Write Better: The 7 Qualities of High-Concept Stories by Jeff Lyons
Stumped by submission guidelines calling for “high-concept” romance, suspense, young adult or other popular fiction? These 7 qualifiers will help you gauge how (and where) your work fits in.
You’re ready to begin the process of pitching your book to prospective literary agents or publishers. You begin combing through market listings, thinking it will be a simple matter of finding those who accept work in your genre—but time and again, you discover submission guidelines expressing a preference for “high-concept” stories. Your brow furrows. High concept? What the heck does that mean? Your confusion turns to frustration, and maybe even panic, because no one on your wish list defines this popular term d’art. They simply declare that it is what they want a story to be, it is what they prefer, indeed, it is the Holy Grail for submission success. But how are you to succeed when you don’t even understand what they’re asking for?
You’re not as out of the loop as you may feel. The truth is that many of the very gatekeepers who use the term high concept aren’t much clearer about what it means than you are. Take the simpler buzzword concept, for starters. If you were to ask a random selection of agents or editors to define it, you’d likely get as many definitions as people responding to your question:
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