Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why Do You Need a Tag/Log Line?

Most of you know why I've been absent from posting for the past month: a family trauma that still has us all reeling. It is something that is not going away, so I've finally managed to convince myself that life goes on, and I need to get back to some semblance of normality.

Today I want to talk about Taglines...or Loglines, if you prefer. I think they are one and the same. The question is, why do we need one? Picture this scenario:

You are at a conference, waiting to make your pitch to an agent. You sit down, the agent smiles and says, "What is your novel about? You have three minutes, beginning now."

You: Uh, well, it's about this boy who lives on a plantation in Kentucky. His parents and brothers like slavery but he doesn't. He's lived there for four years and doesn't understand how slaves can be okay in one part of the country, here, and not okay in New York, where he comes from. He is close to his grandmother...yatata, yatata, yatata.

Agent: I'm sorry, but your three minutes are up, and I still don't know what the main premise is or where the story is going. Thanks for stopping by.

Or how about this one:

You've just received an advance copy of your newly published and soon-to-be released novel. You are sitting in Starbucks, gazing reverently at the book's cover with YOUR NAME as author. A woman stops by.

Woman: Oh, my, what an intriguing name! are you the author of that book?

You ( modestly): Why, yes, I am.

Woman: What is the book about?

You ( Not having prepared to answer that question in a short amount of time): Oh, well, it's about this young boy who comes from New York with his family to live on a plantation in the South, and he hates slavery and he has no friends except for a crippled slave boy and he goes on all these trips with his Abolitionist grandmother to help escaped slaves and then he finds out ...

But you never get to tell the woman what he finds out because she has dropped her Caramel Frappachino on the floor in her haste to get out the door and away from your rambling.

Now do you see why a tagline is necessary?! So what is a tagline? It's a synopsis of your book in THREE sentences or less. Okay, get up off the floor and get a grip. I know what you are thinking: I can barely put a coherent synopsis of my book into three paragraphs for a query, and now you want one in three SENTENCES? Are you out of your mind?

Umm...well, no, I'm not. Although I must say, the same thought ran through my head on the dozen or so times I've been told this is what I need to do.

Truly, we need to be able to capsulize our stories into a very short, concise, and precise statement to present to agents, publishers, and the occasional woman who has stopped by Starbuck's. That statement should include: a) the novel's genre; b)the main character; c) the MC's external conflict/problem and what act precipitated it; d) and even the MC's internal conflict, if possible.

I'll give you two examples of the taglines I've written for my historical novel, although I'm sure neither of them is perfect, and both require more work.

1) The Freedom Thief is about a 14 year old boy whose only friend is a young crippled slave, and when the boy learns his father is selling the slave, he knows the only way to save him is to lead him and his parents to freedom.

2) The Freedom Thief is an historical novel, set in pre-Civil War Kentucky, about a 14 year old boy who lives on a slave-holding plantation but who hates slavery. Ben learns his father is selling Josiah, the crippled slave who is Ben's only friend, and he knows the only way to save Josiah is to steal the boy and his parents away from the plantation and lead them to freedom. He is determined to do this even though he has no plan or map to tell him where to go after the escape,  he is alienating himself from his family,  and he could possibly end up in prison.

Even though #2 answers the 4 criteria, #1 doesn't. Both need to be improved upon. But the point is: we all need a tagline, a short and concise synopsis of our novels, so no matter who asks us "What is your story about?", we can answer without rambling, and in such a way that the person...agent, editor, Starbuck's woman, friend or foe...knows exactly what the story is about.

Do you have a tagline? Want to share?

Until next time,
That's a wrap.


  1. I've been working on this myself lately, and I actually think yours are really good, Mikki. Good luck in polishing them further!

    1. Thanks, Katie. The 2nd one is the best but needs to be refined and shortened, so I'm still working on it. I guess the trick is to come up with one you like, and then NOT forget it when you are confronted with an agent or editor!

  2. Oh, I don't like writing these. LOL. I'm so thankful that my agent is good at writing them for me. When people ask what my book is about, I use her line. ;)

    1. Ah, heck, Kelly, you're cheating! ( Just kidding) No, they're not fun, and neither are synopses, but they're just another part of this fun (?) puzzle we call writing and publishing!