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The Countdown Begins with Tips from Shanda McCloskey, Karla Valenti, and Derick Wilder

By September 26, 2021August 10th, 2022No Comments

In 10 days, our third KidLit GN pitch event will start, so we’re counting down the days with tips from agents and authors/illustrators. To get you ready, we’ve asked some awesome authors/illustrators for their advice on best pitch practices:


When techie-girl Charlotte receives a doll that doesn’t DO anything, she puts her tinkering to the test to BUILD a friendship.”

This was my Twitter pitch for #PBPitch, which was “liked” by several agents and led to me finding my current agent. Practice writing and rewriting your pitch just as you do with your stories. Then, get feedback from critique partners. If they are already familiar with your story, they can be incredibly insightful in helping you know if the TONE, DESCRIPTION, HOOK and HEART of your story is coming through loud and clear or falling short.

Shanda McCloskey, author-illustrator of Doll-E 1.0, and many other books, which you can find out about here:

Loteria_CoverFinalSet in Oaxaca, Mexico, La Loteria is a journey into the heart of Mexican history, culture, and magic via 11-year-old Clara. Clara is a young girl whose fate lies in the hands of Life and Death, ancient friends engaged in the eponymous game of La Loteria. As the game progresses, Life and Death hold discourse on free will with Clara as the main protagonist of their theories, rushing unavoidably (or perhaps not?) towards her ultimate fate.”

This pitch helped me connect with my dream agent. But it took me a while to refine it. I had my critique partners provide feedback, and gave it to people whose opinion I value and trust. I revised it over the course of many weeks. Why? A pitch may be your only chance to get in front of an agent/editor. Be as diligent in writing it as you are in crafting your stories. Also, to the extent you can use the pitch to give the agent or editor information about you as an author (as well as the book), that’s always a plus.

In this case, I wanted to make sure I highlighted some key elements: (a) the location (set in Mexico, my home country), (b) the target age and genre (11 / MG), and (c) the story concept / hook (a philosophical discussion + magical realism, both of which speak to who I am as much as the kind of story this is). I also included “comps” to help ground the story in something relatable.   

Karla Valenti, is the author of La Loteria and the My Super Science Heroes picture book series. Find out more about her here:

PictureI’m very excited to share Derick Wilder’s touching picture book text, The Longest Letsgoboy, a circle of life story about an aging dog and his little girl.

This dog loves Little more than anything in the world, and when she calls “Letsgoboy!” he’s always ready for a hike through bigwild. But long gone are his awwwpuppy days when he would tailchase and yipyap at furries. Today he slowsteps, woofwoofing farewell to tweeters and wigglewagging goodbye to leafies. When his time comes to rise above the tallsticks, he knows that no matter what, Little is his forever friend.

Beautifully written with creative “dog speak” terms sprinkled throughout, this story is a moving testament to the bond between people and their pets. I hope it warms your heart as much as it did mine!”

This is the pitch my agent and I sent on submission three years ago to sell my, now, upcoming picture book. In addition to summarizing the storyline, we always try to have the pitch provide the editor with a little “taste” of the manuscript’s language and tone. In this case, since the story uses its own language, we leaned into it a little more than usual. And I tend to like puns, so try to integrate them into the pitch when appropriate (though don’t overdo it). Also, I will often read jacket flap copy to get an idea of how other books might have been pitched.

Derick Wilder is the founder of FitLit Kids, a child development organization whose mission is to provide the highest quality in educational programs that are focused on Fitness and ​Literacy. His picture book The Longest Letsgoboy releases Oct. 26, 2021. To learn more about Derick, visit:

To kick off our awesome prizes, we’ve got a big thank you to Arree Chung, founder of Storyteller Academy for donating a free class subscription to Ken Lamug’s Making Comics Mini-Course. For more information on the class, click here. Enter the Rafflecopter below: 

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