Picking a good tag line

Jan 26, 2024

This is something that comes from movies, but I find it really useful for books too. Everyone’s heard of the elevator pitch, right? The idea there is that you explain your book in the time it takes to ride an elevator a few floors. So if you’re at a party or you suddenly meet a big Hollywood producer and you get the chance to explain your book, you need to hit ’em hard and fast. Distill your novel down to its absolute core. It’s shitty and hard but it’s really useful.

For example, the elevator pitch for my novel Devouring Dark is:

A supernatural assassin, whose power is slowly killing him, gets caught between a corrupt cop and a gangster boss, who both want to use him for their own benefit. He thinks he has nothing to lose until he meets someone else, with a power just like his, except it isn’t killing her.

Or the elevator pitch for Sallow Bend:

When two girls go missing from the small rural town of Sallow Bend, everyone starts looking for them. Even the carnival folks, recently arrived and prime suspects, pitch in. When the girls are found, everyone celebrates. Except one man. Caleb Jackson seems to be the only one who sees that something else has come back with the girls, and it’s deadly.

One more? Elevator pitch The Gulp:

The isolated Australian harbour town of Gulpepper is not like other places. Some maps don’t even show it. And only outsiders use the full name. Everyone who lives there calls it The Gulp. The place has a habit of swallowing people.

Some of these you may recognise are very similar to, or direct pulls from, the back cover copy. The blurb on the back and the elevator pitch are often very similar.

But none of those are a tag line. A tag line says a lot less, but simply captures a vibe. Think of some famous movie tag lines:

Alien – In space, no one can hear you scream.

The Thing – Man is the warmest place to hide.

The Truman Show – On the air. Unaware.

You get the idea right?

So these days I really like to use a tag line for my books. It’s really useful in this age of multimedia and especially social media with limited characters available. And it’s great for hashtags, to keep track of stuff. It’s also really useful when I do signings. I always personalise a signed book, and I usually write a little message too. But I started noticing some things on Instagram and places like that where people would compare what was in the book and I saw a couple of complaints that some people didn’t get as long a message as others. I felt bad! Sometimes I have more time when I’m signing. So I decided I would start using the tag line instead, So now I write:

For [Person]

[Tag Line]

Signature

If someone asks for something else, I try to accommodate, of course. Anyway, this brings me back to the point of this post. I was having a nightmare coming up with a good tag line for my new book, Blood Covenant (out in May!)

Those examples above all had good tags:

Devouring Dark: Embrace the darkness.

Sallow Bend: It’s happening again.

The Gulp: Welcome to The Gulp (or sometimes I write above the title “Don’t go to…” and with the sequel, The Fall, I write “Prepare for…”

But I was really struggling with something good for Blood Covenant. Then last night it came to me:

Blood Covenant – Whatever happens, don’t bleed.

And that also gives me the hashtags:

#BloodCovenant #DontBleed

So now I’m excited. I can use those tags on any promo for the book and I have something to write when I’m signing. The cover is going to look amazing and we should have ARCs available any day now. I’m looking forward to May 24th.

What do you think? Does the tag line grab you?

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