Hi. Michael here, writing on behalf of Dan and myself. We are co-mentors. That means there are two of us. As you probably know, Sith come in twos. That’s just coincidence. Probably.
Dan and I are mentoring in the adult category, and are primarily looking for Science Fiction and Fantasy. If that doesn’t appeal to you, I’m not going to be at all offended if you choose this time to make an exit. If you’re an adult SF/F writer, read on for more details.
Who are we?
Dan is the author of three books with Harper Voyager: The Rogue Retrieval (January 2016), The Island Deception (February 2017), and The World Awakening (February 2018). This is his fourth year mentoring Pitch Wars. He’s also the founder of #SFFpit, and hosts a long-running blog series Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy, part of which will soon be published by Writer’s Digest Press. He has an excellent grasp of platform and the SFF market. He is represented by Paul Stevens of Donald Maass Literary. By day, he’s a genetics researcher.
Michael is a science fiction writer, an English teacher, and an international man of mystery. Before he was those things, he was a soldier. He was a 2015 Pitch Wars mentee, and this is his second year partnering with Dan as a mentor. His debut book PLANETSIDE, which was his Pitch Wars book back in 2015, is coming in summer of 2018 from Harper Voyager. You can add it on Goodreads. He is a very active critique partner and has worked with authors on a number of published and soon to be published books. He’s represented by Lisa Rodgers of JABberwocky Literary.
Basically you’re getting two for the price of one, which is not too shabby. We will work as a team to help you take your book and your career to the next level. Dan was my mentor two years ago, then we mentored together last year. We enjoy the same books, are critique partners, and we both recognize and appreciate the strengths of the other. If you’re worried about two mentors giving conflicting opinions and overwhelming you, don’t. We will speak with one voice, and discuss our feedback with each other so that we’re presenting you with unified advice.
I would describe our communication style as ‘constant.’ But mostly it will be about what works for you. Between us we’ve worked with many different writers, and our goal is to help you write your best book. We’ll do whatever we need to along the way to help make that happen.
What are we looking for?
We want to be very clear that our wish-list is about us, not you. It’s not a judgment of any part of the genre. We just know what we’re likely to pick and what we’re not, and we’re trying to be as honest about that as possible so that you don’t waste a mentor slot on us if it’s not a fit.
More than anything, we’ll be looking for something special in your work; something that jumps out, whether it’s voice, pace, super dialogue, exceptional tension, or whatever it is. We want to see that one thing with the potential to be great. That’s what we will try to build on as we work with you to make your book something special.
What we want: All of it. Give us your space opera, your hard SF, your near-future techno-thriller. Give us your dystopian with a unique concept, give us your first contact story, give us your faster-than-light-speed alien adventure. We’re open to anything SF that you’ve got. We will also consider high-tech thrillers.
While we’re open to all SF, things we’re less excited about in science fiction include zombies, Cyber-punk, and dystopian that doesn’t have a unique premise.
In fantasy we’re going to be pickier than we were last year. As we went through our entries last year, we found some things we gravitated to and some things we didn’t, and we’re applying that this time around.
What we want: Second world epic fantasy. Portal fantasy. Heist/Caper type ‘small’ fantasy. We’re open to lots of magic or just a little, and the scope of the conflict isn’t as important as the voice, the story, and the world. Swords and sorcery. War. Complex politics.
What we’re not looking for: Stories set on earth (although if it’s a distant future earth, ala Abercrombie or Jemisin, that’s fine). Stories with gods in a significant role (religion and people worshipping gods are fine, just not gods that walk around like people and themselves are characters) Stories with vampires, werewolves, or fae aren’t a great fit. Steampunk. Things based on Tolkien characters (Elves, dwarves, etc) unless it’s a new take. Coming of age stories. Magical academies or schools unless it’s something really new and unique.
Let me share a few things that apply to both SF and F. We’re not romance writers, but we’re open to some romance as long as it’s not the main plot. Think about what shelf you see it on at Barnes and Noble. If it’s on the SFF shelf, we’re probably cool with it, even if it’s got a strong romance sub-plot. I’m a CP for Colleen Halverson’s Aisling Chronicles, so we have some experience there.
Diversity. We are open to diverse authors and characters. If you are writing from a perspective outside your own, we’re likely to insist on sensitivity readers, but we’ll discuss that with you. While we’re open to diverse characters, we don’t want the thing that makes them diverse to be the only thing interesting about them. We want exciting, complex characters, regardless of race, gender, orientation, ability, or any other aspect of them. I shouldn’t have to say this, but somebody always asks: We’re open to working with any gender writer.
POV. We have no preference when it comes to first or third person. I write mostly first, Dan writes mostly third. We’re comfortable with either. If you write multi-POV we will want to see that each character has his/her own agency and story arc (though that’s something we can work on after we select you, too.)
Word Count. With a debut SF, you’re helping yourself if your book is between 75K and 105K. For Fantasy we’d like to see it between 80K and 125K. The further outside of those counts you are, the more an entry is going to have to blow us away. We’ll also want to that you’d be amenable to us moving toward them in editing. So while we’ll look at your 160K word epic fantasy, it’s going to have to be something really special for us to select it.
Exceptions. The one exception to our preference for SF/F is if your thriller is high-tech, we’d consider that.
Caveats. I am not comfortable with stories that depict graphic violence against helpless victims. If it’s one scene and it drives the plot, that’s okay. I don’t like rape as a plot device. It won’t make us reject your story, but I’ll almost certainly ask you if you’re willing to take it out before we pick you, because there’s probably a better way.
Both Dan and I tend to be on the less literary side of the spectrum, though I wouldn’t totally rule us out for that reason alone.
If you’re still with me here, I’m assuming that you’re at least in the ballpark for genre. So what else can I tell you that will help you make your decision?
Why you should pick us.
We’re not going to spend a ton of time here selling ourselves. I’m a good editor. So is Dan. You’ll be in good hands with us. Ask around. Enough people know us where you’ll get some opinions. Most of it will be lies, but it will probably be entertaining. You can also find critiques I’ve done over on Brenda’s website, if you’re interested in style. Between Dan and I, we bring a lot of different things to the table. We are very hands on and will help you with every phase of your publishing journey. Dan is still mentoring me today, two years later, and we still work with our mentee from last year, @EliseNicole88. If you want to talk about mentoring style, feel free to hit me up.
Why you might not want to pick us.
I edit hard. I’m not mean, and it’s constructive, but it’s thorough. I’m not sad about that, and neither are most of the people I work with on their books. However you might be. Be real with yourself about that. If you’re looking for somebody to read your book, tell you you’re great, then do a few line-edits before the agent round, you’ve probably got the wrong guys. I’m not saying you’re going to get an eight page edit letter. But I’m not saying you won’t. (Hint: You probably will.)
We both work hard, and want to choose someone who will do the same. If your structure needs work, we’ll work on it. If you need more tension, we’re going to cut and add and move things and do whatever it takes to get your book where you want it to be. Obviously all changes are yours, and you make the final call. We’re very adamant about that: It’s your book.
We want to work with someone who wants to get better not just for this book, but as a writer.
And for those of you still with us, Dan and I will share information about our Pitch Wars inbox during the submission process. The first place we’re going to publish those stats and insights will be in our newsletters. You can sign up for Dan’s Newsletter here. You can sign up for Michael’s Newsletter here.