Boiling a 400+ manuscript into a one line pitch is a killer. That's why we write 400+ page manuscripts -- it's easier than writing one line that encompasses an entire book.
But, as with everything in life, practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the easier it gets. The more of them you read, the better idea you have of how to do it.
The best place to get examples -- NYT Bestsellers List -- after all, they must know something about it seeing as they made it this far.
How about these tag lines from the top 20:
1) A retired F.B.I. agent has a chance to track a rapist who may have murdered his wife.
2) A princess is challenged by work at an African Red Cross camp.
4) A woman vows to punish the wealthy American man who lured her mother into a prostitution ring.
5) A woman elevated by inheritance to the ranks of London high society navigates her new world with the help of a handsome socialite.
6) A divorce lawyer may be murdering his clients’ spouses.
7) The members of the Camel Club reunite to solve a murder at the Library of Congress.
8) Two Boston P.I.’s investigate the disappearance of a 4-year-old girl they assume is dead.
9) A comic police procedural involving a jewelry store robbery, a Russian nightclub and an undercover operation gone wrong.
10) A marine archaeologist hunts for the lost golden menorah of Jerusalem.
11) The young couple from “True Believer,” who are now expecting a child, get a disturbing message.
12) A green-skinned girl grows up to become the Wicked Witch of the West.
13) A “haze of terror” descends on a small town; originally published as a novella in the collection “Skeleton Crew.”
14) Two friends as close as sisters share a deadly confidence.
15) Murder, arson and lust surround the building of a 12th-century cathedral.
16) A human surgeon cares for a wounded vampire.
17) Two novellas about two murders, one in the world of politics, the other in the world of music.
18) A dead detective once suspected of murder reaches out through a Ouija board to clear his name.
19) A Victorian woman, promised by her father to a man she’s never met, assumes a false identity to spy on her intended.
20) A chess champion keeps a protective eye on his hairdresser wife after receiving veiled threats from a Russian opponent.
Some are better than others. Those I find most compelling: 1, 2, 6, 10, 14, 15, 18, 19. These contain some element of intrigue...lead me to want to know more, to pick up the book and read the back cover.
How about you -- which of these interest you and why? How do you squeezy your manuscript down into a sentence?
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