High-concept

A high-concept book is one that can be summarized in a few words. The premise often starts with a what if such as what if dinosaurs could be cloned? – Jurassic Park. Or what if a lawyer could tell only the truth for 24 hours? – Liar Liar.

Common characteristics of high-concept log lines:

  1. Start with a what if question
  2. High entertainment value with mass audience appeal
  3. Original idea – often with an ironic twist
  4. Highly visual
  5. Strong emotional focal point – primal emotions: love, joy, fear, hate, rage
  6. Unique aspect to the idea

The opposite to high concept is low concept, which is more concerned with character development and other aspects of the story that are not easy to summarize.

The advantage of high-concept stories is they are easy to pitch, because the audience gets the premise of the story easily and starts visualizing it. High-concept ideas often result in a great tag-line.

High-concept Examples

  • What if dinosaurs could be cloned?
    Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
  • What if women stopped having babies?
    The Children of Men – P.D. James
  • What if Martians invaded the earth?
    The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells
  • What if man terrorizes the monster?
    Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Resources

Use of Praise in a Book Trailer

A common element in a book trailer is praise, be it in the form of a review or quote. The question is, when should you use praise?

If we think of the principal of show vs tell, praise is tell. This person or review is telling us the book is good. Unless the reviewer is well know and respected, it holds limited weight. I watched one trailer recently that led with one page of praise, then another. Thirty seconds later, the trailer finally got around to introducing the plot-line. I was so bored by the two pages of praise from people I had never heard of that I almost missed the point.

The key purpose of praise in a book trailer is to support the message to the viewer that the book is worth their time and money to read.

Tips on praise:

  • Avoid vague praise such as the book was great, enjoyable or scary.
  • Don’t use generalizations such as ‘readers will love it.’ How could you possibly know what I will love? Even if qualified, such as restricting the comment to a specific genre or style, it is a weak statement.
  • Use examples: Instead of the ‘main character is mean,’ quote lines in the book that show doing/demonstrating/thinking mean.
  • The more objective praise is, the more it will be believed.
      • Subjective: One person’s opinion
      • Objective: Based on facts, measurable and observable
  • Quoting an expert or authority helps assuming the expert is recognized
      • Authoritative: Reliable, accurate, true

Praise should be specific. By this, I mean that instead of generic phrases, use specific points about the book. Here are examples for Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig.

“Visceral and often brutal, this tale vibrates with emotional rawness that helps to paint a bleak, unrelenting picture of life on the edge.”

Publishers Weekly

Well-known publication adds credibility. The powerful language resonates with the target audience.


“A gleefully dark, twisted road trip for everyone who thought Fight Club was too warm and fuzzy. If you enjoy this book, you’re probably deeply wrong in the head. I loved it, and will be seeking professional help as soon as Chuck lets me out of his basement.”

James Moran, Severance, Doctor Who and Torchwood screenwriter

From a fellow author in the same genre with elements of humour injected. This dulls the sales pitch feel, while actually enhancing it.


Praise for Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver from a NYT best-selling author. The copy is vibrant and engaging.

“This story races forward, twisting in a new direction every few pages, its characters spinning my emotions from affection to frustration, anger to compassion. You’ll have no choice but to tear through this book!”

Jay Asher, author of the New York Times bestseller Thirteen Reasons Why

Praise Placement in a trailer: In most cases, praise is appropriate before the amaze step or as part of the directive. It should be brief. Video is not the place for paragraphs of text. Short-phrase praise can be effective scattered into the video in several places if it is punchy and does not take over the message. Avoid the scenario where praise pulls your viewer out of the trailer flow.

The bottom line is – SHOW me your book is good rather than TELLING me others think it is good.