How to Write a Tagline and a LogLine for a Novel
What in the World Is He Talking About?
Don’t feel bad! There are days I’m not sure what it is I’m talking about, so if you don’t know what a tagline is, or a log line, I’m sure you aren’t alone.
The fact is, you are already aware of taglines and log lines, but you probably haven’t heard them called that. Let me give you an example and then we’ll start over with a definition….are you ready?
JUST DO IT!
If you are even vaguely familiar with the world of sports then you have heard of Nike, and if you have heard of Nike then you have heard their tagline, “Just Do It.” Now that I have given you a perfect example of the cart before the horse, let’s give you a definition or two to work with.
What Is a Tagline?
For lack of a better term, a tagline is a slogan. It is a memorable phrase that sums up the tone and premise of your product, and if you are a writer, your product is your book.
What, Then, Is a Log Line?
A log line is slightly different. It is basically a one-sentence summary of your book that states the basic conflict of your story.
Which one do you like the best?
Why Are These Important for a Writer?
Why are these important? Seriously? Listen, if you are a writer then you are also your own marketing manager. It is your job to not only write a memorable book, but to also create a memorable advertising campaign for it. Let’s look at taglines first. I’m going to list ten of the most memorable taglines in history, and I want you to try to figure out which company the tagline belongs to. Okay? Here we go:
- The Uncola
- Stronger than dirt
- I can’t believe I ate the whole thing
- Don’t leave home without it
- Reach out and touch someone
- The ultimate driving machine
- The king of beers
- Have it your way
- What’s in your wallet
- Helping writers to spread their wings and fly
Well, how many did you know? Here are the answers:
- American Express
- Burger King
- Capitol One
- William D. Holland
Yes, I had a little fun with the last one, but hopefully you knew that one as well. It is my tagline and yes, I believe any writer who is serious about writing should have a tagline.
Wrap your brains around this very important point: As a writer you are a business. Your writing is your product. The sooner you accept that fact, embrace that fact, and work with that fact, the sooner your business will improve.
So, what is your tagline?
Play with it today. See if you can’t come up with a memorable phrase that summarizes your abilities as a writer….or, if you have written a book, what memorable phrase will capture your entire book?
As some of you may know, I am in the final edit of my second novel, “Resurrecting Tobias.” I am still playing with various taglines for that novel, but here are three that I am considering:
- Do we ever stop paying for our past mistakes?
- Is it possible to survive being ourselves?
- Forgiveness is an inside job
Since I know what the book is about, these three taglines make perfect sense to me. To you, not so much….but….which of the three grabs you? Which one is most interesting to you and would entice you to read the book? Vote in the poll to the right and answer that question; by doing so you will be helping me to choose.
How man of the log lines did you know?
And Then We Have the Log Line
So you have written a book, 100,000 words in length, and now you have to summarize that book in one sentence. Can you do it?
Try this exercise if you will. Some of you probably have not written a book, so let’s make this simpler so we can include everyone in our little exercise. Choose an article that you have written, and then try to write a log line for that article. Sounds easy, right? Well give it a try and you might find it is not nearly as easy as it seems.
Let’s take a look at some famous log lines from some recognizable works. See if you can guess the book.
- A lonely young small-town girl is swept away to a magical land in a tornado and embarks on a quest to see the Wizard who can help her return home.
- Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.
- A man, while not intelligent, has accidentally been present at many historic moments, but his true love, Jenny, eludes him.
- Blacksmith Will Turner teams up with an eccentric pirate to save his love, the governor’s daughter, from Jack’s former pirate allies, who are now undead.
How many of those log lines do you recognize? Check in with the poll to the right and let me know how you did. Here are the answers:
- The Wizard of Oz
- The Shawshank Redemption
- Forrest Gump
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Notice that with each log line above, the main conflict is stated. Notice, too, that the main characters are mentioned and that we are given a hint into their personalities. All of this is done in one sentence!
Can you do it?
The Importance of Taglines and Log Lines
Listen, if you have gone to the bother of writing 100,000 words, and invested time, effort and money into it, wouldn’t it be nice if someone actually read it? Of course it would, and that is the whole point of taglines and log lines. They are a way of grabbing someone’s attention, whether that someone be a reader in the library, a computer nerd surfing the internet, or a publisher that has just received your query letter.
This is the marketing side of writing that most writers despise, but it is crucial.
Please note that I have not shared my log line for “Resurrecting Tobias.” That’s because I don’t have one yet. I am still kicking around possibilities and as of yet I have not found the perfect one….and that’s what it has to be….perfect. My new novel is 130,000 words long. I invested six months of my life into it, and I want it to be wildly successful and an enjoyable read for anyone who picks it up. Because I have put so much effort into it, and because it is so important to me, I refuse to take any shortcuts. I will spend as much time as I have to in order to write the perfect log line because it is that important.
However, I feel I need to give you a sampling. Off the top of my head, here is a practice log line for “Resurrecting Tobias”……
“A good man, a writer of words, discovers fame and intense tragedy on his road of self-discovery, and with the help of two dear friends learns that love does conquer all.”
And Now It Is Your Turn
Thank you for voting in the polls I provided. The one about taglines will help me to decide on my own tagline, so you are helping me by voting.
I hope you give this a try with one of your articles. Sooner or later you will need a tagline and a log line, so you might as well practice now.
As always, I wish you well in your endeavors.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”