Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tag Me

Coming up with a great tag line for your novel is tough, especially for those novels that don't want to be tagged.

I decided to pick a couple of books at random from my shelves, see what tag lines the publishers put on the covers, and what I thought of them:

"When obsession turns DEADLY." (Exposure, Susan Andersen)

This is classic Susan Andersen, one of the best books she's ever written, and this one-size-fits-all tag line doesn't do it an ounce of justice. And as I write that, I have no idea what I would offer as a replacement, except maybe "Elvis!"

"Desire is the sweetest sin of all." (Slightly Sinful, Mary Balogh)

Great book, eh tag line. Desire isn't a sin, it's a natural body function, but that's another post.

"With this much heart, body, and soul, you're bound to find . . ." (A Whole Lotta Love, Donna Hill, Brenda Jackson, Monica Jackson and Francis Ray)

This is a themed anthology, but I would have preferred to see something about the stories, which are terrific, not about how much the heroines in them tip the scales. Disclaimer: I'm a big girl so it's definitely a personal sore spot.

"Sometimes forbidden pleasures are the sweetest of all. . ." (Beyond Innocence, Emma Holly)

I'm flashing back to the Mary Balogh tag line. This makes me want to eat a pound of M&Ms, too, not read a book. Pass.

"It brings out the animal in everyone." (Moonshine, Rob Thurman)

This one is probably the best of the random lot. I like it, it's clever and it suits the novel, and it's not one of those annoying pun tag lines.

I looked at some of my older paperbacks, and back then it seems like the publishers used little story synopses or themes as cover tag lines:

"A voice in the night, a haunted island, and a hideous legacy from the past." (Circle of Secrets, Claudette Nicole, 1972)

"Man is the dreaming animal -- with the courage to aim higher than gods . . ." (Son of Man, Robert Silverberg, 1971)

"Scandal, intrigue, and romance at a lively weekend party. . . " (The Houseparty, Anne Stuart, 1985)

I find it interesting to compare tag lines from today to the ones that were used twenty or thirty years ago. The old ones are definitely longer and more detailed, maybe because readers were more interested in content versus flash? Not sure.

I never did come up with a great line for Evermore, so I held a tag line contest for students during my last talk at a local high school. Here's the winner, submitted by Debby G.:

She's bringing sexy back.

What sort of tag line, if any, would you like to see on the cover of a book? If you've got great examples or ideas of your own, post them in comments.


  1. Anonymous11:16 AM

    I completely hate coming up with taglines.

    The best one of I've done on my own is for an ebook coming out from Samhain in January. The book's called Beautiful Girl and the tag line is

    Sometimes getting to heaven requires a trip through hell.

    The best one I've had period wasn't my doing. I don't know who did the tagline for it, but my June 08 book, Through the Veil has a tag line that just totally nails it.

    Her dreams never offered escape...until now.

    I would happily let whoever came up with that tagline write all of mine, forever and ever...and ever...


  2. Honestly, I barely glance at taglines or the cover quotes (unless said quotes compare the book to a certain author whose writing I, ah, don't care for, in which case I have learned to put the book down and walk away because those are usually accurate). I don't pay a lot of attention to cover art, for that matter. If books were shelved back out, I'd be a happy shopper. The cleverest one-liner on the front won't make any difference to me if the back copy doesn't suggest an interesting story inside.

  3. You know how much I adore a challenge, and how much I absolutely loved Evermore. I pretty much suck at titles and tags, but what about this for Jayr?

    Centuries ago, she sacrificed her mortal life to save him. Now, she burns for him evermore.

  4. Anonymous3:30 PM

    ^ Ooo, that's good.

    I guess for Disenchantment "Do you believe in magic?" would work, if kind of lame.

  5. I'd quite like the one I saw on the cover of a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird once: "Over a million copies sold".

    Can't have that? Well WHY NOT?


    I've tried to do film-style loglines, where you're allowed up to 25 words or so, and found those hard enough. With only five or six words to play with, all I can come up with is "Alternate history with Romans".

    Oh, come on! You're rushing out to buy it right now, aren't you?

    Aren't you?


  6. All the sex and twice the bad words!

    Okay, maybe I drank too much Jolt Cola at an impressionable age.

  7. I suck at writing tag lines, and I never remember the one's I've read and liked. So. Worthless, I know.

    The only one I ever wrote that I like even a little is for the Sin Street collection:

    "Welcome to Sin Street, where dark secrets and steamy sex meet for drinks after work."

    And looking at it now? I hate that one, too.

    Me? Hormonal? The HELL you say.

  8. I always thought taglines were a little corny. I can't say that they've ever made me read a book, but I can say that the ultra corny ones have encouraged me to put one down.

  9. Anonymous8:37 PM

    My friend Michele wanted this tagline as a big red and yellow sticker on Threads of Malice:

    WARNING!! Do NOT eat tacos while reading this book!

    I find it strangely apt. ;)

  10. Anonymous7:29 AM

    she burns for him evermore.

    Ohhhhh... I like this...

  11. Anonymous10:09 AM

    I wish I was any good at taglines... I was hard pressed to like the back cover copy for my novel. Condensing the novel's plot even further, or ripping just one concept from it... agonizing tooth-pulling pain doesn't even come close.

    So, in that vein, I've bled a little for you. Here are tagline suggestions for my debut novel, Turning Point:

    "For aging Brenna Lanigan, Hollywood was hard, but Cassidy's touch was irresistibly soft."

    "For Cassidy Hyland, Hollywood was a haven from her ex-husband, then she found heaven in Brenna's arms."

  12. Anonymous2:04 PM

    I had to come up with my first tagline (for my second book) a couple of months ago. The book is a young adult fantasy called Daughter of the Flames. I came up with:

    Born in darkness. Searching for the Light...

    Love. War. Betrayal. Fire...

    What if your deadliest enemy was the only one who could save you?


    Never fall in love with the enemy...

    They eventually decided to go with the What if your deadliest enemy one. I like it, but I have to admit that my personal favourite was the second one: Love. War. Betrayal. Fire...

    I was really surprised at how hard this was though. How do you boil down all your ideas, characters, themes and plot into one line?

    Zoe Marriott

  13. Damn, Zoe, your tag line completely drew me in!

    What if your deadliest enemy was the only one who could save you?

    I mean, c'mon now, that is such a fascinating premise! You are now being added to my TBR pile. :D


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