Tag Lines

tagWe talk a lot about query letters here, and (I hope) provide a useful service for people to improve their letters. But as I looked at various queries in my email inbox today, I thought about how important a one-sentence pitch truly is. Call them “hooks” or “tag lines” or what have you, they’re the simplest way you have to describe your novel and interest a reader in picking it up. Weekly, Publishers Marketplace sends out a huge email of all the posted deals from the previous week — each deal has to convey the author, the agent, the editor, the acquiring imprint, and some additional information, but they usually also have the essence of the book in a single handy sentence. For reference, I called up my list of recent deals (link requires a subscription). A sample:

Carrie Harris’s debut NO PAIN, NO BRAIN, in which a science nerd must cure a zombie outbreak in her high school before she and her homecoming date join the ranks of the walking dead…

…Maureen Johnson’s three-book series starting with a thriller about an American high-school student who enrolls at a London boarding school for her junior year, where a series of murders begins to take place across the city, on the exact dates and in the exact style of Jack the Ripper, and soon her ties to the killer bring her in contact with a secret paranormal branch of the British police…

Julia Karr’s XVI, in which a 15-year-old uncovers the mystery surrounding her mother’s death and her missing father, while dreading the coming of her sixteenth birthday and the government-mandated tattoo that references her sexual status…

Stephanie Perkins’s ANNA AND THE BOY MASTERPIECE FRENCH KISS, in which American Anna Oliphant spends a year in a Parisian boarding school and falls for her multi-national classmate, plus a companion novel, LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR…

Kiki Hamilton’s THE FAERIE RING, an urban fantasy set in Victorian London, in which a streetwise pickpocket steals a ring from Buckingham Palace, then has to try to return it in order to keep a peace treaty between the British and Faerie courts…

Those are just a few examples.

But it’s something to think about, if you haven’t already. You may have expertly distilled the essence of your book into a one-page query letter, but can you get it down to a single sentence?

Feel free to share your tag lines in the comments!

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