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Kim Tomsic

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's a HIGH CONCEPT hook?

Agents love them, editors want them, so what are  "high concept" books? To know a high concept book, you must first meet the high concept hook.

Elana Roth of Caren Johnson Literary Agency describes a high concept hook as one where the premise is bigger than the characters and the pitch can be said in one line.

Liesa Abrams is an executive editor at Aladdin, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children's Books (she acquires and edits tween and middle grade fiction). She describes high concept as something that is easy to say and easy to memorize. Her example is an upcoming title byTodd Hasak-Lowy called 33 Minutes: A countdown to recess when a boy's former bestfriend promises to kick his butt.

Liesa Abrams says high concept is "something easy to say and easy to memorize."
Elana Roth describes high concept, "when the premise is bigger than the characters and when the pitch is something you can say in one line."  

Today, in Publishers Marketplace, there are two great examples of HIGH CONCEPT pitches and high concept books to come:
(the logline is separate from the high concept pitch)

NO SAFETY IN NUMBERS is great example of High Concept YA: pitched as Life As We Knew It meets Lord of the Flies to Dial by Faye Bender Lit
Art sketch by David Deen
The logline: young adult trilogy, told from the perspective of four teens as the discovery of a biological bomb in the air ducts of a busy suburban mall unfolds, the entire complex is quarantined, people start getting sick, supplies start running low, and there's no way out

David Lipsky and Darin Strauss's THE UNACCOUNTED. The  high concept pitch: teenage Jason Bourne meets The Prisoner of Zenda,
logline: a love story and an epic adventure set in both a modern-day American high school and in a glamorous Europe, to Virginia Duncan at Greenwillow, in a three-book deal, for publication in Winter 2013, by ICM/UTA (World English).

Update: these aren't perfect examples, but they are recent deals reported in Publisher's Marketplace, and now books I want to read simply based on the logline.

Kate O'Sullivan of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt won a six-publisher auction for Andrea Tsurumi's debut picture book, Accident!, in which Lola the armadillo kicks off a crescendo of calamities in her Richard-Scarry-ish world. Publication is slated for fall 2017; Stephen Barr at Writers House negotiated the two-book deal for world rights.

Neal Porter of Roaring Brook's Neal Porter Books has acquired world rights to husband-and-wife team Aaron Bagley and Jessixa Bagley's Vincent Comes Home, which they are co-authoring and co-illustrating. The book is about a cat who has lived his entire life at sea and wonders what it would be like to go “home.”

Heather Howland at Entangled Teen has bought Never Apart by Romily Bernard, about a girl and boy who die repeatedly, falling between parallel worlds, but always being found by the same killer until the fall that unravels everything. Publication is slated for summer 2017; Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary did the deal for world rights.

Liza Kaplan of Philomel has acquired Emily Barr's YA debut from Camilla Borthwick at Penguin Random House U.K. in a six-figure, two-book deal. The One Memory of Flora Banks is a psychological thriller as well as a coming-of-age novel, starring a protagonist with no short-term memory who must navigate the Arctic landscape of Norway. The book will publish simultaneously in the U.S. and U.K. in January 2017.

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