How to Write a Tagline for Your Book (And Why You Need To)

Okay, how many of you don’t know the difference between a logline and a tag line? *raises hand* Yeah, me too. But lucky for us my friend Marcy Kennedy is here to explain. And wow, there is a BIG difference!

Fleuron

As writers, we hear about loglines all the time—how to write them, why we need them, when to use them. And so, when we hear about this thing called a tag line, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking tag line is just another name for a logline.

It’s not and we need both because the tagline is what goes on your book cover.

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.

To help you see the difference between a logline and a tag line, let’s go through examples of both.

Lord of the Rings 

Logline: A young hobbit needs to destroy an ancient, powerful ring before the evil overload consumes the world in everlasting darkness.

Tag Line: One ring to rule them all.

The LOTR logline gives you the main character (a hobbit), the main conflict (the hobbit wants to destroy the ring and the evil overlord wants to keep the ring), and the stakes (all the good in the world will be destroyed).

The tag line gives you the emotional feel of the book. It will be dark and serious. You could probably even guess that it will be an epic fantasy.

Jaws 

Logline: A sheriff must find and kill a man-eating and frighteningly intelligent shark before it murders again and scares away all the tourists who support his beach-front community.

Tag Line: Don’t go into the water.

Do you see how the tag line doesn’t really tell you anything about the movie? Based on just the tag line, Jaws could be about poisonous jelly fish or a deadly current. It’s not meant to tell you the plot. It’s meant to evoke emotion. It sets the tone for a story that’s going to scare you. You know it’s going to be either horror or a thriller.

When you’re writing your tag line, ask yourself what tone you want to set for your book. What emotions do you want to evoke?

Now brainstorm 5-10 possible tag lines, trying to keep them under 10 words each. If you want, share your attempts in the comments, and give feedback on the attempts of someone else!

I’ve also put together something special as a thank you to people who sign up for my newsletter where I let you know about my upcoming classes and books. I’m offering a free PDF called Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Hiring a Freelance Editor But Were Too Confused to Ask. Click here to sign up for your copy.

Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy) is a speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance editor and teaches classes on craft and social media through WANA International. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at www.marcykennedy.com.

About ANGELA ACKERMAN

Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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30 Responses to How to Write a Tagline for Your Book (And Why You Need To)

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  8. I have been struggling with a tagline for my author website. Maybe it is too early in my career to define myself with a tagline–I’ve only written one book.

    What is your take on author blogs or websites having taglines?

  9. Angela, so glad to see smart and saavy, Marcy share the differences between a tag and a log line. I hate to admit this, but I didn’t realize the difference, but now I do. And Marcy, the examples were perfect. 🙂

  10. Marcia says:

    Wonderful examples. Tag lines are so tough, but fun!

  11. Unknown says:

    Hand raised here, too, for not knowing the difference. For me the tag line for my Underdead books came easily–it’s the distillation of the latest book’s plot into the logline that’s the head-against-the-wall-banger. OW!

    Not Undead, merely…UNDERDEAD.

  12. Thanks for the great tip, Marcy. It’s fun to practice too … getting the knowledge into the cells. More great value, Bookshelf Muses 🙂

  13. Lori Schafer says:

    Thanks, Marcy. I absolutely did have the two concepts confused!

  14. Karen Lange says:

    Thanks so much for the info! Appreciate your insight.

  15. Great definitions – thank you!

  16. Love tag lines. Just can’t write them. 😛

  17. Marcy says:

    Jessica – I hope this saves your head from any more contact with your desk 🙂 I don’t write them for people, but I have consulted to help writers polish their pitches.

    Karen – Thank you. I think that’s one of the nicest compliments.

    Pen N. Ink & Julie – Glad I could help!

  18. I came over from Susanne’s blog, and I’m glad I did! I never heard of a logline before. Thanks for the great examples of tag lines. I agree that they are a great way to lure readers in.

    Julie

  19. Thank you Marcy. Beautifully defined.
    I’ll start thinking about that.

  20. Marcy, you are a really good teacher. You have a way of simplifying a task in order to make it understandable. “Don’t go in the water.” Got it. It says enough without giving away the plot. I will bookmark this post just in case a miracle happens and I actually publish something and need a tagline. lol. 🙂

  21. Love this post! Marcy, you make it look so easy! 🙂 I was trying to write one yesterday and ended up doing the whole *head desk* thing and giving up! Glad to know the difference between tag and logline… very informative! (Do freelance writers allow you to hire them just to write those? Ha ha. Just kidding.)

  22. Marcy says:

    Patti, Natalie, Deb, and Becca – I’m glad I was able to sort it out for you. They’re both great tools once we know how they’re supposed to be used.

  23. Marcy, this information is really really useful. I had no idea there was a difference between tag lines and log lines. I love learning new stuff :). Thanks for being here!

  24. I didn’t know the difference, either. Great tips!

  25. Thanks for the tips, Marcy. I didn’t know the difference. Loved your examples.

  26. Patti says:

    Thanks for this, I was one of the people who raised my hand at the beginning. Now I can put it back down.

  27. Marcy says:

    Thanks for having me here, Angela! As an avid Bookshelf Muse fan, it’s an honor to be posting here.

    @M.L. – I agree. The easier we can make this, the better and more likely we are to remember it when we need to.

    @Bish – Glad I could help 🙂

  28. This really made me see the power a tag line has, and why we should work so hard to craft just the right one. I think it makes a huge difference to drawing the reader in. 🙂

    Thanks for hanging out with us today, Marcy!

    Angela

  29. Bish Denham says:

    Okay, I definitely learned something new today!

  30. M.L. Swift says:

    Thank you for that clarification, Marcy, and to Angela, for bringing this to my attention. Excellent, short definition of both! Easy to remember, and with the number of things I have to remember, the easier, the better.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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