Also called the “high concept” pitch, or an elevator pitch when spoken aloud, the “quick pitch” is a way of encapsulating the heart, plot, and stakes of your novel as quickly as possible and as engagingly as possible. It is SUPER useful when you are pitching to agents, or when I–an agent–am pitching to editors too. After all, editors are just as busy as I am, and if I can boil it down quickly, succinctly and with heart, then maybe I’ll get them to dig into my longer “book blurb” which I always include below the high-concept pitch in my submission emails. Maybe they’ll read my submission sooner because of it?
Can I tell you a secret?
I don’t always read the whole query either. I’ve discussed this with other agents, and many others out there read the query and decide if they want to look at the written sample from that. Not so much for me. We’re not all the same, or have the same approach. I’m more/most interested in great writing, so I’ll often scan a query for the plot pitch and then read some of the sample before I make a decision. I’ve found there are some authors who can write THE HECK out of a book, but can’t pitch to save their life. It’s not usually the case, but I don’t plan on missing out on a Picasso because of this…
So, please don’t stress so much about your query with me. Your writing sample is what’s paramount, at first. The entirety of your query is going to matter only if your writing is so supremely amazing, your characters so immediately engaging, your voice so stand out, that I want to dig in more to see what’s up in your story and know about you too. So, my best advice when querying me is to give me a HIGH-CONCEPT pitch right at the top of your query letter where I can see it. Bold it, all-cap it, italicize it, designate it HIGH-CONCEPT PITCH: (followed by the pitch), whatever you want so I see it right away because that’s going to help your case most, the fastest during that initial pass.
Okay, so what prompted this blog post? Props to Emily Rodmell’s recent twitter post below. She’s an editor for Harlequin. I got excited when I saw Emily’s post because SHE GETS ME.
High-Concept Pitches from my own clients!
This is the high-concept pitch I sent editors for Lora’s Senf’s debut THE CLACKITY (summer 2022) from Atheneum/Simon & Schuster:
A 55K-word creepy middle grade horror portal fantasy in which an abandoned abattoir acts as a gateway to a world of ghosts, witches and monsters playing a game with deadly consequences for an orphaned 12-year-old girl whose only remaining family is the prize at the end of the game.
This one is for Carrie Talick’s BEWARE THE MERMAIDS (coming out next week August 10, 2021) from Alcove Press! Order link here.
A cheating husband’s real estate deal threatens housewife Nancy’s beloved yacht harbor. So she makes a bet and teaches her friends to sail to save it—and herself—by winning the thrilling Border Dash race.
Next up is SNOWSTORM SABOTAGE from Kerry Johnson. This one is a little longer, but it works! Order link here.
When single-mom Everly Raven discovers a body inside a chalet on her family’s ski resort, blame falls on her. Racing to evade the target on her back, she’s forced to work with her ex and father of her child, FBI agent Cristian Ruiz, to clear her name. But with a blizzard closing in and the killer’s henchman hot on their trail, can they stay alive long enough to find the real killer before he finds Everly first?
Check this one out from my very first sale, Kurt Kirchmeier’s THE ABSENCE OF SPARROWS! It’s a bit longer too, but it sold to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in a pre-empt so it worked out fine! Order link here.
The Age of Miracles meets The Thing About Jellyfish with the vibe of Stranger Things. When the Glass Plague sweeps through his town and a voice on the radio calls for the simultaneous shattering of all the victims, 11-year-old bird watcher Ben Cameron must stand against his own brother to keep his dad in one piece, this while holding out hope that some missing sparrows will return with his father’s soul before it’s too late.
The Art of the Tagline:
Taglines can be fun and useful too AND might also get my attention as well in a query. Imagine the above pitches boiled down from sugar water to a dab of syrup. They are concentrated pitches! Quick bites to eat. A juicy worm on a hook if you were a hungry fish.
The following tag lines can be found online, usually in bold, at the top of whatever sales outlet is selling the books. Look up your favorite books. You’ll find them there:
Carrie’s BEWARE THE MERMAIDS: Romance, betrayal, and an epic yacht race make Carrie Talick’s debut novel perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Susan Mallery.
Kerry’s SNOWSTORM SABOTAGE: (order link here.) Can she survive a blizzard…and being framed?
Kellie VanHorn’s BURIED EVIDENCE (order link here): Can unearthed bones solve a ten-year-old cold case?
Kellie VanHorn’s FATAL FLASHBACK (order link here): This one seems to have two! An undercover investigation means deadly danger. Will an agent’s missing memories save her?
Kurt Kirchmeier’s THE ABSENCE OF SPARROWS (order link here): Stranger Things meets The Stand in this haunting coming-of-age novel about a plague that brings the world to a halt — and the boy who believes that his town’s missing sparrows can save his family.
Is anyone getting Twitter Pitch party vibes from these high-concept pitches? You totally should be because they are HIGH CONCEPT, which is why those parties rock. You probably have a few more words to work with in a query quick pitch, so get on it and get seen!