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How to write a compelling tagline for a self published book

As an indie author, you know how to write! However, do you know how to write a compelling tagline for your self published book? If not, or if you are not sure about the importance of a tagline, this blog will help by outlining:

  • What a tagline is
  • Why you need a tagline
  • What makes a compelling tagline
  • Tips for writing a compelling tagline

How to write a compelling tag line for a self published book

What is a tagline?

Just like an advertising slogan, a tagline is an important part of a book’s overall sales package. A tagline appears on the front cover of a book and, along with the cover image and title, a tagline’s job is to:

  • interest and compel the reader enough to want to buy/read the book.
  • subconsciously reassure the reader the book is right for them, through its deliberate, genre focused wording.

Why do you need a tagline?

As mentioned above, a tagline reassures a reader that they are going to get the type of story they want. Therefore, the right tagline (on a genre appropriate cover with an appropriate title) will reinforce a book’s message. This will then give a potential reader that extra nudge towards buying or borrowing the book in question.

Readers make decisions about whether to read a book or not in seconds. Therefore, if any part of the cover package doesn’t align with what they are looking for, they will simply choose another book. This is not what an indie author wants! So, making sure the tagline is as compelling as possible means the ideal reader of that book is more likely to want to read it.

What makes a compelling tagline?

A compelling tagline acts as a short sales sentence (or sometimes two short sentences). It encapsulates the idea or tone of the novel succinctly, immediately letting readers know exactly what to expect from the story inside.

Here are three examples of great taglines which reinforce the already clear sales messages given by the books’ titles and covers:

Adam Croft’s tagline ‘Could you murder your wife to save your daughter?‘ poses an impossible question.

Rachel Abbott’s tagline ‘Everyone must play‘ ties in perfectly with the word ‘game’ in the title, which also subverts the expectation of fun and frivolity due to the word ‘murder’.

Sarah A. Denzil’s tagline ‘Her child has the answers. But he can’t tell her the unspeakable‘ raises questions a reader wants answers to: Why can’t he tell her? What is so unspeakable? It is immediately intriguing!

Tips for writing a compelling tagline

All of these compelling tag lines contain conflict and intrigue in just a few words. To create your own compelling tagline, consider these tips:

Ask a question

Like Adam Croft has done, ask your reader a direct (impossible to answer!) question, immediately positioning them at the heart of a thrilling story. Questions beginning with who, what or why work well too.

Play with words

As Rachel Abbot has done, connect the tagline to the title for even greater impact. Typically, readers want to be entertained, or intrigued, or escape their reality for a while, so a tagline that hints at meeting a need in them will do its job effectively.

Include emotive vocabulary

Like Sarah A. Denzil has done, use emotive vocabulary to engage your reader straightaway by making them eager for answers to intriguing questions. Additionally, the word ‘unspeakable’ ties to the image of the padlock and connotes the idea that secrets are locked inside the little boy referenced in the tagline.

Raise the stakes

Chris Carter‘s The Crucifix Killer’s tagline reads ‘Cross your heart and hope to die…quickly’. The stakes are the highest they can get in this tagline as it references death. Pinpoint the most extreme conflict in the novel to show the reader what’s at stake.

Keep it simple

Gillian Flynn‘s Gone Girl’s tagline reads ‘There are two sides to every story’. Although vague, this simplistic tagline can be applied to many different genres – romance, psychological thriller, horror etc. Two opposing sides equals immediate conflict, which is key to tagline success.

Good luck with writing your compelling tagline! Once you have written it, please feel free to share it in the comments for feedback, and to hopefully inspire other indie authors with their taglines too.

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