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Loglines, taglines and the elevator pitch (or “What’s your book about?”)

tagline, logline, elevator pitch, novel, rna
New shoes.  An essential conference purchase :)

Tomorrow I’m off to the RNA conference – hooray and hoorah!  Anyone following the Romantic Novelists’ Association on Twitter will be forgiven for thinking the whole weekend is just a fiesta of fun, sparkly shoes and wine drinking. Check out this random selection of tweets, for example:

I haven’t packed yet. Nor do I have new shoes. Letting the side down. #rnaconf13

Last wine o’clock before #RNAconf13! Cheers!

Oooh, the packs of sweets I’m sending to #RNAconf13 have arrived. Might have to eat a pack to check they’re…um…tasty enough…

Safe journey to all going to the RNA Conference in Sheffield – and be kind to those livers. #RNAconf13

Excitement has been mounting for me for weeks.  Romance authors are a solitary bunch who normally spend all day in their jimjams, or else, like me, in the sweaty clothes they’ve just walked the dog across the moors in.  We don’t get out much, and it makes a change to dress up and have a conversation with like-minded people.  (Or with any people, for that matter :)  )

So, lots of fun will be had, but sadly there’s more to life than fun.  We are all writers (as you can tell from the high quality of the tweets) and we are trying to make a living.  Part of the reason we are at the conference is to meet editors and publishers.  Over the weekend some of the writers have booked interviews with editors, and will be pitching their latest novel.  Although I’m not pitching a novel myself this time, I need to be prepared for that question from a passing publisher or editor, or anyone else:  What’s your book about?

taglines, loglines, elevator pitch, novelYou’d think that was a simple question, but try telling someone what Jane Eyre is about, or Gone With the Wind, in a couple of short sentences.  It’s not as easy as it sounds.  And as a professionl, you can’t afford to say ‘erm…’ or ‘Actually, it’s a complicated plot and there are lots of themes’ .  That’s no good to you or the publisher, who has come looking to sign new authors, and just wants a succinct synopsis so she can make a decision.

This is where the term Elevator Pitch comes in.  You need to be able to describe your novel in the time it takes to travel, say, five floors (in a reasonably slow moving lift :) )

I was going to spend some time on this post explaining the difference between tag lines and loglines, and how both can be used for your elevator pitch, but whilst doing my research I came across this excellent post by the RWA which explains it all much better than I ever could.  If you want a quick resume of the RWA’s post, basically a tagline is a quick, and in my opinion rather gimmicky description (for example, Cinderella meets Pride and Prejudice could be a tagline to describe my novel The Silk Romance, or Jaws…in space to describe Alien).  The logline is longer, and should really sum up the story arc and themes in about twenty-five to thirty words.  Easier said than done!

The Antique Love is my next novel, and it will be released in September.  Using the guidelines in the RWA’s post, I have come up with this logline/elevator pitch to describe what the book is about, in preparation for the question:

A romance-loving antique dealer is hired to refurbish the London townhouse of a sceptical American, and breathes new life into his  heart, as well as his home. 

My present work in progress has the provisional title Interview With the Heart (although this has changed several times!  Any advice welcome).  The logline runs like this:

A reserved war journalist interviews the widow of his friend, and reveals his hidden love for her.  Can she grow to love him, and risk losing everything again?

I can’t tell you how long I’ve struggled over these loglines.  It feels worse in many ways than actually writing the books!  But if asked “What’s your book about?”, it’s vital to be able to answer in a couple of sentences, and to make your answer interesting and to the point.

What do you think of my loglines?  Do you let a book or film’s logline influence you when you are buying?  Are you a writer, and do you struggle with loglines as much as I do?  I’d love to hear your comments on this subject!

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10 thoughts on “Loglines, taglines and the elevator pitch (or “What’s your book about?”)

  1. Along with the cover I find a book’s logline will often prompt me to read the book blurb on the back. I hadn’t heard of the term before so I’ve learned something new! Have a great time at the conference Helena.

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    1. Hi Tina, thanks, that’s interesting to know. I often wondered if people really read the logline, but I’m coming to realise that it’s far more important now that many (most?) people buy their books online. Thanks for the comment!

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  2. Helena, this was a terrific and fun blog! I hope you have a great time at the conference. Are you ever excited or what…lol?

    Last night I chose five books to read this summer. Only one had a log line, Stephen King’s “Joyland”. and I would never have chosen his book because of his log line. Recently I read and was intrigued by King’s “11/22/63” and this is why I chose his book. I had never read him before this.

    When choosing a book, I pretty much read the blurb on the back cover and look on Amazon to see how the book is rated. Or I’ll chose a favorite author or take a recommendation from a friend. Most of my latest books have been through recommendations.

    Susan Bernhardt
    http://www.susanbernhardt.com

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    1. Hi Susan, thanks for your great comments! It’s interesting to know how people choose their books. I’m planning to check out a few best-selling authors and see what their loglines are like. I expect the best-sellers have specialists to write them for them – unlike us! But it’s a good exercise to do as a writer, because it forces you to focus on your themes and plot.
      And yes, I’m well giddy about the conference (as we say in Yorkshire!) Thanks so much for coming

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  3. A critique goup is the most valuable when it comes to writing a logline, synopsis. I think the author knows too much about the book to condense all the action into two lines or a paragraph! A reader can pick out the bones of the plot easier for you. We have a gal who is so good at creating a log line for folks in the group, but she can’t do it for her own work. Your log lines are fine for your books, but I was caught at the word sceptical. It must be an English spelling for that word. I’ve seen it as skeptical. Hope you have a fantastic time at the conference. Looking forward to reading all about your adventures on your blog!

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    1. Thanks Janet / JQ! That’s a great idea to ask a critique group. I’ve been trying to find a group near me for a while, and I’m finally joining one on Monday. Good timing! And you’re right about the sceptical. It’s British spelling, and I suppose would jar to the American audience. I was going to put cynical instead, but so many romance heroes are cynical, and it’s become just another cliche. Now you see how hard this is!!

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    1. Hi Patricia, thanks for calling in! Just got back from the RNA conf (I was only there for the one day, sadly), and am tired and hot – but happy! Would be great to hear how you get on in Antlanta. Have a good trip – and a fun, productive time!

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