So, you’ve written your literary masterpiece and posted it up on Amazon with a book cover and description, which, in your opinion, is darned perfect.
But if your book is so great and your description so spot-on, why isn’t anyone buying it? You’ve promoted it, so you know readers know its there, but where are the sales?
There is a good chance that your logline – that short description at the top of your Amazon product page meant to set up your story in an intriguing and succinct way intended to persuade readers to buy your book by – falls short. It may even suck altogether.
In a logline containing a couple dozen or so words, each word weighs a ton. There is a limit to how much tonnage you can load up on the scale. You’ve got to ensure that each word is there because it makes an invaluable contribution to the overall sentence. Superfluous and ill-chosen words make for superfluous and ill-chosen loglines. If a word doesn’t contribute to tone or meaning, strike it from the sentence.
Brevity and precision aside, ask yourself whether your logline paints a picture of what your story is about and poses an intriguing question the reader is dying to have answered. If your logline fails to hook the reader immediately she will drift over to another page in search of something better to read.
But there is another crucial thing a logline must do. It must play fair with the reader. Your book cover and logline are the promise you make your readers: Buy my book and you’ll get the sort of story I describe. Fail to do so, or change the genre halfway through the book, and you may disappoint or even anger them, with devastating results when they come to reviewing your book.
Don’t get me wrong. I love surprises. I hate predictability. I love to cook with morsels from different genres in order to create new and surprising flavours. But if you promise your readers a drama, don’t give them a satire. They’ll punish you for it.
Upon first publishing my new scifi/technothriller, The Level, on Amazon, I offered the following description:
A man, suffering from amnesia wakes up in a pitch-black room, tied to what feels like a wooden chair. He discovers he is a prisoner in an abandoned, labyrinthine asylum hunted by shadowy figures out to kill him. An enchanting woman dressed in a black burka appears out of the darkness and offers to show him the way out, if only he can remember who he truly is. But the truth is more terrifying than anything anyone could have ever imagined.
The book did well, jumping to number 22 on the Amazon top 100 Bestseller list in its category. But a chat with a fellow writer drew my attention to the possibility that my description was missing a vital ingredient: the scifi/technothriller element. In fact, as it stood, the cover and logline screamed: Horror genre! And while there are strong thriller/horror elements in the story, I realised I wasn’t playing fair with my readers.
So, I reworked my logline and came up with the following:
A man with no memory hunted down the twisted corridors of a derelict asylum by murderous figures…
A computer programmer desperate to eliminate a flaw in her code before the software is released to an unsuspecting public…
Two lives bound together by a terrifying secret.
This logline has the elements of the previous one, but adds technology to the broth — a huge part of the story. It plays fair with the reader.
Will it do better at selling the book than the previous logline? Only time and the numbers will tell. In the meantime, perhaps you could write in and tell me your preference.
Using precise, economic language, posing an intriguing question, and playing fair with the reader in terms of genre are some of the most important elements in crafting an effective logline.
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