Not every fiction proposal needs something called a High Concept, but I like to see one. A High Concept shows that the author can hone in on the story and has thought about what it says and how it can be positioned in the marketplace. It helps the publisher know in a snap of the fingers the unique and compelling nature of your story. One popular way to create a High Concept is to compare your work to two books or movies. You can choose extremely famous titles or venture into lesser known works with self-explanatory titles. I will make up a couple of examples:
Star Wars meets Across Five Aprils in this alternative history novel in which a spaceship lands in the middle of the battle of First Manassas.
The Wheel of Fortune meets Missing in this thriller about a Las Vegas kidnapping ring.
High Concepts like these are capsules that help orient an editor or marketing director to your work. They lend excitement and anticipation to the proposal.
However, not all stories work with this type of high concept. If you have to strain to find the high concept using titles, I recommend not pressing the issue, because stretching too far may only serve to make the book seem silly or unappealing. Instead, you may opt for a sound bite, which describes your book in 25 words or less. A couple of made-up examples:
A young woman finds what she thinks is a worthless trinket hidden among her deceased father’s possessions, but her discovery attracts the most sordid kinds of evil.
When rival chefs are booked to serve on the same cruise ship, will their competition ignite Molotav cocktails or flames of passion?
Again, this technique encapsulates what you as an author are attempting with your story, and high concepts encourage the editor to read more.
Remember at the proposal stage, the agent and editor are your readers. Once you lure them, the bait is set for many more fans!
What high concept or sound bite are you using for your WIP?
Make up a high concept that would entice you to read a story.
Make up a high concept for your favorite book.