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Log Lines! Book Summaries!

Did you know that a lot of newer books have one-sentence summaries (a.k.a log lines) on the copyright page?  I don't know how many books I've been living under, but I only made this discovery a few months ago.  Now I check every time.

Let me give you a sampling from some YA books I have in front of me.


Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway:

"While trying to score a date with her cute co-worker at the Scooper Dooper, sixteen-year-old Audrey gains unwanted fame and celebrity status when her ex-boyfriend, a rock musician, records a breakup song about her that soars to the top Billboard charts."

The Miles Between by Mary Pearson:

"Seventeen-year-old Destiny keeps a painful childhood secret all to herself until she and three classmates from her exclusive boarding school take off on an unauthorized road trip in search of "one fair day."

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins:

"In a future North America, where the rules of Panem maintain control though an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districs against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss's skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place."

Viola in Reel Life by Adraina Trigiani:

"When fourteen-year-old Viola is sent from  her beloved Brooklyn to boarding school in Indiana for ninth grade, she overcomes her initial reservations as she makes friends with her roommates, goes on a real date, and uses the unsettling ghost she keeps seeing as the subject of a short film--her first."

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson:

"A traumatic event near the end of the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda's freshman year in high school."

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson:

"Eighteen-year-old Lia comes to terms with her best friends death from anorexia as she struggles with the same disorder."

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green:

"Having been recently dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, recent high school graduate and former child prodigy Colin sets off on a road trip with his best friend to try to find some new direction in his life."


Each of those summaries is only one sentence.  It's an amazing thing, isn't it?  So, the next time you're trying to write your own log line, check your bookshelf for some examples that will resonate with you. 

Here are some articles and how-to tips on writing log lines:

How to Write a Log Line by David Macinnis Gill.

Writing a Logline/The One-Sentence Pitch by the QueryTracker blog.

What Do You Look For in a Logline on Ask a Literary Agent.

How to Write a Logline that Sells on eHow.

And for fun, here is a Random Logline Generator.

Do you have any tips, articles, or blog posts you want to share on log lines?  And, if you're feeling up to it, feel free to grab a book or three and post the summary (if it has one) in the comments.  I'd love to grow the list of examples and promote authors while we're at it!


Kristin said...

Great post! It's hard to boil it down to one sentence at times.

Casey Something said...

Thanks Kristin! I'm a learn-by-example girl, so I love having a shelf full of summaries available!

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

These have been in books for a long time. I don't remember when I first noticed them, because I usually skim over the card-catalogue-esque pages, but I know they aren't new. I'd sort of forgotten them. Oh, maybe I should check for these on those annoying books that don't have back cover info. Thanks for reminding me these exist.

Sherrie Petersen said...

It does help to have a good example, especially when you've read the book so you're familiar with the story. Log lines can be so hard to come up with.

Elana Johnson said...

Every deal on Publisher's Marketplace has a one-sentence blurb about the book that was sold. I scour those, wondering what mine might say...

Casey Something said...

I read the deal blurbs too, Elana!

I'm positive I'll see you in there someday soonish. : )

Yat-Yee said...

Thanks for these examples. I found the ones on the books I've read especially eye-opening.

And now I'll have a new way to procrastinate: random logline generator!

Anne R. Allen said...

I always learn something here, Casey. I had no idea loglines were now part of the printed book. These are great examples and great links, too. Love the Random Logline Generator.

I wrote about loglines a while ago, but it's probably time to do an updated post. When I write it, I'll include a link to this one. Great stuff.

Scott said...

Thanks so much. I'm about to start querying . . . again. I know I need the logline/pitch, one sentence preferred . . . allegedly! : )


Thermocline said...

I can't remember where I read it but I came across a suggestion that you should come up with your logline first, then build a query on top of that.

Brigid N. Burke said...

Oh, I know what those are--those are the CIP (Cataloging-in Publication) annotations. When the galley for a book comes out, it is sent to the Library of Congress or some major distributor for cataloging (as in creating library catalog data). One of the requirements for YA and Children's literature is to write an annotation--the very short summary that you refer to as a log line. Not all YA/Children's books have them, because they are one of the first things the Library of Congress cuts from their workload if they're really backlogged. The CIP cataloging program allows libraries to have an early record for a forthcoming book, so they can get the item on the shelf more quickly when it's actually published.

(I actually taught all of this stuff at Rutgers University for 7 years...). :)

I never thought of using the annotations in the way you describe, but it's a great idea! Writing them is an art. We were told to keep it to one or two sentences tops, avoid using passive-voice verbs, and avoid giving away the ending. We were never allowed to use a publisher's marketing blurb, either.

MG Higgins said...

So I've had these great examples of one-liners right under my nose and didn't realize it? Thanks for the tip!

Laura Pauling said...

Super helpful. Thanks Casey!

Casey Something said...

Brigid!! Thanks so much for the lesson on CIP annotations. I knew they probably had a purpose, but as far as I was concerned they were for my personal education. *Grin*


PJ Hoover said...

I love being able to find a concise one sentence summary. Challenging, but fun!

Jonathon Arntson said...

After the cover, that is always the first place I go (the copyright page).

Unknown said...

Janice Hardy had some great info on log lines, too.

I think, personally, writing that one sentence is harder than writing a query or a synopsis!


It's funny--I just saw this a couple of months ago as well. Definitely a great resource for people struggling with one sentence hooks!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I've never noticed this before--I'm going to have to check it out. I've been trying to write a logline for each of my WIP's as I start. This current one is easier than the others have been but I still don't have it quite right. It's a great exercise to help with queries, too!

Heather Zundel said...

I knew about this, but I completely forgot! Thanks for reminding me, Casey. Now I'm off the read all the loglines of my favorite books. *whoosh*

Daisy Whitney said...

It's always good to have an elevator pitch for your novel!

storyqueen said...

I did this with all my WIPs not to long ago. It was amazingly helpful to me as a writer to be able to distill the essence of the story down to one sentence.

I like Daisy's comment about an elevator pitch! hahaha.

Great post, Casey!

Lisa Nowak said...

Save the Cat by by Blake Snyder also has good advice about log lines. He breaks it down into a very simple formula.

Rachael said...

Great post! I usually wait until after I read the book to read the log line on the copyright page. Sometimes it contains spoilers and other times it's not a very...catching representation of the book.