They’ve been going on about it for years, the agents, the publishers.
When you going to give us THE BIG IDEA?
Especially in genre fiction, it’s not enough to simply write good novels. It must have that high concept core. Everything is so market driven these days. The Marketing department of any publishing house is at the acquisition meeting. No matter how enthusiastically an editor might champion your new idea, it’s toast unless it tags.
Yupp, it has got to have that killer one line sell that may even appear as the shout line on the front cover. Certainly it will scream out from the back cover, in the writing known as the blurb.
In exasperation, I asked my agent once, after yet another of these conversations, to give me an example of The Big Idea. He thought for a moment then said: ‘Jack the Ripper on the Titanic’. Now before you all go rushing out and starting that novel, he said later he was kidding. But he was highlighting the ball park.
My novel ‘Vlad – The Last Confession’ is such an Idea. The shout line: ‘The Epic Novel of the Real Dracula’. The real Dracula? In this day and age surely a gimme? And it did do well – but perhaps did not achieve the full bestsellerdom desired. I think, despite the ‘real’ in the shout line, people kept expecting the vampire to show up.
There’s a lot of pressure. Genre fiction writers are in trouble. The so called midlist author – sells comfortably but not gazillions – is an endangered species. You need to sell and sell large. So, in another of those conversations, my agent spoke of how books, real books, were artifacts now. People who love them LOVE THEM. “They need to look, feel, smell great. I can see walking into a huge London bookstore and seeing, oh, one stack of books that says ‘Plague’ and one that says ‘Fire’. Black, and red, enflamed…”
“Hang about,” I reply. “Are you talking the Great Plague and Great Fire of London?”
“As an example, yes.”
“Give me a minute.”
That minute turned into four hours of frenzied writing, then two weeks of it. A treatment, three chapters led to, well, this: (Copy and paste if this doesn’t link. I am still getting the hang of WordPress!)
A serial killer story set against two of the greatest cataclysms in English history.
I don’t know whether that will be the shout line. But it’s certainly THE BIG IDEA.