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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Taglines

   
Author Topic: Taglines
EVOC
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Alright, taglines are driving me nuts.

My novel, Dissolution of Peace has been driving me nuts with coming up with a blurb and a tagline.

My cover artist gave me my first tagline, which I thought promised a story I wasn't telling. It was:
quote:
For centuries Earth and Mars have lived in peace...
...until now.

I felt like it promised a tale about war. When rather it is more of a tale about one person (a Navy captain) who is trying prevent a war. The whole story hinges on if she succeeds or not.

So then I was given:

quote:
Sometimes peace depends on Serenity
Now this one is a play on words, the Captain's last name is Serenity. I kind of like it, but my editor hates it. He feels it is too cheesy. But to me it is a play on words and really hits the nail on the head for what this story is about. He says if he saw that tagline he wouldn't buy the book.

Ultimately it is my choice. But, I wonder what my fellow Hatrackers thought.

What should a tagline really be about? To me it should be a one line, sticks in your head, description of the story.

I feel like the second one does that. It is a play on the whole Peace and Serenity thing and it is exactly what the story is about.

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rcmann
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Given that I have already provoked you on another thread, I hesitate to say this. But the first thought that hit my mind when I saw it was "Firefly".
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naomisarah
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I cannot construct a tag line to save my life. Seriously. Not in a pit of starving tigers could I come up with one for my books. I can't wait to hear other replies, because mine is as useless as coming up with a tag line in a pit of starving tigers.
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TempestDash
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In my opinion, taglines (and titles for that matter) are about selling a emotion, not necessarily a story or making a promise. You are either going for a smirk that will encourage someone to find more interesting tidbits or a feeling of foreboding that will encourage someone to pickup the book and relieve themselves of the tension.

I assume with your overtly serious title, that you're going for a dramatic tone, so I would bring the main conflict to the center and use as much reductivism as possible to get it down to 6-8 words.

Your preferred tagline is sort of cheesy in my opinion too, and sounds too much like what you'd see on a post for a Michael Bay movie.

I don't really know enough about your book to suggest a better one though.

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naomisarah
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"With tensions between X and Y brewing to a dangerous simmer, peace depends entirely on Serenity...."

(Trying to use what TempestDash said and what you said about your book to practice... but as I said, I'm terrible at it!)

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Crystal Stevens
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
Given that I have already provoked you on another thread, I hesitate to say this. But the first thought that hit my mind when I saw it was "Firefly".

I hate to say this, but I agree. "Firefly" immediately popped into my head not only with the use of the name "Serenity" but also with the book's premise on stopping a war. It's not the same thing as "Firefly"'s premise, but awfully darn close.

I also think with your chosen title, that the first tagline (the one you didn't like) should be fine. The title tones down the tagline and suggests maybe this isn't so much about a war but something else. I also think it would be the tag more readers would be drawn to. JMO

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Robert Nowall
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'Fraid so, too---and I never watched the show.

So long as it doesn't give away the ending, and it's not too wordy, pretty much any description of what's happening in the story will do for a tagline. (But shouldn't the word be "teaser?")

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EVOC
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
Given that I have already provoked you on another thread, I hesitate to say this. But the first thought that hit my mind when I saw it was "Firefly".

You haven't provoked me. I'm able to disagree with someone's opinion without taking it personal.

As far as the Firefly thing, that has been killing me. I don't know the show. And originally my novel was going to be called Serenity. But in 2005 (I originally started this in 2004) that movie came out and well, that is how it goes sometimes.

quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall :
'Fraid so, too---and I never watched the show.

So long as it doesn't give away the ending, and it's not too wordy, pretty much any description of what's happening in the story will do for a tagline. (But shouldn't the word be "teaser?")

Yea, teaser is the best word.

The main reason I am so hesitant to change it is because it took my Cover artist a month just to switch the byline and title around. It has been three and half months all together. And I have marketing coming up that can't wait on his lengthy timelines. But that last thing I really want is a Firefly feeling when people see my cover.

I may be able to get files from him that will allow me to adjust the text. Just waiting to hear back.

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History
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EVOC,

You must, absolutely must, watch the all too brief half-season of Joss Whedon's Firefly (and the movie Serenity as well).

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob
(I'll even send them to you upon request)

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EVOC
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quote:
Originally posted by History:
EVOC,

You must, absolutely must, watch the all too brief half-season of Joss Whedon's Firefly (and the movie Serenity as well).

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob
(I'll even send them to you upon request)

I've heard they are well worth watching, I simply haven't seen them. No reason for it, just don't have them and haven't got them. Thank you for offering to send them. I'd love to check it out.

My cover artist sent me the source file for his art, so I can change the tagline as I wish. If I can only think of a new one. I think that is best, rather than choosing between these two. I'll come up with some new ones and share them.

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extrinsic
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Taglines, loglines, pitch lines, cover blurbs, etc., are ideal when they are short, catchy, evocative, and memorable. Their purposes are to briefly summarize what a story is about on its literal surface and excite curiosity.

Serene and derivaties thereof challenge readers when used as a different part of speech than their natural use. Also, adjectives and adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions blunt the impact of a catch phrase's meaning. The main idea should stand as alone as artistically possible.

The story as I see it that you intend isn't about what came before relations changed between Earth and Mars, but the event that upsets the equilibrium.

Say, Earth and Mars serenely coexisted until now. I think that's strong but it's backstory.

Instead, for example, Captain Serenity uncovers a transplanetary plan to destabilize relations between Earth and Mars. Weak, like a TV Guide tagline, but I don't know enough what the story's about.

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EVOC
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Good tips extrinsic.

My editor and I are brain storming ideas right now.

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AndrewR
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For what it's worth, that second tagline reminded me of Firefly, too.

It's a pity you've all ready used the word "peace" in the title. You could have said something like "Can peace be preserved between Earth and Mars?" But that's just a paraphrase of your title. [Frown]

Perhaps something about war being prevented?

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EVOC
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My editor really likes the romantic tension between two main characters. He thinks I should try to somehow incorporate that in the tagline, or a the least the back cover blurb.

The only other tagline I thought of was:

quote:
In space, war is even harder to prevent.
But it lacks something IMO.
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Robert Nowall
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"In space, no one can hear you scream." That's what that reminded me of.
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EVOC
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
"In space, no one can hear you scream." That's what that reminded me of.

Yea, me too.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by EVOC:

My cover artist gave me my first tagline, which I thought promised a story I wasn't telling. It was:
quote:
For centuries Earth and Mars have lived in peace...
...until now.

I felt like it promised a tale about war. When rather it is more of a tale about one person (a Navy captain) who is trying prevent a war. The whole story hinges on if she succeeds or not.

So then I was given:

quote:
Sometimes peace depends on Serenity
Now this one is a play on words, the Captain's last name is Serenity. I kind of like it, but my editor hates it. He feels it is too cheesy. But to me it is a play on words and really hits the nail on the head for what this story is about. He says if he saw that tagline he wouldn't buy the book.

If your goal is to sell the book, I'd listen to your editor.

I think you're making too much out of this. Taglines don't tell the story, they tell the reader why he wants to read the story. Once they've made the decision to read or not read, the tagline becomes mental rubbish. Nobody pays any attention to it.

The inferences people draw from taglines are very non-specific. Take "In space nobody can hear you scream." What does that tell you about the story? Only this: it is a science fiction/horror tale set in space. This fulfills the function of a tagline: it communicates to a reader (or viewer) what kind of experience the story offers.

Writing about your writing can be a bit like teaching; the challenge is to remember what it is like not to know. A tagline is supposed to communicate to the *prospective* reader, which is why "Sometimes peace depends on Serenity" doesn't work. It's an in-joke that doesn't work if you haven't read the book; it's misleading too.

Now as for this, "For centuries Earth and Mars have lived in peace... ...until now," it doesn't imply to me (who hasn't read the book or the synopsis) that this is a book about war. It implies that it is a book that involves the possible end of peace; from my non-informed perspective it implies that preserving peace is the problem. A combat story would have a more action-oriented tagline.

Taglines are inherently imprecise, but if you can't bring yourself to accept that, perhaps you should consider something like "For centuries Earth and Mars could take peace for granted ... until now." Or perhaps, "War between Earth and Mars was unthinkable ... until now."

I don't think those are any better, and unless you are lucky if you try to make the tagline *perfect* you'll probably end up chasing your tail until you're biting your own behind. That said, occasionally there's an opportunity to create a perfect tagline. In the late 80s a Japanese film called "A Taxing Woman", about a female revenue agent investigating a shady tax cheat who becomes romantically interested in her. The US tagline was "He has a yen for her, but he won't tell her where it's hidden."

I think the tagline exercise is an interesting one. Perhaps there should be a thread for people to float some taglines for their WIP.

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TaleSpinner
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"Now this one is a play on words, the Captain's last name is Serenity."

For me this is the problem, because I think a tagline should draw the reader in with a hint of the story to come. The prospective reader, having not yet read the story, will not understand the wordplay and will likely think, "Oh good, a long-awaited Firefly story" -- and be disappointed. A reader unfamiliar with Firefly simply won't get it, so the tagline will be unlikely to attract her.

I would suggest something like, "A Captain's battle for interplanetary peace."

Hope this helps,
Pat

ps, After long absence I may find time to contribute some again ...

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Robert Nowall
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I guess one could say that composing a concise tagline / teaser like this is much more difficult than one would suppose.

*****

I've liked to be able to put the theme of my stories into one sentence---I say I'd like to, because sometimes I fail at it. But I don't know if that would do for commercial purposes. Sometimes I want it at the start, but sometimes it comes as I write.

(For my latest (unfinished) thing, I do have a theme for it already---"Your humanity is worth holding on to.")

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EVOC
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Robert, you are right, taglines are a pain in the butt.
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LDWriter2
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For me the use of the word play would get me curious because the S in Serenity is capitalized and it isn't a word usually used in that spot. So I would know something was up. I've seen taglines like that for published books. They seem to work but sometimes editors know more than us.


As to it being mistaken for Firefly well, that could be possible. But it would seem that the cover blurb would show they were mistaken.

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babooher
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Mattleo, a thread just for taglines and teasers would be fun. I think that was an abfab idea.

As for this story, how about "One woman's mission is all that stands between two worlds on the brink of war."

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