"Unless you can distill your submission down to a ‘high concept’ one line logline we are likely not very interested. In our experience, if you cannot deliver a one-line pitch, the theme or the concept is not sufficiently differentiated for us. We look for provocative, controversial, different, fun, funky, edgy, different—not all of these. Any of these."
This has been called a logline, a hook or a one-sentence pitch. Strictly speaking it is not a tagline. Old newspaper editors would call it a tight headline. So here’s how we at the Rebecca Pratt Literary Group define and explain it:
What: About 25 words that capture your novel, memoir, or non-fiction book.
Why: To get someone interested in reading your book.
When to use it: The start of a query, or anytime someone asks you, “What’s your book about?” We use it as a lead-in to your web synopsis and in our communications with publishers.
What it does: A one-sentence summary takes your complex book with multiple characters and plotlines and boils it down into a simple statement that can be quickly conveyed and understood, and generates interest in the book. Remember, publisher's representatives look at half a million manuscripts to find one book to publish. They don't have a lot of time, we need to attract their attention immediately.
What it should include:
→ A character or two
→ Describe either the conflict or the goal (not both)
→ What’s at stake (may be implied)
→ Action that will move your character(s) to a successful conclusion (or climax)
→ Setting (only if important)
→ Keep it simple. One plotline, 1 or 2 characters.
→ Use the STRONGEST nouns, verbs and adjectives.
→ Make the conflict clear and do not simply hint at the solution--state it plainly.
Your logline is a spoiler. Publishers' reps want to know the outcome--they recoil at being held in suspense. Give them what they want. Who won?
IMPORTANT IMPORTANT IMPORTANT
In your one-sentence summary, do not pitch a theme. Pitch what happens. Examples of themes:
That was important, read it again.
Here is Nathan Bransford's simplified formula for a one-sentence pitch:
"When [opening conflict] happens to [character(s)], they must [overcome conflict] to [complete their quest]."
Lets look at some published books and see what their log line looks like:
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling• A boy wizard begins training and must battle for his life with the Dark Lord who murdered his parents.
→ Character = boy wizard
→ Conflict = battling the Dark Lord
→ Stakes = his life
→ Setting = none
→ Action = wizard training; avoiding the same fate as his parents
The Help by Kathryn Stockett• In the south in the 1960s, three women cross racial boundaries to begin a movement that will forever change their town and the way women view one another.
When Faith Awakes by Mike Duran• Chaos is unleashed on a quiet coastal town when an unassuming crippled woman raises a young boy from the dead, unlocking a centuries-old curse.
Medical Error by Richard Mabry• Identity theft becomes fatal for a patient and puts a young doctor's reputation and medical practice in jeopardy.
Chasing Superwoman by Susan DiMickele• A successful attorney and mother of three battles discrimination, exhaustion, and a clueless boss while balancing a career, a family, and a life of faith.
When you and your agent are satisfied with your logline it will be put to use to grab the attention and interest of a publisher.
Your next assignment is a lot easier. Re-write your manuscript in one paragraph with no more than five sentences. At the Rebecca Pratt Literary Group we call this a web synopsis and it is described on the next page.