Pitch Wars · Writing

Pitch Wars Wishlist

Pitch Wars Adult Mentor BadgeWelcome, potential mentee! I’m so glad you stopped by.

First off, congratulations on finishing your manuscript! This is a huge accomplishment in itself, and I hope you’ve celebrated accordingly.

Secondly, I’m thrilled that you’re considering me as your mentor. To help you make your decision, I’ve included some information about who I am, what I’m looking for, and why you should (or shouldn’t) submit to me. So let’s dive in!

Who Am I?

I’m Kristin Rockaway, and I write commercial women’s fiction with romantic elements.

My debut novel, THE WILD WOMAN’S GUIDE TO TRAVELING THE WORLD, was released in June 2017 from Center Street / Hachette. It received a starred review from Library Journal and was selected by Hudson Books as one of the Best Books of Summer 2017.

My next book, HOW TO HACK A HEARTBREAK, will be released from Graydon House / Harlequin / HarperCollins on July 30, 2019.

I’m currently represented by Jessica Watterson of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency for books and Lia Chan of ICM Partners for film.

For those of you who like to read official bios, you can see mine here.

Why Should You Submit to Me?

I have experience critiquing. Both with informal critique partners and formal classroom settings.

I lead with positive feedback. I know how hard it is to put your work out there and have other people judge it. I’m not out here to crush dreams; I’m here to help you get published. Before I start telling you what to fix, I’m going to tell you all the things I love about your manuscript just the way it is.

I’ve been around the publishing block. My first novel was published in 2017 with a Big 5 publisher. Shortly thereafter, my imprint stopped publishing fiction. A few weeks later, my agent quit agenting. I was orphaned, twice, in the span of a month, and for a second there, I thought my author career was over. Fortunately, it wasn’t – I found a fabulous new agent and got a fabulous new book deal with a different Big 5 publisher – but I learned a lot in the process. So when it comes to navigating the publishing world, I have tons of advice for you.

What Am I Looking for in a Mentee?

You have a complete, polished manuscript that’s between 60,000 and 100,000 words. You’ve had other people read it and you’ve edited it. You feel that you are submitting your best possible work.

You’re open to feedback and willing to make changes to help sell your book.

You like to laugh and have fun, but you also know how to be professional.

You’re persistent. This is a tough business. You will hear “no” a lot more than you will hear “yes.” You need to be okay with that.

You’re nondiscriminatory. Under no circumstances will I work with someone who is bigoted, racist, or xenophobic.

What Should You Send Me?

Contemporary women’s fiction. Specifically, I’m looking for lighthearted women’s fiction with romantic elements that takes place in the present day (formerly known as chick lit), but I’m really open to all types of contemporary woman-centered fiction. Which, to me, just means your story is about a woman (or women) embarking on some sort of life experience that leads to personal growth. There can be a romance, but it doesn’t have to be the central point of the story. There doesn’t even have to be a romance at all!

A lot of woman-centered fiction is marketed as mainstream, literary, or sometimes even romance. (Why? I don’t know. Publishing is largely a mystery, even to the published.) So here are some examples of the kinds of books I’m looking for:

  • Anything by Sophie Kinsella
  • THE ASSISTANTS by Camille Perri
  • WHEN KATIE MET CASSIDY by Camille Perri
  • THE IDEA OF YOU by Robinne Lee
  • OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES by Abbi Waxman
  • DO THIS FOR ME by Eliza Kennedy
  • THE REGULARS by Georgia Clark
  • SARONG PARTY GIRLS by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
  • SOMETHING BORROWED by Emily Giffin
  • HELLO SUNSHINE by Laura Dave
  • The QUEEN OF BABBLE series by Meg Cabot

Good writing is the most important thing. A strong voice and a captivating plot are the most important elements to me. So if you’re not sure if your manuscript is women’s fiction or romance or mainstream or upmarket or commercial (what do these terms mean, anyway???), but you think I might be a good fit – send it on over! (Just a note on this: I am open to NA with relevant themes, but I will ask you to recategorize it as Adult.)

I’m prioritizing underrepresented voices. The publishing world – and women’s fiction, in particular – is very white, straight, cis, abled, and neurotypical. This needs to change. I’m excited about receiving submissions from everyone, but I’d really love to see submissions from #ownvoices authors. (Please see here for a description of what #ownvoices means.)

If your manuscript contains any of these topics of personal interest to me, then that might just shoot you to the top of my pile:

  • Humor. I love a good rom-com, but any story that makes me laugh is a winner.
  • Women in STEM. Particularly techies. (Computer science major here.)
  • Iran. I’m part Persian, so I love reading stories about Iran, or the Iranian-American experience. Bonus points for scenes including Persian food (I make a killer ghormeh sabzi).
  • Brooklyn. I was born and raised in Canarsie, then lived in Bay Ridge, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Boerum Hill. I love reading stories set anywhere in my home borough.
  • Motherhood. I’ve got a 5 year old. I live in the suburbs. I get it.
  • Cardi B. I love everything about her. Her music, her style, her personality, her Instagram. If you’ve written an MC that’s reminiscent of Bardi, I want to read all about her.
  • Intersectional feminism. If you don’t know what this is, we’re probably not a good match.
  • Girls Trip, the movie. Have you written a novel that’s reminiscent of this film? Please send it to me.
  • Travel. Domestic or international. Hotels. Hostels. Airports. Cruise ships. Tour buses. I love it all. Let me live vicariously through your manuscript.

What Shouldn’t You Send Me?

Please do not send me:

  • Historical fiction set before the 1980s. This is best for everyone. My history grades were atrocious.
  • Science fiction or fantasy. (Magical realism is okay, though!)
  • Inspirational fiction or stories with religious elements.
  • Thrillers, though a mysterious subplot is cool with me.
  • Books about cancer, unless they are done in a lighthearted way (like LIFE AND OTHER NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES by Camille Noe Pagan). I can’t deal with descriptions of illness or treatment or death; sorry, this is a personal trigger for me.
  • Stories with rape or sexual assault.
  • If you wrote a tearjerker, I’m probably not the right mentor for you. This means no sad, serious stories that revolve around tragedy or death. And while I don’t require an HEA, a book needs to at least end on a hopeful note for me to connect with it.

Any Other Questions?

Comment below or hit me up on Twitter and I’ll try my best to answer them. (But please, please do not pitch me.) My handle is @KristinRockaway. To return to the main Pitch Wars wish list post, click here.


27 thoughts on “Pitch Wars Wishlist

  1. Hi Kristin, thanks so much for mentoring in Pitch Wars this year. I write a light women’s fiction with strong romantic elements (chick lit), and the manuscript itself is pretty light throughout, except for the second last chapter where a death is involved & briefly mentioned. The whole story itself doesn’t revolve around the death, and there’s a HEA, and everything works out in the end. Would you consider a manuscript like that? I would really love to work with you, but I would understand if it doesn’t fit your wishlist.
    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Cynthia! This doesn’t sound like a tearjerker to me, so I’ll totally consider it. Thanks for asking, and good luck!

  2. Hey Kristin, I’d love to pitch to you b/c my MC is all STEM. She has a post-doc in electrical engineering at Yale. However, it’s a contemporary women’s thriller with a romantic subplot. Not the dark kind. Much more in the lighthearted vein of Carl Hiaasen than Tom Clancy.

    Think this is something you’d consider, or should I pitch elsewhere?

    And thanks for being a mentor.

    1. Hi Donna! Thanks so much for your comment. This is a tough call. I’d absolutely love to see a WF manuscript with a STEM MC like this, especially if it’s on the lighter side. I don’t have much experience in the realm of thrillers, though, so factor that in to whether you would like to sub to me when there are several other mentors who have thrillers as their specialty.

      Best of luck to you!

  3. Hi Kristin,
    Our novel hits a lot of your wish list items, BUT: 1. We’ve been told it could be YA or NA; would this span be a no for you? 2. We’re under your minimum word count. Is this a deal breaker? 3. We’re co-writers. I haven’t seen any mention of this in the rules for PW, so would that work for you?

    1. Hi LouAnn,

      I’m totally fine with co-writers applying, however I’m pretty strict on this word count. 60,000 is actually quite low for commercial women’s fiction, and if anyone subs with this word count, I will ask them to make it longer. Anything shorter than 60,000 isn’t going to be developed enough for a Pitch Wars revision. Additionally, I’m not open to YA ; by definition, YA is not women’s fiction. I’m open to NA, but as I stated in my wish list, I will ask any NA applicants to be ready to rework their manuscripts to be firmly in the Adult category.


  4. Kristin, hi and thanks for mentoring. My novel is set in the 1980s. Are you considering that contemporary and is it something that you’d consider? It’s definitely a girl-power self-discovery journey type of thing, with an aspiring artist at its center and gobs of new wave musical sub-culture references, including a certain amount of androgyny/sexual diversity among some of the characters.
    I’ve gotten mixed signals on whether this era is considered historical, or near-historical, etc. Could you weigh in?

    1. Hi Suzanne! Thanks for your question.

      I will consider any story set in the 80s or later, and I’ve amended my wishlist accordingly. If you were selected, we would do the research together to figure out how to query it (historical, contemporary, some hybrid of the two).

      Thanks, and good luck!

  5. Hi Kristin! I have a women’s fiction manuscript with romantic elements. It may be classified as a “tearjerker,” but it all works out in the end. Would you consider something like that? I’d love to work with you, but I want to honor your wishlist and still have a chance to be your mentee. Thank you!

    1. Hi Brooke! Thanks for your question.

      I would like to lean away from very sad stories, even if they do have a “happily ever after.” For example, if the story revolves around a dead husband or dead children, as mentioned in other comments, then I am not going to be the best fit for you. The vast majority of your story should be lighthearted, as opposed to tear-inducing.

      I hope this helps!

      1. Thank you so much for answering my question! That really helps. My story is not for you, so I’m glad I asked. Good luck with Pitch Wars!

  6. Kristin–I’m wondering what qualifies as religious elements in your mind. The book I’m pitching has a character who is a church choir director on a cross-country pilgrimage to visit the place where her husband & kids died, in company with a spitfire young pregnant woman–so it is a tear jerker but also has lots of fun moments in it; however, it does open with her spectacularly self-destructing at a church funeral, and I’m wondering if that would make it a no go for you. Thanks!

    1. Hi Kathleen. Thanks for your comment!

      I’m really trying to avoid stories with religious themes, ones that espouse the tenets of any religion in an overt way. Having a church funeral as a setting doesn’t necessarily qualify, but if there are a lot of references to a god/gods that play a significant role in the plot or theme, then I’m probably not the best match for your manuscript.

      With regard to tearjerkers: all stories are emotional, right? Even the funny ones, when done well, have moments of sadness. But there’s a difference between a comedy with sad moments, and a tearjerker with comedic moments. If your manuscript is the latter, I’m probably not the right mentor for you.

      I hope this helps!

  7. Hi Kristin!

    Would you consider mentoring for a memoir? My story hits on the “woman (or women) embarking on some sort of life experience that leads to personal growth” included in your wishlist in that I happily embarked upon marriage and children only to be sucked into the pit of despair after my husband took his own life and my kids fell into horrible choices/substance abuse that landed them in dire straits. I’m back to relative happiness thanks to the maturing of my kids and me finding new love (romantic story included in the ms) although I’m none the stronger for the experience. (Sadly, I’ve not found “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” to be true.)

    Anyway, would love to work with you if you’d consider my story. Thanks!

    1. Hi Mary! Thank you for your message. I’m honored that you’re considering me; however, I believe the subject matter of your memoir may be a bit too heavy for me, since I’m focusing on more lighthearted stories. I wish you the best of luck!

      1. Ha ha, you’re correct, lighthearted would NOT be used to describe my story. Thanks for your quick response. I’m sorry I won’t have the opportunity to work with you but wish you and your mentee the best!

  8. Loved Wild Woman’s Guide! I’d love to sub to you, however, my manuscript is definitely contemp romance with a HFN/HEA. Are you okay with a straight romance if the female MC has enough of an arc?

    1. Hi Lauren! Thanks so much for your comment; I’m glad you loved WILD WOMAN. 🙂

      The lines between contemporary romance and women’s fiction are often blurred; in fact, when I queried WILD WOMAN, I pitched it as “straddling the line between CR and WF.” My agent and editor helped me revise it to be more firmly in the category of women’s fiction, and that’s how we sold it, but IMO, without the romance with Carson, there isn’t much of a story, right?

      If your book is similar to WILD WOMAN, in that there is a central romance but the heroine is the focus of the story, then I will absolutely consider it. However, if your hero is also a POV character, I’m probably not the right fit. That doesn’t mean your hero shouldn’t have his own character arc — Carson had one in WILD WOMAN, right? — but it shouldn’t be the center of the story. I love to read romances with dual POVs from the hero and heroine’s perspective, but I know that developing a hero’s arc is not my strong suit, so if that’s important to you, you will be better served with subbing to one of our many talented romance mentors.

      I hope this helps! Let me know if you need further clarification.

      1. I agree about the lines, and when I first wrote my ms, it was more WF than CR (read: substantial rewrite ensued!) However, I like when the men are catalysts for the women’s change and vice versa and I totally rooted for her and Carson all the way! Mine is a dual POV but I’ll be honest, her arc is more important (don’t tell him that, though). Are you okay with high heat levels?

        1. High heat levels are okay with me, but again, the dual POV might mean I’m not the best fit for you. There are so many great mentors who are specializing in romance, and those who are very talented at dual POV stories — in particular, I recommend Helen Hoang, who was my critique partner for WILD WOMAN!

          Good luck!

            1. No problem — thank you so much for your interest! I really want to make sure you use your subs to your advantage, since you only have four of them. 🙂 Thank you so much for reading, and again, best of luck!

  9. Hi Kristin, I’ve never been part of Pitch Wars before but am going to throw my hat into the ring for the first time. I’m writing contemporary women’s fiction and was thinking of submitting to you – wanted to check whether my being Brisbane, Australia based would be a deal breaker for you?

    1. Hi Fiona! Thanks for your comment — and for your interest in subbing to me! I’m open to mentees from around the world, including Australia. I’m in California, so the time difference between us might mean a slight delay in communication, but in most cases I will always be able to get back to you in 24 hours, and during crunch time, I can make myself available for real-time chats. Hope this answers your question, and let me know if you have any others!

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