Does Your Tag Line Hook?

In preparation
for the upcoming ACFW writers’ conference, I labored over the tag line for my
latest manuscript. It was not cooperating. Instead, it was stubborn and
elusive, which frustrated the fire out of me. Normally, I can pin down a tag
line in 5 minutes. Especially for someone else.
I did what any
self-respecting writer would do. I whined to my critique partners. We began a
brainstorm session that finally resulted in my tag line. And it’s a good one.
It reflects the tone of the story.
So what goes into
a tag line?
First and
foremost, it should hook the agent or editor. It needs be a king-salmon-sized
hook, strong enough so the agent/editor can’t slip the away. After all, they’re
a wiggly breed.
A tag line
should be short, the shorter, the better. Try to keep it under 20 words. Okay, no
one will shoot you if it’s 21. But aim for short. One of my favorites is one I
helped do for a brainstorm buddy. “Will her escape become her prison?” Six words that
open a world of possibility.
For the first
book in the current series I’m writing, the tag line is (thanks to brainstorming pal Barbara Davidson): “With a friend like
Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.” Fifteen words that tell
a story.
The tag line
doesn’t have to reveal the plot. It’s a hook. It needs to make the agent/editor
want to know more. Don’t give into detail. State the backbone of the story. If
possible, add a one-word describer to the character’s job: a crazed physicist,
a driven attorney, a dyslexic librarian, a superhero wannbe, an anorexic chef.
Okay maybe not that last one.
Don’t worry
about names. This is the one-liner you give when someone says, “What’s
your book about?”
One of mine is:
“Her dream job has a Catch 22 and time is running out.” Twelve
words. The story is about a lobbyist who has to lobby for an issue that will
stop her from reaching her her heart’s desire. Can you say conflict?
Here’s a few from
published novels:
Is there really
a fountain of youth in Paradise? Blame it
on the Mistletoe
, Joyce Magnin
Past promises
will be tested as new ones are given…,
A Texan’s Promise
, Shelly Gray
How can she love
a man she’s never seen face-to-face? Playing
by Heart
, Deborah Raney
There’s a fine
line between ambitious and crazy. Swinging
on a Star
, Janice Thompson
Behind every
broken heart lies a broken promise. Dry
as Rain,
Gina Holmes
expected to receive a new heart…but she didn’t expect to lose her faith. The Heart of Memory, Alison Strobel
Oh, the one I
struggled with? Well, I laid out the main conflict points and it sprang from
there. Only mine took 12 people and 24 hours. But I’m happy with it. You sure
you want to see it? Okay …
An invasion of
tourists, a scalawag mayor, and her son’s mail order bride propel Claire onto a
merry-go-round of trouble.
Thank goodness
hyphenated words count as one.