FCTB: Creating the Tagline

Blog Post 32 FCTB TaglinesOkay.  Now you’ve got a killer manuscript and an awesome title to go with it.  You’re ready to do the cover, right?  Hold on.  Not quite so fast.  You still have a ways to go.  Why?  There’s text that you need to formulate before getting a cover designer and creating the cover.

The first bit of that text is the tagline.

What is it?  At a writer’s conference two years ago, my instructor said that the tagline is a lot like the log entry that ship captains would write at the end of each day.  They had very limited space in which to write, so they would put only what is critical in the logbook.

Taglines are like that as well.  Short.  Sweet.  Concise.  But with a ton of zing.

How do you come up with that?

Look for examples.  One way to come up with examples is to take a look at movie posters and their taglines.  Another way is to go to the Internet and Google something like taglines.  You’ll find lots of lists to choose from.  Here’s five of many from Tagline Guru (www.taglineguru.com), which took a survey of the bets taglines of all time:  (1) The mission is a man (Saving Private Ryan – 1998), (2) Fear can hold you prisoner.  Hope can set you free (Shawshank Redemption – 1994), (3) The true story of a real fake (Catch Me If You Can – 2002), (4) The first casualty of war is innocence (Platoon – 1986), and (5) A tale of murder, lust, greed, revenge, and seafood (A Fish Called Wanda – 1988).

Here’s the way I use to create a tagline.

  1. Start with the list. Remember that list of words you used to create the title? Maybe you can find some nuggets in there that will spur ideas for the tagline.
  2. Brainstorm. Write down taglines on a notepad, no matter how farfetched or silly they may be. Most likely, you won’t use them again, but they’ll spur thought.
  3. Cull the list. As you did with the title, strike out the ones that don’t make since or are just plain silly. Gradually, as you add and subtract words and rephrase it, the tagline will appear.
  4. Test it out. How do you feel when you come to the tagline you want? Do you feel like it explains your novel? Does it instinctively fit? If so, those are good signs that you can continue moving forward with producing your manuscript.

I want to add a word of caution here.  You may feel like taglines just aren’t coming to you.  If so, there may be two things holding you back.

First off, you might not have taken the time to let the creativity flow.  I’m definitely guilty of that.  Take half an hour or do it as a warmup session to your evening of writing.

The second one may be a bit more problematic.  Your manuscript might not be quite ready.  This can definitely happen if you start working on the tagline too early in the writing process.  If so, don’t panic.  Take another hard look at your manuscript.  If needed, get someone else to look at it.  Make any necessary edits.  Then try it again.

Have fun with the tagline.  It’s a challenging process, but in the end, you can grin and say “Made you look!” when people buy your book.

Up Next:  Back-of-the-book text

I have not received any compensation for writing this post.  I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services I have mentioned.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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