In anticipation of making a return to querying cloth-eared literary agents and publishers in their ivory castles, who are readying vats of boiling oil to pour over me, I’ve also been gathering information on how best to market myself as a self-published writer and my books as commercial products.
Accordingly, I’ve signed up to newsletters from websites that are only peripherally to do with writing and publishing, such as advertising and public relations agencies. These often mention straplines, which are the slogans used to symbolise what the company stands for.
Famous company straplines include:
Nike—Just Do It
McDonalds—I’m Lovin‘ It
Ronseal—It Does Exactly What It Says On The Tin
L’Oréal Paris—Because You’re Worth It
In the book world, these tend to be called taglines—the phrase beneath the title that’s meant to entice a potential reader into wanting to know more about a story.
Another term used in publishing is logline, though this refers to a way of describing the gist of your story in one sentence, the who, what and why of the events—how you’d sum up your story if someone asked you what it was about.
Taglines always appear on movie posters:
Alien—In space no one can hear you scream.
The Social Network—You don’t get 500 million friends without making a few enemies.
Superman—You’ll believe a man can fly.
The Shawshank Redemption—Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.
Jaws 2—Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water.
In publishing, I’ve noticed that taglines are commonly used to flog genre writing, but they’re unusual in highfalutin literature…unless a classic novel is published in a cheap paperback edition, aimed at the masses rather than the intelligentsia. I recently read three novels that prove this observation. Rough Music by Patrick Gale and Autumn by Ali Smith are free of anything so vulgar as a tagline, but a crime thriller by Adam Hamdy, called Pendulum, has the ominous tagline YOU HAVE ONE CHANCE. RUN.
There are several hooks that could snag your reader’s attention, encouraging them to pick up your book. These include the author’s name, the book title, the cover design and the tagline. A tagline should be teasing, but not misleading. Further examples of book taglines include:
Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief—Half boy. Half god. All hero.
Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games—Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.
Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye—She had six husbands, money – and one lover too many.
Alex Scarrow’s Time Riders—Mess around with time and the world you know could become a world you don’t.
Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl—There are two sides to every story….
I have some experience of the power of taglines, for in the autumn of 2014 I made all of my 44 self-published titles online free of charge, with the intention of raising my profile (hah!) as I intended to upload my first Cornish Detective novel in time for Christmas. Thankfully, I had a change of heart, for it would have disappeared like a bucket of water in an ocean, but as primitive marketing research, I kept my books free and tried changing the cover designs, altering keyword tags and seeing what happened when I added a tagline to the cover—to my surprise, it doubled the number of readers downloading the eBook.
The taglines for my Cornish Detective series are:
Who Kills A Nudist?—Naked as the day he was born, dead on a beach in winter.
The Perfect Murderer—The game of murder has more than one player.
An Elegant Murder—Dressed to kill, she’s dead in a flooded quarry.
Sin Killers—Is it such a sin to kill evil people?
The Dead Need Nobody—He’s turned killing into an art form.
What are the taglines for your stories?