Sell the Fudgy Topping
A - “Our Brownie and Ice Cream dessert has three cups of flour, two eggs, a stick of butter. Then we baked it for 45 minutes. Scoop of vanilla on top, whipped cream and syrup. Feeds two. $9.95”
B – “Warm, perfectly gooey brownie with dark chocolate chunks, vanilla bean ice cream, homemade whipped cream and hot fudge sauce. Big enough for two but who says you have to share $9.95”
So which would you want? Uh-yeah, B.
Out of the two pitches above, obviously B works. I want that dessert. Like now. Interestingly, A has more words than B, so length is not the answer. Carefully chosen words, highlighting the essence of the dessert sold me. And probably you, too.
A logline for your book…
should be the same. Readers are enticed with the hot fudge sauce of your story rather than all the details of what goes into it. They’re not invested in your characters or the storyline yet; your job is to hook them first and draw them in. Then you have to deliver. But that’s for another blog.
So how do you write a great logline?
A logline is one or two sentences. It tells a bit more as opposed to a tagline, which hooks the reader in a few words. A logline should include:
Setting, Protagonist, Problem, Antagonist, Conflict, Goal
You can find the Logline Formula and helpful tips here.
Here is an example for one of my favorite books, The Hunt for Red October:
When a revolutionary new soviet submarine defects to the US, the Russians chase it across the Atlantic. The US fears a nuclear missile strike but a CIA analyst suspects the submarine captain’s true motives are far different and has to come up with a plan to guide the rogue sub to safety.
It doesn’t include names or details. Just the sizzle of the story.
I have a few tricks to come up with loglines.
Read the descriptions you see for shows on the channel guide. (When you know the movies these are great teaching tools!)
Participate in Twitter Pitch contests. You HAVE to sum up your story in less than 280 characters. Usually I use much less.
Picture Books are a bit different.
Picture books (don’t kids yourself - they are notoriously hard to write), have loglines that are even shorter. Here’s one for a wip:
Eucalyptus, a sage-colored cow, wants to share her acting, painting and violin talents but finds no cows are allowed anywhere. That changes when everyone looks past her cow-ness.
A picture books just needs: main character, what is unique about them and the problem. (@ArleneAbundis) And it’s 28 words.
Which brings me to the 25 words or less rule.
You should have this pitch ready whenever someone asks (and they will), what are you working on? And if it happens to be an agent or publisher, here’s your chance!
This article from Upstart Crow Literary gives an example how to write a short pitch, whittling a description down from 84 to 25 words while still retaining a captivating hook.
No one really counts each word. But it is something to shoot for so you do not ramble on, include TMI or not enough info and then doesn’t show why your work is unique.
Creating a pitch takes practice.
Practice writing them, and practice pitching them to whomever will listen. And when the time is right, whether it’s a meeting or in a query, the glorious lines will flow like hot fudge over a warm brownie.