Marketing Your Novel, On Writing

High Concept, or How to Make Your Novel ‘Buzz-able’

June 4, 2012

The last few posts have focused on how to get started writing your pageturner novel.

Now, let’s back up a bit.

Let’s talk about what you can do to make your novel “Buzz-able.”

What is a “Buzz-able” novel? It’s a novel with a story that has some unique aspect to it that people will talk about (“Buzz” about) to their friends.

Marketing efforts aside, the one thing an author can do to generate serious book sales – apart from creating a quality product – is to write a novel with a high Buzz factor.

Novels that have the capacity to create Buzz are also called “High Concept” novels. An author (or a fan) should be able to express what a High Concept novel is “about” in a sentence or two.

Here are the High Concepts of some recent novels from the current New York Times bestseller list:

Stolen Prey by John Sandford – An entire family is mysteriously murdered in a fashion usually associated with drug killings, but the victims live in a seriously upscale neighborhood and the father of the family was a bank executive.

Eleventh Hour by James Patterson – “[A  detective] is called to the most bizarre crime scene she’s ever seen: two bodiless heads elaborately displayed in the garden of a world-famous actor. Another head is unearthed in the garden and . . . the ground could hide hundreds of victims.” – description from

The Innocent by David Baldacci – A government hit man usually hired to remove threats to national security refuses to carry out a hit when something about it doesn’t seem right to him. The hit man then becomes a target himself.

The Road to Grace by Richard Paul Evans – “Reeling from the sudden loss of his wife, his home, and his business, Alan Christoffersen, a once successful advertising executive, has left everything he knew behind and set off on an extraordinary cross-country journey. Carrying only a backpack, he is walking from Seattle to Key West, the farthest destination on his map.” – description from

What do the above High Concepts have in common? 1) They are unique, and, 2) They appeal to a wide audience.

So, as you launch into the hard work of writing your novel, and as you plan future novels, test your work for “Buzz-ability” early on.

Here’s how:

– Think about novels that are similar to the one you are writing. What is different about your novel that would make it appealing to a wide audience?

– Describe your novel’s High Concept to three or four trusted friends. Ask them to tell you frankly if they would find the book of interest.

If you find that your novel draws little interest, go back to the drawing board and re-think it. You will be investing months and perhaps years of your life to your novel. Why not do all you can from the “git go” to ensure it reaches the widest audience possible?

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