Journey to a Bestseller: “High Concept” Sells & July Giveaways (Series #39)

Good Sunday, my writer friends. I was absent last week making up my monthly newsletter. I don’t usually share content, but I am part of some giveaways and have some featured books to share, so I may add that to today’s post.

I was recently part of a writer’s conference that I enjoy every year, centered on diversity–specifically diverse romance writers. You can click here for more info: RSJ convention This year the conference was online and I was a participant and moderator. Because of the conference, I have two publishers that have shown interest in our WIP, The Clockwork Pen. I have sent a query to one, and I’m editing the manuscript to send to the other.

I did learn something new and it’s going to shape how I write my next book. It’s what publishers are looking for and it’s not a new idea, but it’s called “high concept.” Liz Pelletier, the brilliant mind running Entangled Publishing, says that they are searching for “high concept” books. So what is a high concept? In short, it’s a one to three sentence description of your unique twist on a story that has wide appeal and makes people need to read it. Liz talked about a book they are releasing that is “Beauty and the Beast meets Taming of the Shrew.” High concept stories often take something that is familiar and puts a twist on it.

Highly Conceptual Movies | 10 Best High Concept Films Ever

Switching the character’s genders is not enough. Taking Beauty and the Beast as an example, it’s not enough to make the girl into a beast. Or switch roles in Romeo and Juliet. The twist needs to relate to the story–to the concept itself. With The Clockwork Pen, I have decided the high concept is a reverse Beauty and the Beast where the handsome prince must become a beast to escape a dark Steampunk world with the girl he loves. Interested? I hope so.

These stories are more concept-driven rather than character-driven. They are not as focused on the character changes as in a coming of age, or hero’s journey, that centers the story around the changes that take place within the character. It’s still just as important to have rich characters, but the focus of the book—it’s premise–isn’t character-driven. I hope I’m making sense.

1.11 High Concept Ideas - YouTube
examples of high concept ideas

When I Googled “high concept” stories, there was a lot of really great information out there and I don’t want to repeat them. But I want to make sure you get the idea. As always, your story must be unique, it must appeal to a large audience, and the appeal is obvious because any idea with mass appeal will “sound good” to most of us.

“High concept” to many can mean many different things. I believe it must incorporate all of the above. So, I hear you saying, “I’m sold. But how do you come up with a high concept idea before writing a book?”

The best way to start coming up with a high concept idea is to ask “what if…?” What if Sleeping Beauty was a narcoleptic and her psychiatrist was named Dr. Frankenstein–on the edge of a break-through in AI-driven sleep technology where robots rest for us? Okay, maybe that’s not the most interesting plot, but start asking yourself “What if…?” questions. What if Martians invaded the Earth? (War of the Worlds)

high concept scifi

We know we need an idea that is:

~appealing to a mass readership

~a unique idea–something that makes people think “Why didn’t I think of that?”

~something entertaining–holds the attention of the reader

~the answer to a “What if…?” question

~told in one to three sentences

A high concept is not required to get published. This is true. There is a lot of genre fiction out there and it’s always going to have an audience. Vampire-lovers are always going to pick up the next fascinating vampire story. And romance readers are going to keep looking for that next titillating romance.

But if you are looking to write the next best thing, or you want to wake up an agent and shake them out of their slush pile, try a high concept story. And you can write a high-concept story in ANY genre, if you wish. One of the best ways to excite an agent is to show them clearly an understandable new idea and where it fits in the market with comp books. Readers have often said my first book was “The Hunger Games meets A Wrinkle in Time.” But this isn’t a high concept. The books are similar in genre. You can’t just take two books and put them into the same sentence and think it’s a high concept. There needs to be an individual twist to the idea.

Go back to that “What if” question and see how many interesting “What if ‘s” you can come up with. What if space travel met the wild west? (Firefly) How many scenarios could you come up with? What if scientists could clone dinosaurs? (Jurassic Park)

In a quote by Nelson Literary Agency’s Angie Hodapp, only 5% of an agent’s slushpile consists of queries that make the agent think “I must read more.” And that 5% includes the “high concept” stories. So, if you are looking to knock that agent’s socks off, this might be the way to do it.

I looked up several plot generators and some were disappointing, but you can use some to come up with your high concept plot. Here’s an article that highlights seven idea generators to check out.

My personal formula:

  1. Make up a protagonist, can be as vague as “teen girl” or as complicated as “Lucy from A Room with a View.”

2. Think up a twist. Maybe the story takes place in space? Maybe we mix it with another story?

3. What if this weird thing happened?

As with most writing tips, it is much easier to plan your story with a high concept first. I thought I had done that with The Clockwork Pen because the concept was, “boy opens a door and finds another world.” But, I was told, this is not a high concept, it is what’s considered a “gimmick.” It is much harder to try to find a high concept in a work you’ve previously completed, than to begin with a new, fresh concept in mind and write that story.

This week’s post is short, but I want you to brainstorm your high concepts this week. Come up with your next story. Who knows? It might be good enough to put down the manuscript you’re working on and start it instead!!

Let us know in the comments what you come up with! And here are the giveaways and features for July.

Virtual Town Hall |
I have several promotions to share this month, some giveaways, featured books and videos! So let’s get started. First:

Kindle Unlimited Young Adult BLOW OUT!

(These books are free if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription.)

$0.99 YA SALE Fantasy and Scifi

(The next best thing to FREE is $0.99!)
Now we’re moving on to some giveaways with:
 Prolific Works
Made for Sunny Days–YA and Children’s Giveaway
June 25th-July 9th

Women, Witches & Warriors Fantasy Giveaway
June 28th-August 28th

Claim the Throne Fantasy Giveaway
June 24th-July 8th


Featured Releases

The following are newly released books by my clients at Touchpoint Press. I am lucky to call these authors my friends. Help them out by checking out their novels and leaving a review.

*Click on each cover for its link to Amazon.*

(Legal thriller)
Blood on Their Hands by [Bob Brink]

A racist attorney faces a crisis of conscience when reluctantly defending a black man brutally beaten by police and charged with resisting arrest.
Hiram Garbuncle is a veteran criminal defense attorney—as well as a racist, miserly alcoholic. His life revolves around hoarding money, following sports, pursuing sex, drinking—and the prideful practice of law.

Alec Monceau is a black man working to support his daughter’s family in Trinidad. It is 2008, and his car carries an Obama bumper sticker. This political advertisement leads to a superfluous traffic stop and a brutal beating by police.

It goes against Garbuncle’s grain to defend a black man from a charge of violently resisting arrest, but he is so confident of winning that he is negligent in the jury selection, and a mistrial occurs. He then discovers incriminating evidence on the two cops, and his new challenge becomes how to keep himself and his client alive pending a new trial.
(Women’s fiction-romance)

Life never really ends…
Lives are shaped once again by the “winds of change” in this sequel to As the Winds Change. April and her family, Luke, and Johnny return to surprise and stir your heart even more than before! When a life startling event puts April’s story on the proverbial edge, April is led on a journey into the supernatural where she has to decide between her fears and the biggest leap of her life – the love behind or ahead.
“A touching, inspirational sequel…”

(Children’s fantasy)

Beware the Trebor who ventures far, for the smalls of darkness gather there.Bori is ravaged, the earth scorched, homes destroyed. Stella longs for the days of peace, where Trebors danced and sang, where her tree home held all she needed. Now devastation surrounds her and worse yet, her father is missing. He didn’t make it home before the storm ripped through the land. The devastated forest calls Stella to journey into it, to look for her father, and face down whatever hides in its deep crevices. But a shifting shape of evil lurks nearby and threatens to destroy everything she knows and loves.
(Myth and Legend fantasy–Coming July 17th)
The King of Minear's Son by [R.J.  Passer]

Prince Taelor Pevrel believes he is an only child until, at the age of twenty-two, he meets his half-sister, Alene, who just learned the story her true parentage. She arrives in the kingdom of Minear to meet her father, King Naelor, and to connect with her newly discovered family. Taelor and Alene form an immediate bond with each other. However, King Naelor, cold and proud, takes a whole different attitude towards Alene, considering her a threat to the future of the Pevrel dynasty.
Determined not to let Alene have a claim to his throne, Naelor attempts to assassinate her. When Taelor surmises that his father was behind the heinous act, tragic events ensue which lead him to forsake his title and to flee Minear. Accompanying him on his journey are his loyal servant, Leygon, and a cheeky knight, Lance. They face a variety of obstacles on their travels and have a fateful encounter with a group of witches who chant a spine-tingling prophecy that will haunt Taelor for the rest of his days.
(Serial killer thriller)
Into the Light (A Dave Richards Mystery Book 1) by [Chris DeFazio]

Dave “Richie” Richards is a hardcore, experienced PI. But will that be enough to face down the Angel of Death? 

The locals don’t trust him. The cops can’t stand him. The only cases he gets are two-bit at best. All Dave “Richie” Richards can do is sit back and watch as his PI business spirals down the drain. He’s resigned to closing up shop and moving on when he finally lands his big case; but the thing is, the case might end up being just big enough to kill him.


Commaful is a site for writers. People can make and post beautiful pieces of multimedia art using photos with their words. For an example, click on this picture/title:

Commaful also has a page of writing advice that includes various speakers giving approximately ten-minute talks on a variety of subjects for authors. I have videos on World-Building, Creating a Synopsis, and Breaking up Info Dumps like a Bad Romance Parts 1 & 2.  Check out the page here:

Here are a couple of videos to get you started…


Any suggestions on what you’d like to see more videos of? Let me know for my list of upcoming titles!

Everyone have a great week and until next weekend, keep writing!


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