING pitch, find them in twitter pitch parties. More info in this post).

Literary Agent Databases

Manuscript Wishlist is searchable by genre and gives up-to-date and sometimes more detailed than literary agency profile information on what specific literary agents are seeking. I used it to compile my agents to potentially query long list. You can also search #MSWL on twitter for what literary agents are tweeting they want right now, but they may not have tweeted recently so this can be hit and miss. (Don’t tweet on this hashtag -its only for agents and publishers to tweet on).

Agentquery has a database of literary agents.

QueryTracker is an agent database. It allows you to record agents you wish to query to or not query, and what stage your query has progressed to with particular agents -submitted query/ partial request/ full request, etc. It’s a great way to avoid accidentally submitting to the same agent twice. It also lets you record whom you think it’s inappropriate to submit to, so you don’t waste time reading about them again if you search the database multiple times. Premium ($25 a year) lets you see where your query is in any one agent’s queue and has other features.


I like this database because it has extensive lists of individual agents, agencies and genres they accept by country, including the UK, US, Canada, Australia and some European countries. You have to be a member to view lists, but it’s free to join.

If you use databases, blogs or lists to find literary agents -CHECK THE AGENT WEBSITE for up-to-date SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. Also check they ARE CURRENTLY OPEN to unsolicited submissions, to avoid being rejected or ignored for acting on out of date or incorrect information.

Communicating With Literary Agents

For Cheat Sheets/ Templates to contact literary agents for a range of reasons, see this excellent post by @themoosef.

FAQS about Agents Offering Representation, from agent phone calls to contracts are answered thoroughly by Agent Query in this article.

When You Get The Call, here are some questions to ask the literary agent offering representation, by Bookends Literary Agency. And some questions a literary agent may ask you, by former literary agent Mary Kole.

When You Get An Offer here’s an article of things to consider while deciding if you’ve found the right agent for you and your book, by a writer who said “no” to an agent.

Publishing & Marketing Resources

As with agents, you could google publishing agencies. If you do, be wary of vanity presses masquerading as traditional publishers. These will charge you for printing and do very little to promote sales of your book (Austin Macauley tops that list). In general, if they find you or anyone offers you a deal that seems too good to be true -it’s probably a lie. Also be wary of hybrid or ebook publishers claiming to be ‘traditional publishers’ -if they may expect you to cover some costs, they aren’t traditional publishers. And if they only sell ebooks -whats the difference in their profits compared to a publisher who also sells hard copy? It’s worth finding out before you consider signing anything.

Types of Publishers/ Publishing & Choosing One by Joanna Maciejewska (c.o. @cr_burman).

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Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity has a comprehensive list of publishers accepting unsolicited submissions (in multiple countries). It also has a long list of articles about self-publishing and other useful resources such as contests, and where to get reviews.

Author’s Publish is a mailing list. One of the emails they send regularly is a comprehensive, free ebook guide to publishing. Their emails also contain reviews and lists of publishers and magazines accepting unsolicited submissions.

Profit and Loss –How Publishers Decide What to Publish, by Jane Friedman.

Small Presses

3 Unique Research Methods for Identifying Small Publishers by Jane Friedman.

If you publish directly with a publisher, The Society of Authors and Authors Guild both offer legal advice on publishing contracts to their members (c.o. @GenevievePuttay).

Related Reading

For a list of Twitter pitch parties to pitch your novel in, see this post.

For advice on crafting query letter or tweet pitches, see this one.

Beta Readers & Critique Partners, Mentors & Editors

Woman on sand dunes searching
Photo by Katerina Kerdi 

You’ve written your novel. You’ve revised and edited it multiple times. Now you know it so well that you can’t see the forest for the trees. You need critical reader feedback. Ideally it’ll be from observant beta readers and critique partners with different strengths to you. And help hone your craft, while readying your novel for querying or self publishing. So where can you find effective critical readers? And do you need a sensitivity reader or an editor? Once you’ve had feedback and used it to edit your novel, how will you know when you’ve finished editing?

Five Free Feedback Options

1 Scribophile

My search for critical readers began with Scribophile. This is an online community where writers earn karma points for critiquing each other’s chapters and where gaining enough points lets you post your own chapter for feedback. The free version involves posting one chapter at a time, so its a good space to seek line edit or within-chapter feedback.

However, if you work at a different pace to other writers, you may critique their chapter 1, then find their chapter 4 is ready (my experience). As a reader, you can end up reading single chapters many novels, without reading whole stories. As a writer, it can be difficult to get feedback on plot and character development across chapters and feedback from the same readers on multiple chapters. I received some good feedback on Scribophile, but there were issues across my opening chapters its readers didn’t get the chance to spot. So if you’re seeking feedback on plot and character arcs, you may need a paid membership for autonomy over who reads your chapters and when.

2. Critique Circle is similar, but I haven’t tried it, so I can’t say how it compares.

3. Twitter Or Instagram’s Writing Community

If you don’t have writer contacts, its well worth joining Twitter’s or Instagram’s writing community. (For advice on getting started, see this post.) Whether you’ve made writer friends, or are new to social media, you can post asking who’s willing to trade feedback (or just asking for beta readers, but you’re more likely to get a critical reader if you’re willing to be one).

I’d share a brief blurb of your work (use a paragraph long pitch for Insta or as a graphic on Twitter, if you’ve written one). I’d also mention if you’re willing to trade just opening chapters, even if you’d ideally like feedback on the whole novel. My last round of chapter swaps was going to be opening chapters only, but it became the opening third of the novel, so you never know. I’d also mention any genres you prefer to read or prefer your critique partner to write. You’ll need relevant hashtags too, but don’t use as many as I have on the right. A hashtag for CP’s, one for beta readers and one for your genre should be enough on Twitter.

On Twitter I suggest including #CritiquePartner and or #BetaReaders in your tweet. Also try searching both tags in the search bar, to see who else is looking for critical readers and reply to likely critique partners.

Hosted Critical Reader Meet Ups on Twitter

#BetaBash by @Madeline_Pine is a quarterly event to help writers and beta readers get to know each other. Its a series of hosted prompts findable on the hashtag. You can tweet your reply (on the tag), including your blurb, audience age and genre for potential beta readers to see.

#CPMatch by @Megan_Lally is another quarterly tag. This one is for tweeting your blurb, genre and audience age to fellow writers willing to trade MS’s with each other.

On Instagram the most popular tags are #Beta Reader and #BetaReaders, but you’ll find some posts on #CritiquePartner and #CritiquePartners. Again, I suggest posting about finding critical readers AND searching the above tags on Insta to see posts seeking critique partners and replying to them.

Two of my critique partners from Twitter edited much faster than I did, so we only traded the first 6 and 9 chapters respectively. But the feedback they gave was useful in addressing issues with character logic and pacing beyond my chapters they read. One beta reader read up to halfway through my Act 2, while the third critique partner (a twitter friend) and I critiqued each other’s whole novel. Depending on many circumstances, a critique partner or beta reader may not make it to the end of your novel, but they’re my favourite way to get feedback on all aspects of it.

4. Facebook Groups

There are a LOT of critical reader groups on Facebook. This one is for finding Fantasy Beta and ARC readers (the latter providing reviews of the finished draft before the book is released). I’m a member of it and have seen writers posting and getting a few offers to read, though I haven’t sought readers there myself. I suggest searching your genre and ‘critical readers’ on Facebook, to find a relevant group for your writing. You may like to search your sub-genre and ‘critical readers’ too, as there are several sub-genre critical reader groups for romance, and there may be for other genres.

5. Discord

If you haven’t heard of it, Discord began with gamers, but there are a growing number of writer groups on it. A Discord server can have as many channels (each acting as a communal feed), covering as many topics as its admins like. A lot of writer Discord groups have channels for seeking critical readers, where you can write a blurb of your book and see if anyone’s interested.

To find Discord group descriptions and invitations to on Twitter, type ‘Discord’ and ‘#WritingCommunity’ into the Twitter search bar. Or tweet to your ask followers if they can recommend one. If you’d like an invite to the server myself and @LeiaTalon are co-admins of, you’re welcome to reply to the the tweet on the right or DM me and I’ll DM you the link. Alternatively, contact me using my contact page.

Further Reading

For more options to find critical readers and advice on working with them, see @LombardEmma‘s Finding & Using Beta Readers.  

For specific questions to guide critical reader feedback (or to guide your feedback as a critical reader), see my Chapter One Checklist and Act 1 Checklist.

Three Mentoring Programs to Apply For

If you’ve had feedback from critical readers, but would like more, from more experienced writers than yourself, there are mentoring programs. You’d need to work in close partnership, and be lucky, as there are many writers seeking mentors in the below programs.

For #AuthorMentorMatch and #Pitchwars, the mentors are authors. For #Revpit they are editors. #Pitchwars mentors also give editorial feedback on your query package.

1 #AuthorMentorMatch, is run by @AuthorMentorMatch and occurs in January. For more details, visit the Author Mentor Match website. For the prompts/ chats leading up to submissions, see the #AMM hashtag on twitter.

2 #Revpit is Revision & Editor Mentoring for MG, YA & Adult Fiction, which begins with pitching on Twitter in April (10th). For more details, visit the Revpit Website.

3 #Pitchwars mentors profiles can be viewed and the submission window for writers to submit to four potential mentors via email opens in September. For more details visit the Pitchwars Website.

Paid Editing Feedback

Woman writing in notebook.
Photo by Thought Catalog

Paid Critiques

If you can afford a ($45 US) fee for your opening chapters to be marked on a rubric covering the works, by editors or writers with degrees -I recommend entering Ink & Insights (March to June). I entered 2 different manuscripts on 3 occasions. I received 4 pages of helpful comments (one from each judge) each time, with a detailed rubric. In this competition, you are numerically scored by all 4 judges. One loved both my manuscripts and scored them highly, one wasn’t fussed and gave them a low score, and the other two scored my manuscript in the middle, but the feedback from all four was consistent. That feedback and the rubric were helpful in pinpointing specific aspects for my next rounds of edits to focus on.

Sensitivity Readers

If your wip features point of view characters from marginalised groups to which you do not belong and or touches on issues affecting those groups, it may be appropriate for you to hire a sensitivity reader. Ideally, you have done your homework on the marginalised group(s) in question, but a sensitivity reader may pick up on issues neither your lived experience nor Google can tell you. If you’d like to know more about sensitivity readers and whether or not you may need to hire one, this article may help.

Am I Finished? & Do I Need an Editor?

Woman typing on computer
Photo by Andrew Neel

Identifying when you have finished editing can be a huge challenge, especially with a first novel. Despite how helpful my Ink & Insights comments and feedback from four critical readers were, my revisions only targeted the symptoms of some underlying problems. I sent my novel to another beta reader and edited again, but my final solutions to story tension and fully developing point of view characters came from my editor Amelia Wiens. After two manuscript critiques with her, I am finally confident I’m ready to query.

Deciding whether hiring an editor is worth your while depends on your personal circumstances and goals. In my case, I could afford a developmental edit. I saw it as a personal crash course in developing characters and story tension. And I learned lessons I can apply to all future novels from it. So for me, it was worth the money.

As there’s only so much time and energy unpaid beta readers and critique partners can put into feedback, if your plot, characters or story structure may be lacking, a manuscript critique/ structural report may be a good fix.

Considering Hiring an Editor?

Get a sample edit! Check if they understand what you’re trying to do with your novel. See if there’s indications that working with them will be a valuable learning experience, as well as making your novel a more engaging read.

Self Publishing your First Book?

If you’re on a tight budget, here’s some well reasoned advice by editor Derek Murphy on why hiring an editor may not be the best idea. (He describes his services in this post, but he does so in the context of giving ball park figures for developmental and copy editing and proof reading costs.)

Editor Resources

For Definitions of developmental & Copy Editing and Proof Reading Services, with clear examples and advice on which order its best to use these services in, see Hiring an Editor, Should I Spend the Money? by Maryleee MacDonald.

5 Things Author’s Need To Know Before Hiring an editor (an interview with editor Staci Frenes by Mixtus Media) is also a good read. It details the benefits of hiring an editor and giving advice on finding a professional, reliable editor who’s likely to be a good fit for your book.

Tips to Tell if Your Editing is Finished

Have you rectified issues which could get you rejected by a literary agent?

Even if you intend to self publish, looking at resources where literary agents state reasons they tend to pass on submissions can improve the quality of your work. In this video 7 agents give 3 reasons for rejecting an MS. While in this one Meg Latore talks about why literary agents may reject the first five pages. Both videos can act as partial “have I finished editing yet?” checklists.

A Final Test of Editing Being Finished

Can you pitch your novel? Can you, in Query Sharks ‘sweet spot’ of 250-350 words;
Introduce your Main Character (+ their want/ goal if you like)
Introduce their inciting event, the central conflict & stakes
Mention a major complication to MC ability to resolve conflict, including increased stakes (if applicable)
Mention character growth that must occur for the MC to resolve the conflict and avoid the stakes/ the impossible choice the MC must make?

When I pitched in my first two Pitmad’s, I had trouble defining my MC’s goal and character growth they needed to undertake to reconcile the external conflict. There were still gaps and ambiguity in my main character’s arc (the one’s my editor later helped with). Everyone finds writing a pitch difficult. It takes ages. But if, after reading pitch crafting advice like the articles I’ve linked here and receiving feedback, you still struggle to nail any pitch ingredients, there may be a hole in your character or external plot arc. In that case, I suggest using resources on plot and character development like this one by Susan Dennard) to help identify the hole and plan another structural edit.

Whichever stage of the editing process you’re at -good luck!

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Further Reading (Resources Linked Above)

Critical Reader Sites

Scribophile & Critique Circle

Fantasy Arc & Beta Readers FB Group

Paid Critique: Ink & Insights 

Critical Reader Resources

@LombardEmma‘s Finding & Using Beta Readers

My Chapter One Checklist and Act 1 Checklist of questions to help guide critical reader feedback.

12 Critical Reader Partnership Tips

Twitter Hashtags

#CritiquePartner #BetaReaders #CPMatch

Editing Resources

Do I Need A Sensitivity Reader?

Do you really need a book editor by editor Derek Murphy.

Hiring an Editor, Should I Spend the Money? by Maryleee MacDonald.

5 Things Author’s Need To Know Before Hiring an editor (an interview with editor Staci Frenes by Mixtus Media)

Instagram Hashtags

#Beta Reader #BetaReaders some posts on #CritiquePartner & #CritiquePartners

Writing Community Hashtag Guide

WritingCommunity Hashtags

Hashtags boost tweet and post impressions, and on Twitter and Instagram alike, they can help you connect with writers in the #WritingCommunity, and with readers. There are specific hashtags for writing stages, genres, types of writers, promoting books and more. I’ve categorised hashtags by type and purpose to boost your visibility and help you find whatever you’re seeking in Twitter and Instagram’s Writing Community, via hashtag.

Umbrella Writer Hashtags

First up, to find fellow writers to share the journey, share information, exchange beta reads etc, you need your tweets seen by writers. There are some popular, broad-in-purpose hashtags for this, including those below. Unless you’re posting on a niche topic (eg. steam levels in romance), I’d use at least one of these and a couple of specific hashtags (further down) as well.

Instagram Tags





Hashtags To Be Found/ To Find Writers On

Hashtags which say ‘I’m the kind of writer you are/ the writer you like to read’ are more likely to stand out on a Twitter feed and prompt us to read and reply -because they suggest we will relate to your tweet. Hashtags which say ‘I’m feeling your editing/ querying hopes/ agony’ also signal who will relate and invite a response. (If you use a few, well chosen, easy to see tags. For tweeting tips see this post.)
Some hashtags to give these signals with are Writer Type Hashtags, Genre tags and Wip (Work in Progress) Stage tags. I highly recommend the latter -most of the writer’s I’ve made friends and stayed in touch with on twitter are at similar stages of the writing process and tweeting about your wip’s stage on relevant hashtags is a great way to make those connections.

Twitter Tags

Instagram Tags

Writer by Type





(or search your country/ city -a few have tags).



Genre/ Text Type Tags

#FantasyAuthor/ writer

(Or your genre)


(Or your genre).

#Poets ( +variations)



Writers at Same Stage, with Same Hopes/Woes Tags

Twitter Tags

Instagram Tags


#AmEditing (You can add your genre too).


#AmQuerying #AmPublishing




Hashtags to Connect with Writers

Some writers tweet regular prompts to which other writers respond on specific hashtags. Mini writer communities can grow up around these, so if you like a prompt, I recommend viewing its feed (by selecting its hashtag) and interacting with other writers tweeting on it, as well as tweeting your prompt responses on the tag. (It’s not a prompt hashtag, but #StrictlyWriting (mainly on Twitter) has a small community talking about writing craft and the writing process on it, so you may like to search and reply to or tweet on it. For its companion tags & Discord Group, see this post).

Twitter Tags

Instagram Tags

Writer Prompts

#SFFWrite (DM me if you’d like to take over this prompt!)






Live Chats

(Courtesy of @AndrewRoberts66)

#5amwritersclub Daily EST

#WritersLifeChat Wed 8pm EST

#WriteChat Wed 10pm EST

#WeekNightWriters Fri 12:00 am UK

#StoryCrafter Sun 3pm EST

On Instagram, you don’t tend to get daily (or weekly) regular prompts. Challenges are more common, and they tend to run for set time periods. To find them, try typing #WriterChallenge in Insta’s search bar, and see which challenge hashtags that turns up. Check dates on posts in your search results to see if the challenge is still running.

NB: for more Insta tags see below Twitter Prompt & Twitter Help tags.

Twitter Shorts/ Poetry Piece Prompts

If you enjoy writing shorts or poetry, you’ll find regular prompts and fellow shorts writers and poets on these tags.  In this case, appreciating (and perhaps sharing via retweet) each other’s writing is a good way to connect. #WritingPrompts is used by a range of writers for a range of prompts, whereas the tags below have a single host tweeting prompt words on them, sometimes daily, sometimes on a particular day.  

Hashtags To Find Tips/ Help On Twitter

Whether you’re writing, revising, editing or querying, there are specific hashtags you can search to find tips and practical help. (In Twitter, selecting or pasting any hashtag in the search bar will display a feed of only tweets on that tag. All tags below are linked to those feeds).

To Tweet for Writer Help you’re welcome to use #StrictlyWriting or, if you’re searching for resources, #StrictlyWritingResources. For asking for help or tweeting to writers generally, #WritingCommunity is the best umbrella tag to use, which I tend to use with topic specific tags like genre or writing stage tags. Writers tend to tweet any subject on #WritingCommunity now, but the tag helps your tweets get impressions, so its still worth using.

To seek Critical Readers, you can ask who’s interested by tweeting on the Critical Reader Tags below.

Genre Promo Examples  




Find Genre Promo Tags   

To find you genre, put your it/ your subgenre/ audience age (maybe with the word ‘books’) onto a # in the Twitter search bar, and see which variation of relevant tag is most popular.

More Instagram Hashtags

Writer Community








Tags to talk to









Author Type Tags








Talk to Authors








Tags to Talk About






Tip/ Help Tags




Blog Promo Tags







Critical Readers



Author Content Tags





Author Activity Tags






Book Lover Tags







Tags to talk about & or promote books












Reader Tags






Poetry People Tags






Poem Tags













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Instagram has many more tags and new ones developing. Searching any of the above tags and seeing which other tags people posting on them are using will turn up more related hashtags.

Related Posts

If You’re New(ish) to Twitter or Instagram’s #WritingCommunity, here’s an Introduction and some tweeting and posting tips.

For Twitter Pitch Party and Mentoring Program Hashtags, details & website links, see this post.

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