Pitch Wars Wishlist

This is my sixth year mentoring Pitch Wars and I’m so excited to be back! (If you don’t know what Pitch Wars is, it’s a mentoring/pitch contest combo for MG, YA, NA, and Adult fiction authors looking for a literary agent. More info here.)

The Pitch Wars 2017 submission window is open August 2 (12:01AM) – August 6 (10PM EDT)!

About Me

Hi! I’m Sarah Nicolas and I write YA. I’m the author of Dragons are People, Too and Keeping Her Secret. I also write romance under the name Aria Kane. I’m represented by Rebecca Podos at the Rees Literary Agency. I’ve worked as a Publicity Director for Entangled Publishing and in the editorial department of two small publishers, though I got my start reading slush for Liz Pelletier. I write for Book Riot and blog at YAtopia.

I love Dr. Who, wine, Stargate, cooking, Star Trek, coffee, Star Wars, and am still convinced I’m going to marry Leonardo (the Ninja Turtle). I play a lot of wallyball (that’s not a typo) and my day job is planning events for a public library. My social media links are in the sidebar to your right if you want to find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or other places. I’m an ENTJ and a Slytherin, so I’m basically *thisclose* to world domination.

What I’m Looking For

In case you just stumbled here, I’m mentoring the YA category this year. I like all genres except (red) hardcore horror. Light horror is okay, but no zombies, please. I’m also not the best mentor for straight-up historical. (However, if it has a fantasy/sci-fi bent, I’m all in. I LOVE historical fantasy.)

For me, contemporary needs a strong hook & to be high concept. (I ADORE quieter, less plot-focused YA, but am not the best mentor for it). I am not a good mentor for novels in verse.

Before you ask…

I always get questions about my genre list because I know it’s more open than most mentors’, but yes, I really do love them all, with the exceptions listed above. So there’s no need to ask me “do you like xxx genre?” because the answer is yes unless it’s hardcore horror or non SpecFic historical. And I’m definitely open to genre-benders. I’m also open to graphic novels.

As for the specifics, I love books that challenge societal norms, especially gender norms.

I love well-written romance, but a book doesn’t have to have one for me to love it. Great/complicated sibling relationships are my kryptonite. I love a strong voice and am a sucker for economy of words (though not necessarily together). I like intriguing/sympathetic villains, mysteries, paranormal creatures I haven’t seen a lot of, characters I can’t get out of my head, and smart heroines.

I’m open to retellings in any genre, but they have to be fresh. I’m also especially interested in MCs who have a mental or chronic illness, but that is not what their story is about. (e.g. I have bipolar disorder and psoriatic arthritis, but my life is so much more than that.)

To repeat from last year: If you have a queer sci-fi, fantasy, or high-concept contemporary and don’t query me I will die of disappointment. Then my ghost will haunt you forever.

DO NOT query me if your book is about sexual assault or has on-screen sexual violence.

Some recent books I’ve loved:

  • Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
  • Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
  • Want by Cindy Pon
  • We Are Okay by Nina Lacour
  • Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
  • Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  • The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
  • Tiny Pretty Things (series) by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
  • The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger

My Mentoring Style

Anyone who knows me will tell you: If I give you a compliment, I really mean it. If you’re looking for someone to challenge you to make your book better in every way and to help you write the best damn pitch & query letter your book has ever hoped for, that’s my style.

When it comes to revision, my strengths lie in tightening plots, increasing conflict/tension, and strengthening character motivation. My strongest quality in this contest, though, is the pitch itself. My experience as a publicist has honed my pitching ability and I’ve been called “the pitch master” more than once.

Every book is different. I have taken on books that needed very little revision; the authors just needed a little help with the packaging. I have also taken on books that needed complete overhauls. In 2015, Leigh Mar cut 60 pages of her manuscript and rewrote much of it. How much work a book needs does not fit in to my decision process. I’m only concerned with how much I love it and it’s viability in today’s marketplace.

Some Previous Mentees

Elly Blake is the NYT-bestselling author of Frostblood, which was her Pitch Wars book. She is represented by Suzie Townsend.

Jennifer Blackwood is the USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. Her debut Unethical was her Pitch Wars book. She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan.

Chelsea Bobulski is the author of The Wood (releasing August 1) and is represented by Andrea Somberg. She is a far better writer than I could ever hope to be.

Leigh Mar is represented by Elana Roth and is now not only a fabulous Pitch Wars mentor, but on the leadership team. We were co-mentors last year.

Shannon Cooley is an excellent writer represented by Victoria Marini and I expect big things from her.

Amy Bearce is the author of the World of Aluvia series, which begins with her Pitch Wars novel Fairy Keeper.


Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments. Just a head’s up, I won’t be answering “pre-queries” i.e. when people ask questions like “would you be interested in a book about a dragon shapeshifter who works for the us government protecting the president’s son?”

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