I was on imdb.com the other day (internet movie database) and I started noticing that their movie listings include, among other useful details, the movies’ taglines—often more than one. Some of these taglines are very good. Consider The Bourne Identity: “He was the perfect weapon until he became the target” or, All the Pretty Horses: “Some passions can never be tamed.” Other taglines struck me as fairly lame. The Departed: “Lies. Betrayal. Sacrifice. How far will you take it?” or, “Underhanded. Unrestrained. Undercover.” Yet there were enough good ones that I started thinking, This is what I need—a really clever tagline to help sell my Sebastian St. Cyr Regency mystery series. The problem is, I’m lousy at coming up with that kind of thing.
So what are these taglines, anyway? Basically, they’re bumper stickers. Visual soundbites. Text so short that people will actually read it, that communicates one simple idea in a way that makes it both graspable and memorable. The idea is to come up with a catchy, enticing phrase that will help sell your book/movie/car/investment firm/shampoo. Quick! Sum up your plot, theme, or tone is one memorable phrase. Ummmm….
Frustrated, I wandered the net looking for pointers. I was advised to use taglines to differentiate myself from the competition and help build my brand (Publishers are always talking about “branding” authors. Maybe I’m showing my age, but I get this Rawhide image of singed cowhide.) Taglines, I’m told, are shortcuts to help my target audience know me and remember me. Sounds great. But how do I this?
I’m told to sum up my product’s essence in a way that uses memorable phrasing, creates personality, and telegraphs the message I want to convey. Yes, I know that, but HOW? Ask a question, say the experts (“Does she or doesn’t she?”). Use a two-fold delivery with a twist (i.e., Shooters’ “Yesterday was about honor. Today is about justice.”) Use specifics rather than vague words or generalizations.
In the end, I’m left with the realization I can write a 100,000 word book but I can’t write a one sentence tagline. I should have known. Hell, I didn’t even come up with a clever name for my blog.