View Full Version : The High Concept

March 10th, 2011, 07:35 AM
While we are all thinking of developing the Plot, I'd like us to take a look at the High Concept of our novels.

So, you have a seed, an idea for a book and a beginning of a Plot. Below is an excerpt from Driving Book Sales.

Capturing the essence of what is your book about is your high concept, your core concept, your storyline or any number of other phrases that tell everyone what your book is about.

Below is a true story that is featured in my book Driving Book Sales Through Public Relations & Promotions:

A couple of years ago, I was at the Southeastern Booksellers Convention and was standing behind a nice lady trying to tell two national radio show hosts about her book and why she should be on their show.

She was very excited and wandered off describing scenes and sequences out of order and she struggled to tell the Radio Hosts how the heroine and hero fell in love.

The Radio hosts listened politely. I watched as their eyes glazed over because they couldn't follow her long rambling story. When she was finished, it was clear they had no idea what her book was about.

Understand, I am not poking fun at this author but she didn't take the time to understand the High Concept or sometimes called the Unique Concept could do for her book.

A High Concept is how to describe your book to someone in seven words or less. In simple prose, itís what your book is about.

I knew how to do this. I followed this lady whose book was probably every bit as good as good as mine and gave my own High Concept. In a few short words the radio hosts "gotĒ what my books were about and instantly asked me to appear on their show.

The High Concept originated with publisher representatives who had only seconds to describe a new book to a bookseller. When meeting with a bookseller, a publisher representative will show the book seller the cover of your book and spend fourteen seconds talking about it. These few seconds determine your bookís fate of appearing on store bookshelves. So, you can quickly see why developing a High Concept is tremendously important for book presentations.

It wasnít long before the publisherís marketing team caught on to the technique and value of presenting a book simply and quickly. They began utilizing the High Concept in any number of marketing venues.

Using three of my novels as examples, here are my High Concepts:

Lights, Camera. Murder! -----A reality show that needs a real CSI.

Pirates in Paradise------Miami Vice on a Romantic Midnight Run

Your Cheatin Hearts-----A Lucille Ball Comedy with a twist of Magnum P.I.

Okay, by telling what my book is about, my plot for each, I developed the High Concept for each book and you know what my books are about.

Take your idea of your book and develop your High Concept or the idea of our novel, you will crystalize your idea and shape it into your novel.

The actual plot line, or high concept is your trail head. Itís the core concept of the bases of your book.

Eventually you may want to develop it as a marketing tool to describe what you novel is about in all sorts of marketing venues and you will want to develop your own high concept out of your plot line.

When you do, think about the amount of words on a Billboard Sign, seven words or less. Describe your novel with a few quick easy words to say and if you can draw popular themes. Make it catchy and memorable.

When thinking of your High Concept; imagine something that tells your story quickly. Draw on popular movies or television shows, from headline news or pop culture. In two of my books I referenced movies; in the other two, I used a combination of TV shows and movies to illustrate my point.

Your High Concept can also be used on bookmarkers and on your website; with a multitude of endless uses including your email signature line.

If you donít have a High Concept, have fun developing your own. This is not an overnight project, give your High Concept time and thought. Please re-read the last sentence, this is not an instant, overnight project. You will want to refine it until you have it perfect.

Eventually, developing your High Concept will serve you whenever you have to explain your book to a book seller, newspaper reporter, reader, etc.

The plot in your novel is what occurs on page one and develops to the end of your book.

My books are available here at Coffeetime Romance.
For full chapter reads, character interviews, reviews, and more visit my website.
See you online, at Coffeetime! Linn

March 10th, 2011, 07:37 AM
Hi Everyone, I try to respond to everyone who writes, but if you don't see my post back to you- please write me again. I appreciate everyone being here! Linn

March 10th, 2011, 06:01 PM
hi Linn, I believe it was yesterday [3-811] or the day before I'd posted the 1st page of my WIP. It explains new set of laws regarding racial purity between mortals and vampires. Below that the Prologue. I can't find that post. Can you: Jerry

March 10th, 2011, 10:39 PM
okay Linn. I know this still needs work. At least it'll let you understand the story. So here's the story idea for Renegade Vampire

Renegade Vampire

When vampire, TALON TORRAN gets a job of tracking a renegade vampire who is killing cops in Portland, Oregon he accepts the offer. He doesn’t expect to fall in love during his quest or to learn the one he loves, his brother, is the cop killer.

JUDE TORRAN, vampire. has always been a rebel. He doesn’t like being controlled yet in order to please his brother and to live safely among mortals he agrees to participate in the government’s free synthetic blood program which will control his blood thirst. However, when his lover is gunned down by cops he vows to avenge his lover’s death even if that means giving up his daily dosage of SB.

HOMICIDE DETECTIVE DILLON MCCAIN, 27, is single and gay. When his recent lover leaves him for a high paying job in Italy, Dillon is greatly disappointed. He’d rather go through his life without a romantic interests than to go through all the heartaches. He refuses to allow himself to be hurt anymore. But meeting Talon changes all that. They have a great lustful attraction toward each other, but Dillon does his best to not cave in. Besides when they’re thrown together to work in finding the cop killer temptations ride high. Talon is quite aware of the risk he’d go through in having an affair with a mortal. If he’s caught breaking the New Laws of racial purity he’ll be exiled or worse - executed without trial. Dillon also knows his risk. If he’s caught having an affair with a vampire he’ll spend the rest of his life in an Internment Camp for being contaminated because mortals can catch any disease vampires have.

MAX RAMOS, 40's, old fashion beliefs and way to set in his ways. He doesn't believe gays should be cops. He barely tolerated Dillon when they were partners. Now that Dillon has a new partner he suspects something is going on between them. If his hunch is right he'll expose them.

Red Dragon
March 11th, 2011, 02:50 AM
Hi Linn,
As a high concept, I think it would be very hard to top "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts."

The best I can come up with, for my murder mystery, is "There's a fine thread between the zealot and the executioner."

March 11th, 2011, 07:28 AM
Rusty, as a High Concept, that works. Good Job!

March 11th, 2011, 08:39 AM
I've got to remember that, and limiting it to seven words or less helps focus my mind on what's REALLY important about the story.

March 11th, 2011, 10:29 AM
High concept? let's see. how about this one?

'Love comes in many forms, even the unexpected.'


March 11th, 2011, 05:20 PM
Hi everyone, I love what you all are doing.

Jerry, I like what your High Concept is......but if you don't mind a suggestion, I'd try to tie in the Vampire element into this and the murders.

Its nice, but knowing a bit more about your book, I'd like to tie in something about the vamps, and your book is more than just a love story isn't it? Would you mind if I suggested you work on this a bit.

Remember with my Lights, Camera. Murder!.... A reality show needs a CSI. So the person I am talking to knows its 1) about a reality show and 2) a murder mystery is involved. And when I wrote this and it was first put on the market, there was only one reality show out there. I was afraid the fad would fade before my book got published. LOL

Lets look at Pirates in Paradise-Miami Vice on a romantic midnight run. You know its 1) about south Florida, drugs, vice, and people remember the popular movie Midnight Run. So you get an idea that its a book about two characters on the "run" from law enforcement and it involves drugs, violence etc.

Jerry, I've got over 30 plus years experience as a copywriter, won two International Awards for copywriting-(though most of my career was in Marketing and at that career's end, I was National Director of an International Advertising Agency)....and the High Concept isn't something that I can come up with in 30 minutes. I have to work on it.

So while this works.........add in the drama, the plot line and add in the love story which is secondary to the plot. You have a stand out plot, you want that high concept to be a stand out too.

By the way, in the movies, this is also called a log line. I also heard Unique Concept, so whatever works.

Telly, think about a billboard and notice the 5-7 words on the billboard. What does the billboard say. A sports bar, might have a pretty girl in cute umpire style uniform, holding a platter of wings. You get the visual, and the verbage is Best Wings in Town. The picture gives you the visual, and best wings in town - four words will tell you what to expect.

This is why a cover is also so important. Studies show a reader will spend 8 seconds on the cover and 16-24 seconds on the back. Yikes! That is why it is so important to get a nice cover, and the cover should also tell what the book is about.

In Lights,- you see a shark at the top (its a Black Tip-yes, sharks are in Lights, Camera. Murder!) a beach (Florida) and a director's chair and gun in the chair. Its dark and looks every bit the suspense. If a reader knows my book is about a reality show that needs a CSI............you got the whole picture.

In Pirates-- you see twins- ok you got that-a Florida beach and a gun's cross hairs...now add in the high concept-reality show needs CSI--and its a excellent mix of graphics/ the book cover and with the high concept, you have a two k punch.

High Concepts for me don't come in one sitting. And Telly has got it right. Think about it, develop it while you are working on your book. As we move into marketing and promotion of the mystery novel, you will see more how all this is important and fits together.

I'll be around all weekend. Thank you all so very very much for participating in the class!

I stood on the shoulders of giants and I'm glad to play it forward!!! Linn

March 11th, 2011, 07:29 PM
Nice meeting you Linn & thanks for giving this class You were very helpful. Hope you give another class. If not this one perhaps something else. Jerry Race http://authorjerryrace.webs.co

March 11th, 2011, 09:22 PM
I thought it would be fun to share these movie LogLines or High Concepts

Titantic - Ayoung man and woman from different social classes fall in love aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea.

Under Siege- Diehard on a Boat

Cape Fear - A lawyer's family is stalked by a man he once helped put in jail.

From TV
Everyone Loves Raymond - A likeable husband's tolerance and marriage is tested by the constant intrusion of his overbearing parents and dim-witted brother

Raiders of the Lost Ark -An archeologist is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. (Remember the love story is a subplot; Indy hating snakes-subplot)

For more good examples (and some not so good but tell the story) check out TV guide. The writers will borrow log lines or high concepts to tell quickly what the movie or TV show is about. Linn