OK, you say, just what is a tagline and what’s the difference between it and a logline? A tagline is, according to Merriam-Webster, a reiterated phrase identified with an individual, group, or product. In business, its called a slogan and is designed to promote a given product or service. What do you think of when you hear, “I’m lovin’ it” or “Just do it”? If McDonalds and Nike don’t instantly come to mind you’ve probably been living on Mars for the past fifty years.
Of course, the logline is a very brief synopsis of the story designed to whet your appetite for the movie or novel.
In movies the tagline plays the same role as a product’s slogan. It is a catchy phrase designed to evoke some exciting or poignant aspect of the movie. I’ve read that the most famous movie tagline of all is, “In space no one can hear you scream.” It’s from Alien. Movie taglines are used in a variety of venues: the movie poster you see in theaters, on DVD cases, and spoken and/or displayed in trailers.
Taglines can be gleaned from a variety of sources:
- They can come from a snippet of dialog. For example in Schindler’s List the tagline is “The list is life.” spoken by the Ben Kingsly character. In The Lord of the Rings the tagline is “One ring to rule them all”, part of the inscription inside the One Ring. Apollo 13’s tagline is Jim Lovell’s famous call to Mission Control, “Houston, we have a problem” (by the way, he actually said, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”).
- Taglines can be derived from theme. In The Shawshank Redemption the tagline is “Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.” Bram Stoker’s Dracula has this tagline, “Love never dies.” In Wall Street it is “Every dream has a price.” And, of course, hope, love, and greed play a large part in these movies.
- Taglines can also be variations of familiar sayings. Cocktail, a movie about a bartender who opens his own bar, has as its tagline, “When he pours, he reigns.” Or, how about “Here they grow again.” from Gremlins 2: The New Batch? And “A comedy of trial and error.” from My Cousin Vinny.
- Some taglines ask a question. The tagline for Arlington Road asks, “How well do you know your neighbor?” How about Notting Hill? It inquires, “Can the most famous film star in the world fall for just an ordinary guy?” And, Ocean’s Eleven wonders, “Are you in or out?”
Like movies, novels can have taglines also. A tagline can be a great selling tool. You can place your tagline on the cover of your novel. You can tweet it. You can even print it on business cards along with an image of the book cover and your contact information.
Here are a few examples found on the covers of novels I chose at random from my adult daughter’s library:
- “It’s a crime she never meant to commit…” from Confessions of a Serial Dater by Michelle Cunnah.
- “What if your imaginary friend from childhood was your one true love?” from Sundays at Tiffany’s by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet.
- “Why trade up, if you can fix him up?” from The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne.
Try creating a tagline for your novel. It’s a great tool. And, if it happens to become one of those iconic phrases that finds itself on everybody’s tongue, you could wind up with a bestseller on your hands.