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Em’s Editing Gold: Tag Lines 

Em Steven’s has been Miranda and TB’s developmental editor on many of their cowrites, including the Goldie winning The AM Show.

Em’s insights are spot on, and she not only helps authors whip their manuscript into shape, she does so with kindness, humor, understanding, and more humor.

Take it away, Em!

Tag Lines 


What the heck is different between a log line and a tag line?   

If you remember, a log line is, at its core, a summary of the novel. It contains the character, the crux, and some idea of resolution. Because it is a summary, it can’t end as a question and doesn’t have a hook. 

Tag lines can and often do result in questions and/or hooks. Merriam Webster sums it up as a slogan. It’s something repeated often that becomes associated with the book/show/movie. (It’s also usually on the book cover). 

Here are some examples: 

–Bonnie and Clyde: “They’re young, they’re in love, and they kill people.” 

–Ghostbusters: “Who you gonna call?” 

–Office Space: “Work Sucks” 

–Tommy Boy: “If at first you don’t succeed, lower your standards” 

 The tag line doesn’t have specifics. Instead, it focuses on being catchy.  

 For books you could look at Percy Jackson. “Half boy. Half God. All hero.” 

Or the ever-classic tagline from Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret: “Growing up is tough. Period.” 

LOOK AT THAT PUN! It’s genius. The book is about menstruating. But it is such an excellent example of bringing the reader in on a joke and making something memorable. Memorable is great for marketing.  

 I hope these examples help clarify a bit of the difference between a log line and a tag line.  

Your log line is your elevator pitch–straight to the point, not frilly or clever. This person is faced with this challenge and will need this thing to overcome. It’s meant to sell the entirety of the book to a potential reader.  

A tagline, on the other hand, is a hook. It can be funny (many of the most memorable ones are), but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to make it sharp and clever. You’re baiting your hook with this, hoping it is shiny enough to entice new bites.  

 I used to publish under the pen name Ware Wilkins, writing Urban Fantasy about a paranormal dentist.  

Here’s what I had for the first book as I started to work on marketing: 

A dentist for the paranormal struck a deal with the tooth fairy and needs her brains and some luck to get out of heaps of trouble. 

That log line tells you what you need to know, but it isn’t particularly catchy or memorable. 

The first book, Brush With Death, had a tag line as well. You can see it on the cover and I used it in all of my marketing: 

She’s bitten off more than she can chew. 

It’s much punchier, it’s punny (I thought so, at least) and it helps tie the protagonist (a dentist) to the title (Brush with Death, also a pun), to the idea of “Oh, okay, this is going to be a more humorous take on Urban Fantasy. Probably not as dark or grim as some others”. 

As you edit (or preferably before you start writing), come up with your log line first. Then, as you get a feel for the tone of the novel, a tag line might pop into your mind. You may decide you don’t need one, but I’ll give you this extra bit of advice for free: When you pay for advertising, most sites are going to want a “soundbite”. They’ll want a hook for your book that’s much shorter than most blurbs. This means no cutting and pasting your blurb. But having a tag line?  

Bam, baby, you’ve got what you need.  


More About Em:

Em Stevens is a best-selling author of queer fiction.

She currently lives just outside of Raleigh, NC with her people and her animals. Raleigh is so close to her heart she often uses it as a setting in her novels. (Y’all means all!) While she hasn’t been a writer all of her life, she has always been a storyteller. Tall tales from a young age morphed into hyperbole-fueled anecdotes in her early adulthood.

Now she puts stories into novels and is quite thankful for beta readers and editors.

When she isn’t writing or editing, she reads voraciously, steeps herself in horror movies, and tries to get outside every now and again.

Connect with her on her website.



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