How to Hone Your High Concept Pitch

Literary agent Danielle Burby of Nelson Literary Agency offers her best tips on how to hone your pitch for your high concept book.
Author:
Publish date:

Do you have a high concept book in the works? Literary agent Danielle Burby gives her best tips on how to improve your high concept pitch so it connects with an agent or editor.

A high concept idea is based on a simple “what-if” premise that can be pitched in one to three sentences. It tends to be an original twist, adaptation, or blend of ideas that have been successful in the past. Nearly every idea has been had before, but playing with variations on what has already been done gives you a better chance of being unlike anything else out there.

The goal of a high concept pitch is to make the person you’re pitching wonder why no one has thought of your idea before.

Literary agent Danielle Burby of Nelson Literary Agency is an aficionado for high concept books. Here, she offers her best tips for whetting a pitch for a high concept book to a razor-sharp edge.

“The best way to hone your pitch is to practice it on friends and family. What are the elements that spark genuine interest rather than polite nodding? What concise description captures both character and stakes?

Keep it simple. You don't need to pack in a lot of information. You just need to pack in the right information. Jordyn Taylor, a client of mine, is working on a historical YA called The Paper Girl of Paris (forthcoming summer 2020) and when I was putting together the announcement of the sale, I was trying my hardest to squeeze the most information possible into the smallest amount of space (character names, conflict, stakes, how people were connected etc.).

It was dense and overwhelming and it wasn't working. Then the editor and I realized all we needed to convey was that the story is about: A girl in the present who inherits a secret apartment in Paris that has been locked since WWII and a girl in Nazi-occupied Paris who joins the French Resistance.

You get the unique setting (Paris). You get the “what if” (i.e. what if I inherited a secret apartment?). You get a sense of high stakes (WWII and French Resistance). It accomplishes everything it needs to accomplish, and by not packing in too much information, you allow the important pieces of information to breathe rather than smothering them in too much detail.”

WDC19 Pitch Slam

Write better. Get published. Build your network.

Writer's Digest Annual Conference | August 22-25 | New York City

Batra&DeCandido_1:18

Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido: Entertainment and Outrage

Authors Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido explain how they came to co-write their novel and why it's important to them that the readers experience outrage while reading.

incite_vs_insight_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Cleland_1:17

Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!

20_most_popular_writing_posts_of_2020_robert_lee_brewer

20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.

Malden_1:16

Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.

writing_mistakes_writers_make_talking_about_the_work_in_progress_robert_lee_brewer

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Talking About the Work-in-Progress

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is talking about the work-in-progress.

Kelly_1:15

Greta K. Kelly: Publishing Is a Marathon

Debut author Greta K. Kelly reveals how the idea for her novel sparked and the biggest surprise of her publication journey.

Poetic Forms

Mistress Bradstreet Stanza: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the Mistress Bradstreet stanza, an invented form of John Berryman.