Know How to Sell a Book via a High Concept?

"Memories of a Hollywood Script Girl" will be back. Promise.

"Memories of a Hollywood Script Girl" will be back. Promise.

Note: To those searching for my post "Memories of a Hollywood Script Girl," the post got eaten by the Internet.  Sorry about that.  I'll write another post about those wild '70s studio days in the near future. 

Got High Concept? by Lori Wilde: Make It Part of Your Writer's Toolkit

I've pitched stories to editors and agents before, falling back on the old "[movie title] meets [movie title}" high concept description--for example, for a time-traveling private eye story, I pitched that it was a "Back to the Future Meets Emma Peel" story.

Thanks to NYT-bestselling author Lori Wilde's book Got High Concept?, I've  learned such a description is not a high concept, but a framing technique.  And that while a writer can certainly use such a framing technique to prep an editor/agent for the high concept, comparing a movie to another movie is not a high concept.

What a High Concept Is Not

In the beginning of Lori's book, she lists what a high concept is not--for example, it's

  • Not a TV-guide style summary
  • Not a series of hooks.
  • Not a book blurb.

What a High Concept Is

  • Different
  • Universal
  • Has Emotional Appeal
  • Lets the Person (Editor/Agent) "See" the Entire Story.

For example, the high concept for the movie Speed

A cocky cop must find a way to save people stranded on a city bus that will explode it if slows below 55 mpg.

Another high concept example for the movie Double Jeopardy:

When a young wife discovers the husband she's convicted of murdering isn't dead, she escapes custody to track him down and kill him.

A High Concept Isn't a Quick Fix

Although it might sound easy-breezy--hey, just come up with a snappy 25-word pitch, right?--Lori warns that a compelling 25-word high concept is as difficult to write as a 400-page novel.  But it's not something to get discouraged about--as the old Nike ad said, just do it.  And, lucky for you, Lori shows you how.

I'm Prepping a High Concept for my Current Proposal

I'm almost half-way through Lori's book, and I'm getting a handle on the high concept for a story proposal I've been working on for the last month.  I'm also inspired that Lori, using her techniques in the book, sold two novels to Time-Warner books based solely on a 25-word high-concept pitch.  Wait, there's more.  The sale was announced on Publishers Marketplace and her agent received interest from 8 movie production companies.

I'm not expecting to woo Hollywood, but I hope to spark my editor's interest in my proposal by placing the high concept at the top.  A compelling "proposal intro" if you will.

Below is an Amazon link to Lori Wilde's book: