Congratulations! (Or apologies, maybe? We’ll see!) You’ve reached the wishlist of Pitch Wars 2020 Young Adult mentor team Dawn Ius and April Snellings. We’re glad you’re here—we have such sights to show you. I’m April, and I’ll be your guide. Please keep your hands, feet, and other sticky-outy bits inside the vehicle at all times. We’ve all seen Hereditary, right? We’ll not be having any of that on my watch.
If both horror references above made sense to you, you’ve come to the right wishlist. Dawn and I read widely and we’re open to a variety of genres, but we’re especially excited to read your YA thrillers, horror, and dark fantasy. (We'll definitely consider NA, but we might ask you to age it down to YA.) So if you think Nancy was the true hero of The Craft and you nearly lost your mind when Scream 5 was announced, read on...
What Is Pitch Wars?
Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to spend three months revising their manuscript. It ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where agents can read a pitch/first page and can request to read more.
Who We Are
DAWN: Dawn Ius is an author, screenwriter, editor, book coach, and communications professional. She has published three young adult novels with Simon Pulse—Anne & Henry, Overdrive, and Lizzie—as well as 16 educational graphic novels for the Alberta Canola Producers, which are being made into cartoons. She is a new writer for the animated show Rainbow Rangers, which airs on Nickelodeon Jr, and is the showrunner/head writer of a yet-undisclosed upcoming animated TV show for adults.
Dawn is the Managing Editor of the e-magazine published by the International Thriller Writers, The Big Thrill, and is a book coach and development editor with more than 15 years professional experience. She has edited numerous international publications and published upwards of 500 articles in a diverse spectrum of magazines and newspapers across North America.
Dawn lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with her husband and two (very) large dogs. She loves cars that go fast, kayaking and kickboxing, and stories that make the hair on the back of her neck stand on end.
She is represented by Mandy Hubbard at Emerald City Literary Agency for her YA fiction, Anne Tibbets at D4E0 Literary for her adult fiction, and Anna Archer at Lucas Talent for her screenwriting.
APRIL: Hey, that's me! I'm an award-winning and therefor very fancy author, journalist, scriptwriter, editor, and book coach. I've somehow built a career out of my passion for spooky pop culture. (My obsession with The Facts of Life has thus far been less productive, but I remain hopeful.)
As a leading authority on weird history and horror, I've published more than 500 pieces in magazines and newspapers across North America, on topics including the cultural biography of the Ouija board, the morbid history of Victorian anatomical models, and the life and legacy of Shirley Jackson. I'm a scriptwriter for the celebrated audio drama series Tales from Beyond the Pale, an Entertainment Weekly "Must List" pick that has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. I served as an editor on several volumes of the Rue Morgue Library, including Blood in Four Colours: A Graphic History of Horror Comics, The Authorized Phantasm Film Companion, and Monstro Bizarro: An Essential Manual of Mysterious Monsters. In 2016, I received an Award of Merit in Editorial Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. Also in 2016, I was named Writer of the Year in the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.
I'm currently the Associate Editor of the International Thriller Writers' e-magazine The Big Thrill. As a freelance editor and book coach, I've provided big-picture developmental edits and laser-focused line edits on bestselling novels, nonfiction books, comic books, and scripts. My first book, Ghoulish: The Art of Gary Pullin, was released in May 2018 by 1984 Publishing, with my second title, another horror-themed nonfiction, slated for release in 2021.
I live in Tennessee with my long-suffering wife, our daughter, several recalcitrant dogs and cats, and a seven-foot animatronic werewolf named C. Thomas Howl.
I'm represented by Stacey Graham at Three Seas Literary.
Why You Should Submit To Us
As writers, Dawn and I understand how deeply personal your book is and how much it means to you. We know how much work you've put into it, and we know what it's like to dream of that moment when you walk into a bookstore and see your baby on the shelf. (Your book baby. We're still talking about your book here.) We've been there, we made it to the other side, and we'll help you navigate that long, difficult path.
As editors, we have one all-important thing you lack: distance. Between the two of us, Dawn and I have 25 years combined experience in the publishing industry, more than 20 books in print across multiple genres and mediums, and more than 1,000 published bylines. We've been working together for years, and I don't mind saying we're one hell of a team. We can teach you to look at your book through an editor's (or agent's) eyes, and we'll coach you through the changes you can make to give your manuscript its best chance of getting out of the slush pile. We’ll go to the mat for changes we strongly believe will increase your chances of landing an agent, but in the end, we understand that it’s YOUR book and we’ll never ask you to sacrifice your vision; as your mentors, our job is to help you get that vision onto the page. And when we're done playing coach, we'll play cheerleader—we're committed to your success and we truly cannot wait to see what you accomplish. I’m sorry but I don’t anymore sports metaphors, so I’ll have to leave it at that.
Our Mentoring Style
Dawn and I have benefited from the guidance of wonderful mentors in the publishing business, and we're excited for the chance to pay it forward. We're eager to dig into your manuscript and guide you through the process of making it even better. You can expect at least two thorough edit letters plus a final read-through and round of tweaks before the agent showcase. We'll start with big-picture items such as plot, character, and pacing, and we'll work our way down to more granular revisions to hone your voice and sharpen your prose. Your manuscript will always be your baby—we just want to help you get the book on the page as close as possible to that brilliant, shining thing that's in your head.
Our Communication Style
We're open to pretty much anything that works for you, with the possible exception of carrier pigeons. (Dawn has large dogs and I have dogs and cats, so there is an 87% chance your edits would get eaten.) Dawn and I are in different time zones so email and text are easiest to coordinate, but we're also up for phone calls, Skype, or Zoom.
What We Want
Finally! [Cracks knuckles.]
First and foremost, we would really, really like to see your YA thrillers, horror, and even mysteries. Yes, these are very different genres, but we're suckers for all of them.
Here are a few weirdly specific things that would ring our bells:
High concept horror, especially with an element of social commentary, like Get Out, Us, and Lovecraft Country.
A cinematic, page-shredding (like page-turning, only faster) thriller that will keep us up all night and guessing until the last page. Think Stephanie Perkins's There’s Someone Inside Your House.
Stories steeped in mood and atmosphere with immersive, evocative settings, like Shea Ernshaw's The Wicked Deep.
A Black final girl, or any horror trope reimagined with a diverse cast or filtered through a diverse or underrepresented cultural lens.
Horror that will make our spouses wonder what’s with all the bright lights we’re suddenly leaving on at night.
Diverse casts and #OwnVoices stories.
Horror and thrillers steeped in pop culture or offering fresh takes on genre tropes. For horror, think the Scream franchise, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids. For thrillers or mysteries, think Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious series and Riley Sager’s—well, just think Riley Sager.
Speaking of, if you’re the YA Riley Sager, please sit next to us. You know that thing he does where he takes classic horror movies, rips them apart, and stitches them back together into something new and unexpected? Do that for us and we’ll arm wrestle Michael Myers (AND WIN) to mentor you.
A nail-biting survival thriller or horror with a female protagonist who's more than meets the eye, like You’re Next or Ready or Not.
Horror with a killer (sorry) sense of humor. If you can scare us on one page and make us laugh on the next, we’re in.
Stories that live at the intersection of scary and sweet, like BtVS and The Final Girls (the one with Taissa Farmiga and Malin Akerman).
Found family/family of choice–give us your Scooby Gangs! Bonus points for all-girl teams who kick all the ass.
Gender- or genre-bent takes on beloved (to us, at least) properties. If you’ve got The Lost Boys but with witches or The Facts of Life only they're all werewolves, we’re here for that.
We’re not the droids you’re looking for if your novel is hard SF or high fantasy, but we’ll absolutely take a look at light sci-fi with a killer hook, a genre-bent space opera, urban/contemporary fantasy with a fresh voice, or historical fantasy with a creepy streak. And if you've got a wackadoodle sci-fi/fantasy/horror mashup like Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth, inject it into our veins.
What We're Not So Keen On
We're pretty open-minded, but there are a few things that are non-starters:
On-page animal or child abuse
On-page torture or sexual assault/abuse
Anything that even remotely smacks of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. Unless, of course, these things are plot elements and it’s clear that they are Very Bad Things.
Stories where the abuse or murder of a woman or girl drives a male character’s journey or arc
Faith-based fiction (though stories rooted in religious mythology are fine)