The One-Sentence Summary
*Contest is closed.*
Today we’re going to talk about the one-sentence summary, also known as a logline, a hook, or a one-sentence pitch. (It is not a tagline, however.)
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?”
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.
What it should include:
→ A character or two
→ Their choice, conflict, or goal
→ What’s at stake (may be implied)
→ Action that will get them to the goal
→ Setting (if important)
→ Keep it simple. One plotline, 1 or 2 characters.
→ Use the strongest nouns, verbs and adjectives.
→ Make the conflict clear but you don’t have to hint at the solution.
In your one-sentence summary, try not to pitch a theme. Pitch what happens. Examples of themes:
This book explores forgiveness.
This book looks at the thin line between right and wrong.
This book explores the meaning of independence, and asks if it’s really possible.
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].”
Examples of one-sentence summaries:
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. (Thanks Randy Ingermanson for this one.)
→ Character=boy wizard
→ Conflict=battling the Dark Lord
→ Stakes=his life
→ 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.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. Leave your one-sentence summary in the comments.
→ Write a one-sentence summary of your book.
→ Submit your entry in the comments to THIS post.
→ ONE entry per person. NO revisions or resubmissions allowed.
→ Deadline is this SATURDAY, June 5th, 11:59pm ET.
→ WordServe clients can enter and are eligible for the prize.
→ I’ll choose FIVE winners, based on which ones are the most effective and make me want to read the book.
→ I’ll announce winners next week.
5 FREE one-year subscriptions to WritersMarket.com ($40.00 value) will be given as prizes.
Have you ever used the Writers Market print edition? If so, you know how incredibly valuable it is. Now the online version is available and constantly updated with publishers, editors, agents, and everything else you need to be able to sell your work. Check it out here.
Join the fun and start crafting your pitch!
Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent