Tag Archives: high concept

Know Thyself- or at least thy concept

This is probably all a bit ironic, in that Alanis Morissette, situational irony kind of way.

One of the things I harped on with myself when deciding what kind of a writing project I wanted to commit to was getting into something different. Something that wasn’t what it seemed like everyone else was doing. In my head there’s this voice that sounds a lot like Iago, the parrot from Aladdin. It says, “If I have to choke down one on one more of those moldy, disgusting crackers vampires, I’m gonna…”

So that’s when I decided to embrace my superhero thing, my Buffy leads the X-Men in Smallvillian high school drama thing. It was something that I had wanted for some time, but was afraid to tackle, both because the series thing seems so big to me, and because it was something that I just wasn’t seeing out there in books. Maybe no one wanted it.

It is, apparently, not nearly as different as I think it is, because the most consistent feedback I got from NY on the series, as most of you know by now, was that the concept was too familiar.

So let’s just sit with that for a moment, without any judgement about the publishing industry, because that doesn’t help us. For those reading this who are indie, rejoice, because we can have concepts that are maybe not the most original ever, and still get readers for them. For those who are planning to pursue traditional publication, realize how very original your concept needs to be.

Now, what is the deal with this pitch having to be soooo original? The answer has to do with marketing. We often hear that NY turns down books, even books editors want, because the marketing department doesn’t know what to do with them. And then we wail and moan and gnash our teeth.

But what I’m thinking lately is, you know what? As an indie, it would certainly behoove me to think a bit more about marketing on the front end. Because if marketing is all up to me, why on EARTH would I want to make my job harder?

I need to be able to answer the question, “What makes this book different?” Anyone who’s got a book out there and who’s done a few interviews knows that those bloggers ask the darndest things. And they’re things we should know.

I know so many writers who flip out over synopses, blurbs, pitches, who don’t believe they can boil down their 100k words of awesome into anything less than 7 pages. What? Then I may as well read the book! Tell me what it’s about in three sentences, 100 words, 500 characters.

What I believe, without judgement because I know it’s hard, is that if you can’t boil it down to the barest essentials, then you might not have a very tight book.

But this whole idea of boiling it down is kind of backward. You may get to run on pure inspiration and take 5 years to write the first novel, but once you’re doing this professionally, that’s probably not going to work anymore.

If you start with an idea that’s kind of played, but what you do with it, around it, is what makes it different, great. But if you can’t express that succinctly, how are you going to get other people to understand why it’s uniquely awesome and something they should read (m-a-r-k-e-t-i-n-g)?

That’s probably my big issue with the Talent Chronicles right now. I’ve got industry people telling me it’s not original enough, and readers telling me it’s like nothing else they’ve read. And I’ve got no idea what to pull from the latter group’s responses to use in my marketing, to say –>This is why!!<–

A novel takes a damned long time, and freakin’ lot of work to make happen. Once it does happen, it would be swell if someone else would read it. What I’m coming around to these days is that we’ll have an easier time with the marketing if we start there, with a very clear idea what the story is about and what makes it different–right from page 1.

That’s why NY keeps demanding high-concept pitches. Because books written to a high-concept idea have that answer to “What makes this different?” automatically. No boiling it down to figure out if you managed to hit uniqueness at some point in the writing. You know because you did it on purpose.

Now, here was my bit of fail: “High concept” basically has to do with genre expectations. So I’m putting two things together that don’t normally go– superheroes + relationships that work out. Within the superhero genre, if such a thing exists, such might qualify as high concept because it is not a genre norm. BUT, turns out, I’m not in the superhero genre! I marketed myself at YA paranormal romance. And guess what: Relationships that work out? Not so unusual there. And people with supernatural abilities? Um…not so unusual there.

So, what is your genre? What is it about your story that is super-original within your genre? What are you writing into your novel, that you’ll easily be able to tell the masses to make them snatch that sucker up and read it?

And, by the way, if you happen to be able to articulate why everyone should read my series, feel free to leave a quotable in the comments. 🙂


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