65. What are Loglines and Taglines and Why Do I Need Them for my Novel?

Author: Nola Published: 3 months ago.
Tags: novels, marketing, loglines, taglines, movies, pitching, book proposals Category: Writing tips

In space no one can hear you scream. Unless you’re the producer who asked for a logline instead of a tagline. So what’s the difference?

Logline

A logline is a brief statement that captures the plot of your movie or book. It’s usually one sentence, though can stretch to two. Here’s Danny Savage’s suggested logline for the film Alien: ‘In deep space, the crew of a commercial ship investigates a distress signal on a desolate planet and inadvertently brings a deadly organism back on board.’

Tagline

A tagline is the catchphrase that appears on movie posters and book covers. It’s usually a short sentence or sentence fragment, though can be two or three short sentences. It’s used for marketing purposes and conveys the feel of the piece rather than the whole plot.

The quote I used at the beginning of this blog is the tagline for Alien (i.e. ‘In space no one can hear you scream’). Even if you’d never heard of the title or plot of that movie, you’d still know it was science fiction and most likely horror. It gets your attention. Who’s screaming? What’s making them scream? Or in my case, ‘Eek! I’m definitely not seeing that movie or I’ll be screaming!’

Other marketing copy may also appear on the front cover of a book (e.g. ‘New York Times bestselling author’; ‘Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize’; ‘Two million copies in print’; ‘a gripping psychological thriller’). However, those aren’t taglines.

Why Do Novelists Need Loglines and Taglines?

  1. Book proposals. You would usually include the logline as part of the book proposal you send to a publisher or agent. It may also be included in your cover letter. If that line grabs them, they’ll read on. While taglines aren’t essential to a book proposal, a good tagline can also show that you’ve thought about your marketing strategy.

  2. Pitching at conferences. If you’re attending a writers’ conference, you may have the opportunity to pitch your book in person to a publisher or agent. Your time would usually be limited, sometimes just a few minutes, so you need to be as succinct as possible. If you nail the logline and tagline, you’ll sound confident about the merits of your book and the publisher/agent may ask to hear more.

  3. Marketing. As noted earlier, taglines would usually appear on the front cover of your book to pique the interest of readers. A pithy logline may also be used in book catalogues and other forums where space is at a premium.

  4. Keeping your writing on track. Although you need your logline and tagline after you’ve written your book, it’s a good idea to at least have a draft of them at the outset. As Marcy Kennedy notes, ‘using these tools before you start to write can make sure you have a strong idea’, yet still gives ‘you the freedom to discover your story as you go’.

More Examples from the Movies

It can take a while to get the hang of loglines and taglines, so here are some more examples from the IMDb database.

Jurassic Park

Logline—During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.

Tagline—An adventure 65 million years in the making.

Erin Brockovich

Logline—An unemployed single mother becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply.

Tagline—She brought a small town to its feet and a huge corporation to its knees.

The Shawshank Redemption

Logline—Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.

Tagline—Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.

Galaxy Quest

Logline—The alumni cast of a space opera television series have to play their roles as the real thing when an alien race needs their help.

Tagline—The show has been cancelled … But the adventure is just beginning.

Love Story

Logline—A boy and a girl from different backgrounds fall in love regardless of their upbringing – and then tragedy strikes.

Tagline—Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll look more specifically at how to write loglines and taglines. In the meantime, what’s your favourite tagline from a book or movie? I’d love to hear your examples.

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