Amanda Luedeke

January 8, 2015

Thursdays with Amanda: Winner Chosen! (2015 writing project challenge)


Amanda LuedekeAmanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. You can also check out her marketing skills on Fiverr. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Last week I invited you to share with me the various projects you’ll be working in 2015. I believe there is something inspiring about writers sharing ideas with others. There is something about making a public commitment to PURSUE a project that makes it so much more real (and we all know how working on a book alone, on your own, can many times feel like you’re pretending at this whole writer thing). So I’m very glad that we got a good response to my post. I’m glad for the thirty-some of you who took me up on my challenge and made your 2015 goal project public.

And as promised, I’ve chosen a favorite! Here are some things that I considered when reading through the submissions:

  1. Does the project have a strong external plot? It’s easy to focus on the internal arc (what are their fears and how do the characters change on the inside?), but a pitch is all about the external. What happens TO these characters? That’s what I’m more concerned about at this stage in the game.
  2. Does the project sound different? I see a lot of pitches, a lot of story ideas, and so I’m alway on the lookout for a book that is unique. Something that either I haven’t heard before or something that is different enough from the status quo.
  3. Do I want to know more? This is probably the most important question. Because a book can lack an external plot and sound just like everything else, but if it gets me to want to turn the page…we’re golden.


  • ALICIA TUBBS: DR. VIRGIL’S AFTERLIFE RECORDINGS – Dr. Santos Virgil has been entrusted with a device that records a person’s life review upon the moment of death. In the wrong hands, the secrets revealed in these life reviews could destroy the world. When a cold-blooded mobster holds Santos’ friends hostage in exchange for the device, Santos embarks upon a suicidal rescue mission. If his mission fails, his friends will die, and the device will fall into the mobster’s possession. No secret will be safe from the grave.
  • SCOTT KEDERSHA: The Best Seat in the Chapel: Lessons Learned From Over 2500 Premarried Couples – When you attend a wedding, most of the ceremony, all you see is the backside of the bride and groom. You see his face when the bridal party processes and you see her’s as she walks down the aisle. For most of the ceremony, however, you cannot see their faces, the excitement and anticipation of becoming one with each other. Only one person has the privilege of seeing in their faces most of the ceremony. The pastor has the Best Seat in the Chapel. In this book, I will share what God’s Word says about marriage and stories of real couples and the challenges they have walked through in preparing for marriage. The Best Seat in the Chapel is the culmination of what I have learned from over 2500 premarried couples as a marriage pastor over a thriving premarried church ministry.
  • KELLY COLLINS HOPKINS: Goode Music – Engaged to a controlling school superintendent, Kyra Goode is an ambitious, gifted music teacher in Pennsylvania until she loses her job to a budget cut. Packing up what’s left of her pride, Kyra heads for South Carolina and a spot in her brother’s tavern band. Playing in public again sounds like a great idea until she meets the band’s handsome lead singer—her former college flame, Mel Farr. The last thing Kyra wants is a new romantic entanglement, but she can’t resist the grip Mel still holds on her heart and sparks fly. While Kyra loses herself in her music and new love, her former fiancé fakes his own death to stalk her, plotting to destroy Kyra and everyone she loves.
  • KRISTEN JOY WILKS – Ten-year-old triplets finally escape their mother’s smothering to enjoy a week of summer camp. But every 100 years something impossible comes to Camp CastleSnag. An ancient castle appears for an hour at twilight. Its gate leads into The Wandering Wood, a primeval forest populated with extinct monsters from earth’s distant past. However, trouble soon follows their discovery. Someone is releasing creatures from the Wandering Wood. God may have provided a sanctuary for the animal wonders of long ago, but will He provide a way for the boys to avoid being trampled or accidentally devoured? Is guarding the Wandering Wood their destiny, or just a handy way for God to be rid of three pesky boys?


The winner is Kristen Joy Wilks and her Jumani-esque story about triplets and extinct monsters! I chose this blurb because, for me, it nailed my three main questions (above). And after reading it, I didn’t come away with any hesitations or concerns. Just positive vibes! So congrats, Kristen! Sorry I don’t have a prize…but maybe bragging rights are enough?

Now, for everyone else who entered and are either wondering why you didn’t final or what I thought of your blurb, I’m happy to answer questions about those very blurbs (this is not an invitation for you to post your first chapter or your synopsis, etc). So if you want to know x or y about your blurb and what I thought, feel free to leave a comment! I’ll be responding over the next few days.


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  • Andrea Cox says:

    Hi Amanda,

    Sorry I’m late responding. My neighbor died this past Thursday, so I wasn’t in the right mind frame to check blogs that day. Would you mind sharing your opinion on my novel blurb for Supermarket Sparks? Thank you!

    Supermarket Sparks:
    A woman lost her firefighter husband to an inferno the night she planned to tell him their family dreams were coming true. A year later, she struggles to battle gripping despair in order to raise the son she always wanted in the suffocating life she’d always dreaded: widowhood. A firefighter questions his calling in the wake of his best friend’s death. On top of his doubts, he carries guilt due to not taking care of his buddy’s wife like he promised. When they run into each other at the supermarket, will sparks fly as the widow and the firefighter patch up their friendship? Or will they allow fear of loss to widen the trench between them?


    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Sorry to hear about your neighbor 🙁
      As for your blurb, I struggled to find out what the real plot here was. It seemed that all the external conflict happens before the book starts, and the rest is just a bunch of internal battles…which don’t make for exciting hooks! I think you should refocus on what is keeping them apart. What happens TO them (rather than inside them) that makes this relationship a potential no-go? If you can answer that in the blurb and in your book, it will be much more gripping.

    • Andrea Cox says:

      Thanks for your helpful input, Amanda. I appreciate your condolences as well.


  • Heidi Kortman says:

    Congratulations to Kristen!

    Amanda, I would appreciate your take on why my blurb seemed flat to you. Thank you for your time.

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Hey, Heidi – Yours sounded like the book itself may be strong, but the pitch was a bit confusing. We were presented with a number of elements and I couldn’t figure out how they all fit together. We have a grieving American composer. A trip on the Titanic in which he lives. A run-in with the Irish Garda. And then some kind of turn to God and love. So my problem with the pitch was that I couldn’t understand how these things fit together and, consequently, couldn’t decipher the main plotline. It almost seems as though you have too much going on, though I realize that it all may fit perfectly well together in the book. Which means the pitch is the problem. :/ Try focusing on the main overarching conflict in the book as opposed to bringing in several conflicts that appear throughout. That may clean it up.

    • Heidi Kortman says:

      Thank you, Amanda. I’ll get back to work on it.

  • Kristen Joy Wilks says:

    And thank you so much everyone for all of your congratulations. You are all so encouraging and kind. Wow, you don’t start a day out like this very often. Wow!

  • Kristen Joy Wilks says:

    You didn’t need a prize. I feel like I just won a million bucks. Thanks so much Amanda for your kind words about my story. Now I am inspired to stop reading all these awesome writing blogs long enough to revise, revise, revise. I checked the blog yesterday, but had to leave before it posted to take my boys (yep, 3 of them, but not triplets) to school and volunteer in their classes. This rush of adrenaline is much better than the black tea I prepared. Thank you!

  • Demelza Ramirez says:

    Writing a concise synopsis has never been my forte so basically, if you could, how could I better make my little blurb answer your 3 main questions and do you have any other tips when it comes to writing synopses?

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      A synopsis is a 1-3 page overview of your entire book…but here we were just focusing on what you could call “pitch paragraphs” or “blurbs.” You actually did a good job on yours, considering the scope of your book. I think, though, that the two issues I came across were that 1) I didn’t understand what this world was…is it medieval? Fantasy? Norse? So that prevented me from fully being able to envision the story. 2) The storyline didn’t grip me. You have a neat thing with the fertile prince, but it doesn’t seem like you push that idea to the max. Instead, we were left with a pretty typical hook: “Will Signe keep them both alive?” That hook is overused, in my opinion. So maybe focusing on a different aspect of the plot would help…? Just a thought.

  • Congratulations Kristin Joy Wilks! And thanks for this opportunity @amandaluedeke:disqus! I am honored that you would choose my proposal as a finalist. I can’t tell you how encouraged I am! I am still playing with the idea and concept, but do you have any suggestions on how to better share the premise/proposal? I am in the middle of writing my book proposal, so I would appreciate any suggestions on how to better write the premise or if there are any additional angles you would address. Thanks again!

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Hey, Scott! I really liked your concept. As for the blurb, I think you got a bit carried away with the “faces” theme for the first two thirds of it. I’d rather one or two lines of that kind of setup…make sure those lines are really strong…try not to meander as you did…and then hit us with what this book is about. What it includes. Essentially you want a bit more nuts and bolts info than you’ve currently provided. But not much. Maybe just one line more. Also, and this isn’t related to the pitch, but start thinking about your platform. Who do you know? What connections do you have? How will YOU ensure that readers buy this book? Platform is more important than the idea itself when it comes to nonfiction, so start considering that aspect asap!

    • Great feedback, @amandaluedeke:disqus – reading through my premise, I now see the overemphasis on ‘faces’ – it kind of screams out to me now that I see it! And great suggestion on the nuts and bolts. And appreciate the questions on platform building – I am actively doing that through blog, social media, and at the church where i work (Watermark Community Church in Dallas, TX). Thanks again!

  • Kelly Collins Hopkins says:

    Congrats to Kristen! Thank you Amanda for the opportunity. My question is: Is the blurb I posted enough to incorporate into a query letter? Should I be more specific about the villain’s motivation if this were going into an actual query or is the paragraph enough? I know agents have different guidelines, so I am really looking for a generalization. I am getting ready to send this out so this is vital! Thank you!

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Kelly, I’m glad you asked, because yours was a pitch that I really liked…until the last line. It just doesn’t fit with the rest of the pitch. We are led to believe this is a sweet story about coming home and southern honky tonks and new love. And suddenly there’s a stalker. As a result when I read your pitch I was really disappointed! Because I was totally on board with the sweet “coming home” story! And I couldn’t reset my brain to accept the fact that this is actually a thriller/suspense. So my advice to you would be to ensure that your pitch fully embodies the genre the entire way through. If it’s a romantic suspense, make that clear from the first line of the blurb, and carry that throughout. Sure, you can say “this is a suspense novel” but if the blurb doesn’t reinforce that, you’re going to lose your reader. I hope this helps! Good luck to you!

  • Congratulations, Kristen! And thank you, Amanda, for hosting this little competition. If you don’t mind, could you give me a few pointers about how to strengthen my pitch?

    “Kiss Me Twice” pitch:

    Even serial killers get bored. After preying on eleven women, the Donnelly Killer sends one to the FBI. Alive. And she’s seen his face. One tiny problem. Tabetha Brooks refuses security. Being gagged and handcuffed makes a girl reflect on life. On love. On Archer, the one guy whose kiss changed everything—and she’s not about to disappear without a second. To keep Archer in her life, Tabby tells the FBI they’re engaged and how she can’t possibly go to a safe house without him. When agents “kidnap” her long-time crush in exchange for her help, Tabby’s stint in the Witness Protection Program becomes hide and sweet.

    Again, thank you for you time and this opportunity.

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Yes, gladly! Though written well, your pitch had me a bit confused. Is this a thriller or a sweet romance? Or a romantic suspense? I was getting too many conflicting vibes from the pitch and so had to pass over it. If you’re really trying to do a mashup of a thriller and a quirky romance, I think that’s awesome. But you will have to work on how you communicate the book to avoid confusion and to prevent people from jumping to conclusions about what the genre is. Because once I’ve determined something is a Thriller it’s very hard for me to reframe it as a Romantic Comedy, and vice versa. Maybe flat-out start by saying “KISS ME TWICE is a quirky romantic suspense” or something like that. Hope this helps!

    • That definitely helps. I’ll be sure to start out my pitch with the “quirky romantic suspense” bit in the future. Thank you!

  • Alicia Tubbs says:

    Congrats, Kristen! Thank you, Amanda! Should the winner/finalists query you when ready?

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      Hey, Alicia! This wasn’t really a call for submissions as much as it was a fun contest. But if a finalist/winner decides that their project could be a fit for me, yes, they can totally query. We have a contact form on our website (for those who don’t have direct contact info).

    • Alicia Tubbs says:

      Got it. Thanks!

    • Kristen Joy Wilks says:

      Hmmm…looks like you don’t rep middle grade…I don’t suppose you ever accidentally rep middle grade? Like how I accidentally bought those 5 holiday coffees at Starbucks because of the Holiday drink punch card. “I really wanted a white chocolate mocha…but look a deal…give me that mint mocha right now!” Just wondering??? And I am also noticing that your compatriot Erin does rep middle grade….Does an OK from you to possibly maybe pitch my story when it is done, count as an OK from her to possibly maybe pitch my story when it is done, because you guys are fellow MacGregorian agents and quite possibly friends??? Inquiring minds wish to know.

    • Amanda Luedeke says:

      No, I don’t do much middle grade at all. Erin would be better, but an ok from me isn’t really an ok from her since she has the MG eye. Not me. You could email and ask. We typically respond to emails sent via our website.

    • Kristen Joy Wilks says:

      Thanks Amanda,
      This is good info to know.

  • Joseph Max Lewis says:

    Congratulations Kristen! Thanks Amanda, it was a fun diversion over the long weekend to check in for new posts while trying to decide what you’d pick, kind of like playing along with Jeopardy at home. I was pulling for either Kristen or Ron Estrada’s tale surrounding the Scorpion. I was a kid when she sank and intrigued by every news update, pulling for the sailors. There were some very good posts. Thanks again and good luck to everyone, Joseph Max Lewis

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