Tag Lines to Hook a Reader

Tag line or Logline?
A logline tells you what a movie or book will be
about—the main conflict, the main character, and the stakes.
 A tag line is a catch phrase. It doesn’t tell you
anything specific about the story, but it does give you a feel for it in a way
that a logline can’t. A tag line is what you see on movie posters.
What I want to talk
about are tag lines. What constitutes a good one for a novel? In my way of
thinking, which I admit has always been a little off step, is to summarize the
story idea in a single sentence. Write a catch phrase—a hook—that makes people
want to pick up the book and read it.
Author Stacey Nash describes a tag line
for books as “a one-sentence summary of your story. Its goal is to intrigue and
make the person that you are delivering it to want to read the story. The most
important thing about the tag line is that it needs to be high concept. It
should sum up the entire plot in one quick compelling sentence.”
In my debut novel,
my tag line is: With a friend like
Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel
. That tells you in one sentence of 15 words exactly what you’re
going to get in the book: a lighthearted read, with a heroine who is always in
the middle of trouble, and there’s a friend involved.
Rose McCauley worked on hers for a book placed in Perfect, Kentucky. She sent me what she had
but wanted to shorten it. Her original was something like: “In Perfect,
Kentucky, not much happens that isn’t perfect until she discover
whatever-it-was.” I can’t remember the last part. What I saw, reading
that, was this: Perfect, Kentucky isn’t
always
. Four words tell it all.
Randy Ingermanson, the Snowflake guy, says to
keep it under 20 words. I agree but always try for the fewest possible. In my
opinion, some examples of excellent tag lines are:
Secrets can be funny things ~ Secrets
over Sweet Tea
, by Denise Hildreth
Jones
. It gives

a hint of the style, written with some humor, and that
secrets are involved. That tag line made me buy the book.

One ring
to rule them all
~ Lord of the Rings,
JRR Tolkien
What
if she
never
came home . . . ?
~ The
Face of the Earth,
by Deborah Raney
Life’s
a journey. Midlife’s an adventure
. ~ RV There Yet? By Diann Hunt
Behind every broken vow lies a broken heart. ~
Dry as Rain
by Gina Holmes
Your day starts by being jilted at the altar. It’s
about to get a lot worse
. ~ Keeper of the Bride by Tess
Gerritsen
When they came for him, it was time to run. ~ Don’t Leave
Me
by James Scott Bell
Nice
guys finish last. Meet the winners. ~
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Okay it’s a movie
but that’s a great tag line. The thing is, we can take the idea, the layout
from these and create good ones of our own.
So, what tag lines
have you found irresistible or written yourself? I’d love to see them.
Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried
fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. Her debut book, Chapel Springs Revival, is due out in
2014. She’s a three-time Genesis finalist, a
humor columnist for the ACFW Journal,
and a multi-published playwright. She resides in
Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband and two very large dogs.