Book Writing 101: The Tagline

Congratulations! You have just completed a 75,000 word manuscript. Now you have to write one sentence that will inspire a potential reader to buy your book. It sounds easy, but for most authors writing a tagline is a grueling endeavor. The following tips should make the task a little easier.

What is a tagline?
According to Wikipedia, the idea behind the concept (of the tagline) is to create a memorable dramatic phrase that will reinforce and strengthen the audience’s memory of a literary product. It is usually a caption on movie posters or the front cover of a book. Along with the title, it acts as the hook that arouses interest in your story. In essence, the tagline is a memorable teaser of the book.

The purpose of the tagline
The three main objectives of the tagline are:

To describe who or what the story is about (usually the protagonist).

The goal of the story from the protagonist point of view.

What – or who – stands in their way (the antagonist or some other force).

It’s also best not to reveal the name of the protagonist or antagonist in the tagline, but rather use this as a brief description about the character. To do this, include descriptive adjectives such as arrogant, magnetic, unpleasant, shrewd or provocative.

Famous taglines
The following are taglines from famous movies. What image does the tagline conjure in your mind?

James Bond in Die Another Day: He’s Never Been Cooler

Halloween: The Night He Came Home

The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey: From the smallest beginnings come the greatest legends.

The Lord of the Rings: One Ring to Rule Them All

Disney’s The Lion King: The King Has Returned

Forrest Gump: Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get.

Saturday Night Fever: Catch it.

Interstellar: The End of Earth Will Not Be The End of Us

The Dark Knight: Welcome to a World Without Rules

The Notebook: Behind Every Great Love Is A Great Story

Notice these popular movie taglines do not give the name of the main character or even much information about the plot. Sometimes you’re uncertain from the tagline what genre it is (the movie poster or book cover usually does a good job of that), but most of the time, it’s best to give a glimpse about who your target audience is. Ideally your tagline will speak to that audience and appeal directly to them.

Where to put your tagline
While the front cover of your book is the ideal spot for the tagline, there are other places it can be strategically effective:

1. On your social media sites

2. Added to your e-mail signature

3. Added to your book trailer

4. On a press release

5. On your business card, bookmarks, rack cards or other promotional pieces

6. On the back of your book over the book’s blurb