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CBWLA Presents: Queries, Blurbs & Loglines: Oh My! A Workshop with Author Samantha Combs

25 May 2013 10:09 AM | Nutschell Anne Windsor (Administrator)

Last May 25th, 2013 CBWLA was fortunate to have one of its own, Author Samantha Combs, as its workshop presenter.

samantha combs


YA Author Samantha Combs


I am a Southern California author with six published books; the Global Ebook Award-winning debut title: SPELLBOUND, EVERSPELL, and GHOSTLY, all YA paranormals. My Middle Grade horror, THE DETENTION DEMON is out, along with two adult horror collections, TEETH AND TALONS and WAY PAST MIDNIGHT.  WATERDANCER, a new YA fantasy, comes out in Sept. I enjoy writing YA paranormal romance and supernatural fantasy, but I also dabble in the horror and sci-fi genres as well, and writing for the Middle Grade audience.

When I'm not writing, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children, and my guilty pleasures include reality television, the Food Network channel and shoes. I truly believe I can accomplish anything if I have the right pair of shoes.

I love writing and I am in awe of the technological advances of our lives. Ereaders and similar gadgets are bringing the written word to a generation that might never have discovered books otherwise and every time I see a kid pick one up to read something it fills me with joy to be a small part of that process. If a child can connect with literature because he or she did so electronically, a connection still was made. I am excited to see what our world has in store for literature and excited to be along for that ride. 

samantha combs audience

Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

Samantha’s talked focused on three things which every writer has to write at some point: Queries, Loglines and Blurbs.


She began her workshop by defining what a query was and giving us various techniques that writers can use to formulate their own query, along with very helpful examples to illustrate each technique.

She also shared with us her own tried and tested formula for writing a query, which involves answering the following questions:

1. Who is the protagonist and what is their goal? (Motivation.)

2. What is keeping the protag from achieving that goal? (Conflict.)

3. How will the protagonist overcome this problem? (Plot.)

4. What happens if the protagonist fails/what choice does the protagonist have to make? (Stakes, and why the reader should care.)

samantha combs YA Author1


Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

Samantha broke down the three paragraphs that are essential in a query (the hook, the mini-synopsis and the writer’s bio) and explained what important details to include in each one.

She also gave us a helpful list of the Do’s and Don’ts  of a Query:

-Skip rhetorical questions. No “what ifs?”

-Don’t name too many characters

-Don’t describe your book as a theme (about peace and love)

-Don’t clutter the query. You don’t want to tell the whole story….leave ‘em wanting more

-Spell check, proof, revise and edit. This will be more important than the actual book

-Don’t mention other manuscripts.

-Don’t grovel, beg or plead

-Do research the agent and mention something proving you researched them; Did you meet?

-Do address the query to a specific agent and spell their name correctly. Also get their gender correct

-Do state the title of your book

-Do mention word count and genre of book

-Do advise why you are approaching this particular agent

-Do be professional and respectful

-Do have many, many people read the query before you send it

CBWLA workshop with samantha combs3

Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines


When dealing with blurbs, Samantha encouraged us to think of the dust jacket of our favorite book, or the description line for a lifetime movie. From these examples, we can gather that a blurb is designed to entice, tease and ultimately make the audience buy the story.

According to Samantha, a Blurb is used for the following things:

Book cover

Press releases



Publisher’s site

3rd party seller sites: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance, etc.

She gave us examples of blurbs taken from her own books in the Spellbound Series.

samantha combs YA Author2


Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines


When writing a book blurb, she gave us the following reminders:

* A good blurb will only introduce one character in an intimate way.

  • Introduce others via the experience of the main protag – always keep focus on MC
  • This way, the reader develops a bond and learns to root for your MC. Make the reader care what happens to them.
  • Focus on one specific conflict, not theme.
  • If your theme is strong, it will shine anyway

* Appeal to universal human emotions, even with less than human protags

  • Don’t be flashy; be concise and write with restraint. This impresses publishers
  • Subplots need not apply.
  • Never give away the ending; coyly suggest with precise, gripping language
  • Pick exact verbs instead of spineless ones like “seem” or “being” or “may”


CBWLA workshop with samantha combs2

Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines



After condensing 300 our manuscript pages to 3-4 paragraphs, we now have to whittle them down further into two sentences which comprise the logline.

The logline is sometimes called a pitch or a tagline.

Samantha gave us examples of loglines based on popular movies, asking us to guess which movies each described.

Afterward, she gave us another helpful formula for creating loglines:

  1. Give the main character an epithet: vengeful divorcee, bitter amputee, struggling aspiring author
  2. Identify the MC’s main mission and what he stands to lose if he fails
  3. Brainstorm words and phrases that conjur up images of your book
  4. Pick 25-30 that sound the most compelling
  5. Now pick 5-8 that sound even MORE compelling
  6. Now use them to fashion a tight, 25 word pitch

 CBWLA workshop with samantha combs1

Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

Samantha wrapped up her workshop by saying that there is no right or wrong way to really write queries, loglines and blurbs. But however we write them, we should put the same passion into our few sentences that we put in our 300+ manuscript pages. Most importantly, we should edit, edit, and edit.

 She ended with these words of wisdom regarding the stories we write: “If you believe in them, someone else will too.”

samantha signing books


Samantha Combs signing books after the workshop

Samantha was a wonderful speaker. She spoke in a fun, engaging manner, sprinkling funny comments and jokes throughout the workshop to keep us all entertained. Her explanations were easy to follow, and the examples she gave were very helpful in understanding the material.

Her workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines was a definite hit, and many of our members left with valuable information, and heaps of inspiration to use in their own writing.



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