Tips from and Industry Insider | Don’t Understand High Concept? Don’t Worry

In Creative Writing, Publishing Industry by RWA Blog Coordinator2 Comments

Publishing Trends 2019

Some trends become industry standards. Some die the death they deserve. If, like me, you never did understand exactly what was meant by high concept, raise a glass to its death. It seems that publishers have discovered that while high concept initially excites marketing and sales teams and is easy to pitch to booksellers, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a long sales life.

According to Sally Kim (GP Putnam’s Sons / Penguin Random House): ‘For a while it seemed everything had to have a high concept to cut through all the noise. … But those that really last are those books that have really good storytelling, good voice, books that really move you. … It has to have the deeper layers.’

Word-of-mouth is still what makes a book succeed sales-wise, and the ‘trick’ to generating word-of mouth chatter and excitement is still great writing and story telling that has readers coming back for more.

Despite the death of high concept, a great hook is still critical to marketing and can help you get ahead of the pack even when pitching to a publisher. Make it easier for publishers to pick your book – refine your elevator pitch, and spend time developing your title and tagline.

Other trends in fiction

  • Psychological suspense remains popular.
  • Darker narratives and dangerous heroes are also popular – probably because the global political climate is such that we’ve almost all lost faith in a clear distinction between good and bad and the ability of the ‘good’ law enforcement agencies to uphold justice.
  • Readers are looking for escape combined with nostalgia; even millennials want to go pre-2006 to a time when social media didn’t exist, and we weren’t all on the clock 24/7.
  • One trend most authors wish would go away but won’t is the requirement for authors to be more responsible than ever for marketing themselves and their books. Publishers are focused on selling titles, so it is up to writers to build their author brand in order to promote their backlist and series.

Trends in publishing

According to the Frankfurt Book Fair Publishing Perspectives’ Show Daily (11th October, 2018), audio continues to grow. Research indicates this growth is in addition to, rather than at the expense of, other formats. In a Nielsen Book Research survey, 13% of respondents said they bought an audiobook after having first consumed the same content in print. The same research shows that 72% of book sales in ten global markets are printed copies. Audio is an alternative way of consuming content, not a direct competitor to print.

The rise in the usage of smart speakers is also expected to positively impact audiobook sales. Over 54 million smart speaker units are currently installed in America. These devices have the potential to become a ‘digital fireplace’ around which families can gather and listen to stories, opening up the possibility for publishers to stream serialised audio content.
On the self-publishing front, based on registered ISBNs worldwide, international trend watcher UKSG revealed that between 2011 and 2016, self-published ebooks grew by 68% but self-published print books grew 301%. Authors want to see their books in print – and readers want to see them on their bookshelves. Their data is supported by Fortune magazine research, which says that millennials invest 80% of their book-buying budget into printed editions – a claim backed up by the popularity of the ‘shelfie’ hashtag and the rise of Bookstagrammers on social media.

Coming up in forthcoming posts: identifying your sub-genre; defining success, and more.

Laura Boon Russell

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Laura-Boon-Russell-150x150.jpg

Laura is a bookaholic and tennis tragic. She became entangled in publishing after reading Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades and ‘stealing’ The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss from her father’s bookshelves as a teenager. She has worked as a bookseller, sales rep, publicist and freelance editor. She is forever indebted to the RWA for giving her the courage and the tools to write the stories she wants to tell. She has three books out in the wild: The Millionaire Mountain Climber (Wild Rose Press), Lion Dancing for Love (Wild Rose Press) and The Ten-Step Publicity Plan for Authors (indie). 

You can find Laura online at:

Author website

It’s All Write blog

Facebook Author and Business (editing and publicity)

Twitter @LollyRussell

Instagram @lauraboonrussell66 




Leave a Comment