What’s in a Tagline?

With 1 million books are published each year, how do readers find books by new authors like me? Discoverability. They can’t find what they can’t see. Word of mouth is always the best form of advertising. And may God bless my enthusiastic readers for reviewing my first two books on Amazon and Goodreads and all the social media platforms I don’t use or understand. These loyal readers have helped me get regular royalty checks from retailers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Japan. But still, with one million other books coming out each year and over 13 million already available, how do I help readers find my books? Marketing experts suggest a tagline can help.

I would rather get dental work than figure out the mysterious world of marketing. Advertising gets expensive quickly and I don’t know how to measure whether or not the ad worked. I’ve done Goodreads Giveaways, and Facebook ads. I’ve searched for popular reviewers/bloggers who like suspense stories. All the time spent clawing my way up the steep learning curve of marketing takes away from time spent writing. Hence, book three is a year late–so far–in the publishing cycle. Yes, yes. I should have written the whole series before publishing the first book. One hard ard lesson learned. Hindsight 20/20.

David Ivester

Then, David Ivester spoke at the Florida Writers Conference in Altamonte Springs. Okay, I didn’t stalk him, but I did attend his workshops and asked him lots of questions afterward. I confessed my hard-learned lessons and failures at marketing and he didn’t laugh. He cringed. We set up an appointment to review my website and to suggest steps for book three. I now have a publicist to guide me through the landmines of marketing. Please, keep this man in your prayers as he explains marketing to me in small, simple words.


While rewriting the last half of book three, I put his advice to work. David advised me to develop a tagline for my Compass Crimes Series. A tagline should evoke an emotional response, indicate the genre and tone of the book, create reader curiosity, and stick in the reader’s mind. North of the Killing Hand is a 107,000-word novel. South of Justice is a 96,000-word novel. The Compass Crimes Series features a crime, a strong woman protagonist, and characters who are prominent in one book appear in minor roles in the other books. The West book is in development and the East book is a bare outline. In all, the series will have 390,000 to 400,000 words.

“Distill the tagline down to 10 words,” David says. Ten. Words. I’d rather get a root canal, thanks.

I studied movie taglines that work at The 40 Best Movie Taglines. Examples:

Quiz Show
“Fifty million people watching but no one saw a thing.”

Cool Runnings
“One dream. Four Jamaicans. Twenty below zero.”


So far, attempts at crafting a tagline are as follows. Which do you prefer?

  • Some heroes wear high heels. [too chic lit?]
  • A crime. A quiet hero. Help or get out of her way.
  • A deadly crime. A quiet hero.
  • A woman on a mission is a dangerous thing.
  • One woman’s quest to right a wrong.
  • From tragedy, quiet heroes arise.
  • A quiet hero navigates the aftermath of a crime.
  • A quiet hero navigating the aftermath of a crime
  • She’s a quiet hero navigating the aftermath of a crime.

For more information on taglines, see this brilliant post: What Makes a Good Tagline?

I am lurching back to my writing cave now.

Love an Author

 open book emitting lights

Authors feel loved when people buy and enjoy their books enough to post reviews. Being appreciated for one’s hard work makes all the years of hunching over a laptop and gathering research worthwhile. I have a book coming out in May, so over the weekend my beloved manuscript rode off by email to the formatter and the cover artist. Sure, I’m so excited I want to tell strangers, but other than enthusiasm, well, marketing is not my strength.

For lack of a fairy godmother to make marketing happen with a wave of her wand, I must slog on to gain knowledge about the process and the best practices of marketing in the publishing world. Okay, so more hunching over a laptop, lots of reading, and a willingness to fling one’s soul into the abyss of a rapidly changing industry will be my lot. And then there is the fear factor.

Sending one’s book into the world feels like watching a toddler run across an icy lake. In a snowstorm.

I feel out of my depth. Writers by nature can be introverts and marketing skills come more naturally to extroverts. Nonetheless, I forge ahead in baby steps. Part of the marketing process involves finding comparables–books similar to mine in style, content, subject matter, or genre. Style is the toughest to identify. If a newbie author claims to write like Lee Child, or John Grisham, the claim comes off as hubris. I know which authors I would LOVE to be compared to, but that’s for readers and reviewers to decide, right? Then I found a website that samples a person’s writing and identifies which famous author has a similar style. It seemed an objective, outside opinion based on linguistic analysis, so I gave it a shot.

From a two-chapter sample of my upcoming book South of Justice came this assessment:

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Wait. What? WOW. Yeah, baby! 

Who am I to disagree with their fancy programming? I can live with that. My mother might even agree. For grins, I then submitted a three-chapter sample of my next book, North of the Killing Hand, and this is what the analyzer came up with:

I write like
Kurt Vonnegut

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

I could boost my ego all day with that kind of thing. Another of my favorite authors! Vonnegut’s lean sarcastic prose and quirky characters kept me up many happy nights. As much as I would be thrilled to have my style compared to Vonnegut or King, will the similarities boost my sales into the stratosphere alongside Cat’s Cradle, or The Stand? Please, oh, please!

A blog is the only forum I feel comfortable sharing the computer analysis of my style. Back in the real world, perhaps I should stick to finding works similar in theme, content, and genre. A much easier task. The hearty Beta readers and critique partners who patiently endured drafts of South of Justice identified my works as suspense with elements of romance, crime/redemption theme, and a strong female protagonist.

So as I lurch through the process of preparing this paper-and-electronic offspring to face the big world, know that all prayers are greatly appreciated. In the long run, readers like you will decide the value of a book, because no matter what the reviewers from lofty, high-brow media report, readers rule the industry.

In all the marketing information I’ve read, the most powerful marketing engine is word of mouth. My prayer is that my writing moves hearts, souls, minds, and mouths in a positive direction. Readers rule!

If you would like to read the first chapters of my books, click on the BOOKS tab above and choose a title from the drop down menu. Please leave a comment too, to start that word of mouth rolling. Feel free to share on Facebook, Goodreads, BookBub, and tweet away, because the next book in the series is on the way.

Bear with me as I await that first look at the cover art. This is kind of like giving birth and counting the newborn’s fingers and toes. Will it be amazing? Will the cover reflect all the beauty and potential inside?

If you would like to be notified when the next book is published, add your email to my newsletter form on the bottom of the page. Expect to be notified:

  • To ask for your help in choosing cover art from artist’s drafts
  • To announce when the pre-buy link for a book is available, because the bigger the volume of sales that first week, the higher the book will rank. (High rankings influence buyers to take a chance on new authors like me!),
  • To get notice when a pre-publication discount is available, and
  • To notify you when a book is published.

Spread the love, spread the word, and this newbie author will keep writing the rest of the 4-part series. I’d so much rather write than market, but I will market with the resources and skills I can muster. Wave if you see me wearing a sandwich board at a major intersection.