One of the most important parts of selling your novel is creating an effective logline and pitch. Regardless of the fabulous epic novel you've written, filled with quirky characters, edge-of-your-seat action and riveting dialogue, the logline and pitch are the first thing any editor or agent will see to determine if your novel is something they wish to read. Therefore, they need several key elements that not only convey what the story is about, but also the tone of the story itself, distilled down to one or two sentences, in the case of the logline, and a couple of paragraphs for the pitch. I don't know about you, but this task, to me, may be even more daunting than the writing of the story itself.
Let's start with the logline. A logline gives a concise overview of the story without going into detail on characters or subplots, just the essential bones. For example, let's look at THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. It's logline, taken from it's Copyright page, reads:
“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 districts against one another, sixteen-year-old Katniss’s skills are put to the test when she voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place.”
A strong logline will convey the following: WHO the story is about, a SETTING, if essential to the story, WHAT the protagonist wants and WHAT stands in his/her way. All of this is told without giving away the entire story. Think of it as the answer you'd provide when people ask you what your novel is about. Generally, it should be just one sentence, but more intricate storylines may use two. Use a really strong adjective or two when describing your main character (a geeky clarinet-playing seventeen-year-old, an overachiever, etc.) to help paint a bigger portrait of who the protagonist is. Also try and avoid putting "themes" or "messages" in your logline, as it may make the story immediately seem preachy or cliched.
The pitch lets you go into a little more detail. This is the information you would put into a query to agents, and ultimately what your agent would use to in turn pitch the story to editors. You have the ability to elaborate with a little more detail on the points you touched on in the logline, but again, be sure not to give away twists and turns or the ending. Otherwise it leaves the reader no need to read the story itself to find out what happens. Think of the pitch like reading the jacket flap on a book. It conveys an outline of the story with just enough detail to read you in but leave you hungry for more. It is important to include information about setting, genre, and what makes your book unique or stand out (i.e. not just another road trip novel or vampire story.) This is truly the place to let the tone of your book show and let the agent/editor get a feel for you as a writer. If your book is funny, the pitch better be too! Otherwise you are missing a golden opportunity to show the flavor of your book and your writing.