By Catherine Dilts
Logline, pitch, blurb, synopsis. At some point, you will be required to develop short descriptions of your fiction work. You may find the differences confusing until you understand the purpose of each tool.
Logline is also called the “elevator pitch,” or “hook.” It is the briefest answer to the “what is it about” question. Although the logline is essential to screenwriters, it is extremely useful for novelists as well.
The shortest, and often most difficult to write, the logline offers a big-picture view. You must boil down your thousands of words to a catchy description. According to Script Reader Pro, “A logline is simply the script’s core conflict summed up in one or two sentences.” I recommend reading this article, as it explains loglines in detail.
The logline is the core conflict in the story. You list the protagonist, their antagonist (human, natural disaster, internal, or otherwise), and the stakes.
An example of a logline for Jurassic Park is proposed by Ken Miyamoto: “When industrial sabotage leads to a catastrophic shutdown of a cloned dinosaur-populated theme park’s power facilities and security precautions, a small group of visitors struggles to survive and escape the perilous island.”
Group of visitors = protagonist; dinosaurs and industrial sabotage = antagonists; the stakes = survival – getting eaten / death.
Writing a logline can be difficult if you don’t have a firm grasp of your story, or you’re too close to your story. Robert Lee Brewer, in an article for Reader’s Digest, lists 60 sample hooks by genre category. If you are stuck, try plugging your particular story into one of these examples.
If your logline provokes the response of “tell me more,” your next step is to present your pitch. The pitch is a lengthier persuasive book description. The purpose is to convince an editor or agent they should be interested in acquiring your novel. It should be succinct while containing more details than a logline.
According to Thomas Umstattd Jr, “The best time to work on your pitch is before you start writing your book.” Having a pitch in place before you begin writing can provide a touchstone to keep you on track. This can be revised if the focus of the story shifts. That’s a much easier process than attempting to write a pitch and discovering plot holes requiring a complete rewrite of your novel.
Nancy Christie describes the pitch in food terms. “The pitch is the menu description of an entrée, whose purpose is to whet your appetite so you order that dish. There are just enough details about flavor and ingredients to give you an idea of what to expect, but not so much that you’ve lost your appetite before you get to the end.”
If a logline is one to two sentences, a pitch is a half to a whole page, 125 to 250 words. It opens with your logline. You DO NOT reveal the ending. Once again, the focus is on the conflict. Your pitch includes “if you like” comparisons, listing books of a similar genre and tone as yours.
Angela Ackerman gives two examples of pitches before and after reducing them to their most important information. Using Ken Miyamoto’s Jurassic Park example again, follow the link to read the proposed pitch on the Screencraft website.
A book blurb is the material on the back of a printed novel. As described on the blurb.com webpage, “For ebooks and digital publications, you’ll usually find a blurb after the main cover image or used as the product description in an online bookstore.” The blurb is roughly 150 words, although there is no hard and fast rule about length. Think of
yourself picking up a book, or perusing an ebook description. How much are you willing to read before making your purchasing decision?
It should include a hook, the main character, and the conflict. Sound a lot like the pitch? Well, yes. And no. The pitch is primarily aimed at convincing an editor or agent to buy your book, while the blurb is a sales pitch aimed solely at the reader.
Your pitch and blurb may be quite similar, although you won’t use the “if you like” comparison in a blurb. You DO NOT include the ending. Remember your audience. The pitch sells the book to the publisher. The blurb sells it to the reader.
Here is the Jurassic Park book blurb as it appears on Goodreads:
“An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price.
Until something goes wrong. . . .
In Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton taps all his mesmerizing talent and scientific brilliance to create his most electrifying technothriller.”
Think of the synopsis as a summary of the novel. Pam McCutcheon has a terrific book on the subject called Writing the Fiction Synopsis. Writer’s Digest also has helpful articles on synopsis writing. My best advice is: know your story.
Continuing the food analogy, “The synopsis… is the recipe that the chef follows: the main ingredients, the order in which they are combined, and the way the entrée looks when it is ready to serve,” according to Nancy Christie You DO include the ending. You don’t include every character and every subplot. By knowing your story inside and out, upside and down, you can more easily create a synopsis describing the novel in a coherent way to an editor.
Even if you convince an agent or editor your book is the greatest thing since sliced bread, they have to sell your book to their next in command. The synopsis is their tool to push your novel up the ladder to eventual publication.
Why write a synopsis if you’re self or indy-published? For your own sanity. Writing a series? Planning long-term promotion? That synopsis will assist you in keeping the storyline fresh in your mind. Plus, if a traditional publisher or filmmaker takes an interest in your work, you’ll be prepared for the inevitable request for a synopsis.
Length: I have been asked for one-page, five-page, and chapter-by-chapter synopses that ran 20 pages, depending on my publisher. You can prepare for writing a synopsis of any length by making yourself a chapter-by-chapter document.
Let me qualify that. A synopsis is typically not written chapter-by-chapter (unless required by your publisher). It should follow the main protagonist, focusing on their journey through the plot. Creating a chapter document can be a helpful tool for writing a synopsis.
At Writer’s Edit, the synopsis is demystified. The linked article includes step-by-step advice, as well as what to include, and what not to include. Writing a synopsis is hard work. Writers often loathe the “dreaded synopsis.” But a synopsis is a necessary and useful tool.
Logline, pitch, blurb, and synopsis: each serves a different purpose. You’ve spent months or years writing your book. Whether selling your novel to an agent or editor, or to the reader, take the time to develop descriptions worthy of your work.
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Author of the Rock Shop Mystery series and the stand-alone Survive Or Die with Encircle
Publications, Catherine Dilts also writes for Annie’s Fiction, contributing books to the Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library series, Annie’s Museum of Mysteries series, and Mackinac Island Knitters series. Her short story “Claire’s Cabin” appears in the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine March/April 2023 issue. “Annie’s Snow” appears in the Pikes Peak Writers anthology, Journey into Possibilities. Available now: The debut novel in her new cozy mystery series Rose Creek: The Body in the Cattails.