Trick or Treat with a Pro Novel Editor – Win Free Editing!

***This Contest is over. Sorry! Still interested in free editing? Click here or follow my blog to get email updates about future contests.***

***Contest results are here.***

It’s almost Halloween! As grown-ups, we’re too old to get free candy (sad and unfair), but we’re not too old for grown-up prizes!

If you come trick or treating to my door (AKA the comment section) between now and midnight on October 31st, you will be in the running for some awesome prizes!


The Prizes

GRAND PRIZE: Free edit of your novel’s first 25,000 words.

SECOND PLACE: Free edit of your novel’s first 10,000 words.

THIRD PLACE: Free edit of your novel’s first 5,000 words.

PARTICIPANTS: Free critique of your query letter as a reply in the comment section.

How to Enter for Second and Third Place

Since this has gotten hundreds of views and only one entry (what???), I figure you guys must not have your query letters ready. So…for second and third place only, all you have to do is Tweet about the giveaway to enter (make sure you include my handle: @keytopservices so I can count your submission).

I will randomly choose the winner. You can Tweet up to 3 times per day.

How to Enter For the Grand Prize

Leave a comment with your query letter or a short pitch (if you’re self-publishing, you can use your back cover blurb). I will be judging the entries based on who impresses me the most. Consider this a practice run for your query.

*If you do NOT want your query to be public, you may email it to me:

The free query letter critique will be performed as a reply to your query in the comments section. The critique only applies to true query letters and back cover blurbs (not alternative/informal pitches).

You may delete your query letter after the contest ends if you choose to.

The winning entries will be announced on Friday along with an explanation as to why I found their query letters the most intriguing.

Prize Redemption

The Grand Prize, Second Place, and Third Place prizes must all be redeemed within one year of my announcing the winners or the prizes expire.

Due to already scheduled work, January will be the earliest the free edits can be performed. I advise scheduling your free edits as early as possible.

If there is a high number of entries, it may take me a week or more to provide all the query letter critiques.

Please Spread the Word!

Share this contest on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and beyond! I really appreciate it!


10 thoughts on “Trick or Treat with a Pro Novel Editor – Win Free Editing!

  1. mindyhardwick says:

    Dear Ms. Brock,

    Twelve-year-old Colt has always adored his toy inventor, Granddad. But, when Granddad dies, he leaves a trunk full of old toys, a stack of bills and Mr. Pooch, a basset hound who slobbers. After Mom loses her job, she moves everyone into Granddad’s old house. Soon Colt is making friends with neighborhood gang leader, Elliot and hanging out at Seymour’s toy shop. But when he finds the prototype of Granddad’s toy inside a secret drawer, Colt begins to realize that things are not as they seem and it’s up to him to uncover the secret behind Granddad’s Toys, a 40,000-word middle grade novel.

    I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College and am a member of SCBWI. My upper middle grade, Stained Glass Summer, published in December 2011 from Musa Publishing and is a 2013 EPIC ebook Finalist in the Children’s Category. I have a picture book forthcoming from MeeGenius Publishing entitled, Finders Keepers.

    Other publishing credits include a young adult novel, Weaving Magic, as well as various articles about writing and publishing for children. When I am not writing, I teach courses for educators at Seattle Pacific University. I am included on the Washington State Arts Commission Teaching Artist Roster and am a frequent school and library presenter.

    Thank you for your time.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Mindy Hardwick

    • Ellen_Brock says:

      Hi Mindy,

      Thanks for entering the giveaway!

      This seems like an interesting book, but I think the query letter could use a bit more focus. You include a lot of elements that never become relevant and feel disjointed from the storyline: the stack of money, the dog, making friends with a gang leader (this seems like a big deal, but it’s never expanded on, which leaves me wondering whether this is supposed to be a good or bad thing), hanging out at Seymour’s toy shop (Why? Who is Seymour? How does this affect the plot?).

      The last line is too vague. What makes him think that things aren’t what they seem? Why does he think there’s a secret to the toys at all? Why does he need to discover the secret? What will happen if he doesn’t discover it? Basically: what are the stakes?

      Your biography/credits section is too long. Include your credits in the briefest way possible. Cut out everything from “When I am not writing” to the end of that paragraph. It isn’t relevant to the story or your ability to write it.

      The problem with a long bio/credits section is that it’s not particularly interesting, so you’re losing the excitement the agent/editor gained from an interesting story. Do you want the agent/editor’s last impression to be that you present at libraries or that you have an awesome story? Just something to keep in mind.

      I hope this helps! Winners will be posted later today.

      Have a great weekend!


  2. Dr. Tiffany says:

    Dear Ms. Brock,

    Complete at 86,000 words, Etherea is a YA dystopian fiction with series potential.

    In 2073, Etherea is the last piece of land on Earth not destroyed by the nuclear world war fought to achieve a genetically superior human race. Genos (genetically perfect humans) are the inhabitants of Etherea & are thought to be Earth’s last survivors. Etherea’s leadership, the Bullseye, strives to maintain a perfect government to overcompensate for the terrible suffering they once endured. To sustain this perfection, Genos receive a monthly injection of Zephrax, a drug used to control the society by suppressing distant memories, subduing negative emotions, & increasing hedonism. Side-effects include complacency & compliance with the status quo.

    Unlike her peers at the military Academy, 17 year-old Avalon metabolizes Zephrax twice as fast. Unpleasant memories & emotions of her life before Etherea begin to resurface. Constantly awakened by nightmares from a time long ago, Avalon begins to question her “perfect” life, haunted by images that urge her to seek out the truth.

    In her final week at the military Academy, Avalon meets Asher, a mysterious new student, who was rescued from the decimated world outside of Etherea. The physical and emotional connection between them is irresistible. Avalon discovers that Asher is her Helical Double (partners w/perfect genetic compatibility), a rare occurrence. With knowledge of the future, since he is secretly a time traveler, Asher removes a microchip from Avalon’s leg that was implanted by the Defiance (a resistance group located outside of Etherea) during her childhood. It is the truth message & her mission.

    Upon learning the truth, Avalon agrees to her mission, a dangerous & life altering one that could tear her and Asher apart. As time passes, the Bullseye becomes increasingly suspicious of her actions. To lay low, Avalon meets all graduation requirements to include competing in the Darwin Race & Innovator’s Challenge. Avalon’s mission becomes more complicated when she learns that the Earth’s survival is in jeopardy due to failing Earth Balance caused by human destruction & selfishness. But nothing is ever as it seems in Etherea.

    I am an active duty Air Force psychologist and published researcher in the field of psychology. My writing is inspired by my work with USAF Special Forces, SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), PTSD, deployment experiences, and everything psychology related.

    Very Respectfully,
    Psych Doc

    • Ellen_Brock says:

      Thanks for submitting to the contest!

      This story sounds interesting, but the query is much too long and complicated. Try to cut it down to the core of your story.

      It isn’t clear to me how any of the elements fit together. What does her metabolizing Zephrax twice as fast have to do with the rest of the plot? The point of the story seems to be her meeting Asher and that appears to be what sparks the events of the rest of the story. So this initial interesting element (metabolizing the drug 2x as fast) doesn’t seem to really affect the plot.

      Asher and Avalon being “Helical Doubles” makes me think that they’re siblings or twins, but that might just be me.

      What is the truth message? What is her mission? What does Earth’s survival or destruction have to do with Avalon?

      While your story may be fantastic, it’s not coming across clearly in the query.

      Your bio section doesn’t tie into the query very well for me because the story didn’t seem very psychologically heavy. I don’t think the bio paragraph is needed. It’s okay not to have one.

      I hope this helps! Winners will be posted later today.

      Have a great weekend!


  3. kaistrandauthor says:

    Dear Ms. Brock,

    Power. Strength. Assurance. Cara never realized those specific words could be felt, but they pour off of the boy in waves.

    Cara Cassidy knows her brother’s suicide left her psychologically broken, she just doesn’t care to do much about it. However, something about the Aladdin look-alike stirs up longing in degrees she’s never before experienced and has her doing things that most assuredly give him the wrong impression – like kissing him before their first date. That’s it! She needs to stay away from Nik Rock.

    It isn’t only her desire that Nik stirs up. He also brings trouble. When a royal princess and her guards show up at school to ask Cara’s assistance in obtaining Nik’s cooperation, his ‘Seattle’ origins become suspicious. Add in being kidnapped by an international gang and tortured for information she doesn’t even have, and Cara finds herself involved in affairs far beyond her small town experience. It’s final! Nik Rock is very, very bad for her.

    It isn’t until she faces the very real possibility of her own death that she realizes she is no longer the broken teenager she used to be. Somehow knowing Nik has knitted her frayed ends and mended her tattered emotions and most importantly given her permission to forgive herself. Turns out, Nik Rock is the best thing for her. Now, will she live long enough to let him know?

    When international intrigue hits small town America, more than the car chases get your blood pumping. FINDING THOR is an 83K word contemporary young adult romance that weaves mystery and high stakes into everyday high school life.

    I write middle grade and young adult fiction with several publishing credits to my name. My middle grade novel, The Weaver, was an EPIC eBook Awards finalist and my young adult fantasy, King of Bad, has been on the publisher’s top 5 bestsellers list since it’s July release, reaching the #1 spot it’s second month.

    I look forward to hearing from you,

    Kai Strand

    • Ellen_Brock says:

      Hi Kai,

      Thanks for entering the contest!

      This sounds like it might be an interesting story, but the query isn’t quite as intriguing or clear as it could be.

      Why does Cara decide that she has to stay away from Nik Rock? Just because he makes her feel something? My fear here is that this is false drama created by her resisting her attraction to him for no logical reason (I could be totally wrong, but this is a very common problem that agents/editors watch out for).

      When the princess shows up, all the sudden the genre jumps from contemporary to fantasy. Later it’s clear that this is contemporary, but “princess” is one of those words that’s going to immediately make this seem like a fantasy. She also disappears for the rest of the query, calling into question why she was included at all.

      The gang torture also seems to come out of nowhere. Like the princess, it’s not clear what the gang has to do with anything, and the concept is dropped for the rest of the query.

      What does Nik do that is so great it fixes Cara? He isn’t depicted as doing anything in this query.

      I don’t know your novel, but this query leads me to believe this is another “damsel in distress needs a boy to fix her” novel. Is the climax Nik fixing her? If not, what makes her an active protagonist? Why should the reader care about her if Nik is the one doing the fixing? It’s something to think about because an active protagonist is one of the biggest things agents/editors look for in a novel.

      I hope this helps! Winners will be announced later today!


  4. R. A. Whan (@R_A_Whan) says:

    Stone Richards a small time, small town, television news reporter just trying to make a name for himself. But in a industry where you must build trust and keep the identities of your sources secret, Stone soon becomes involved in a dangerous game, when he begins receiving tips and inside information to a series of crimes, Stone realizes that his source may be a little to close to the action. Desperate to track down his source’s true identity and motives Stone must decide which to put first his career or his ethics. When the crime spree continues, he may find himself on the wrong side of the law. But what the killer has in store may make national news of both of them.

    Unnamed Sources

    R.A. Whan

    Sorry in the process of writing this for self publication. Not quite in query letter form.

  5. Tobie Easton says:

    Dear Ms. Brock,

    Lia Nautilus may be a Mermaid, but she’s never lived in the ocean. Among Malibu, California’s seaside mansions hides a community of land-dwelling Mer. There, Lia is safe from the war raging in the ocean’s depths. Her biggest problems are surviving P.E. and learning to walk in four-inch heels when her leg control is still a little shaky. Oh, and keeping her feelings for Clay Ericson in check. Sure, he’s gorgeous in that cocky, leather jacket sort of way, and he makes her feel like there’s a whole school of fish swimming in her stomach, but Lia’s parents would totally flip a fin if they found out she liked a human. So it’s for the best that he’s dating that new girl.

    Until Lia finds out the new girl’s a Mermaid who’s ensnaring Clay with an ancient siren song. If Lia hopes to free him, she’ll have to get closer to Clay than ever. The more time they spend together, the harder it is for Lia to resist her feelings. Then she learns there’s a way to save him and get everything she’s ever dreamed of in the process—at a terrible price.

    In EMERGE, a 90,000 word YA fantasy romance with crossover appeal, Lia will risk everything—break every rule that has ever kept her, her family, and her entire community safe—to rescue the human she loves and find out where she belongs.

    EMERGE will appeal to readers of who enjoy new, contemporary spins on fairytales and mythology (like those by Aprilynne Pike and Amanda Hocking).

    I am a member of SCBWI and YARWA, the Young Adult chapter of RWA. I am also the founder of the popular twitter hashtag #whatareyoureading, where I pose the question to celebrities, writers, and librarians, then share their responses. Thank you for your time and consideration.


    Tobie Easton

    • Ellen_Brock says:

      Hi Tobie,

      Thanks for entering the contest!

      What I like about this query is that it has an identifiable voice and it is also very focused and clear.

      My only major quibble is that when Lia finds out the new girl is a mermaid, isn’t that a little strange? I wanted at least some indication of whether this was shocking or typical. Are there tons of mermaids on land? If she’s a mermaid, wouldn’t she know the other mermaids and be able to identify them? You don’t need to answer all of these questions, but some sort of indication would be nice. Maybe something like: “When Lia finds out the new girl is a fellow mermaid who’s come to land….”

      I have mixed feelings about “for a terrible price.” On one hand, it’s intriguing, but on the other, it’s a bit too coy. I could see agents/editors going both ways on that line. It will probably depend on the person.

      The two paragraphs after the plot summary should be cut. It’s obvious that she’ll do anything to save the human. It’s obvious this will appeal to fans of contemporary spins on fairytales and mythology. This just takes up a bunch of words to say things the agent/editor will already know.

      I’d also cut out the bit about Twitter. Knowing what celebrities are reading doesn’t do anything for your ability to write a great book.

      Keep the bio/credits section super short and simple or cut it altogether. It just drains the excitement you’ve built up with your story.

      I hope this helps! Winners will be posted later today!


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