Creating a Tagline: the Learning Curve

My web designer encouraged me to think about a “tagline” for my books–a few words that really get to the heart of the sort of book I write. Through this process, I’ve learned a lot about my books. I understand better why they are challenging to market and why my publisher must struggle to find the right cover for each story. As my agent once said, my books are “schizophrenic.” They don’t fit neatly into any one niche. Problem is, I like them that way, but I cee cee cover for website.jpgsee very clearly now how it can make for a marketing nightmare. A good example is the cover of THE SECRET LIFE OF CEECEE WILKES. I love the pretty painting on the cover. Unfortunately, it’s not a “pretty” story. Though heartfelt and full of loving people, it’s a story with, as one reviewer put it, “unrelenting tension.” Nothing in this Hallmark-type cover gives a clue to the emotional intensity inside the book.
To come up with a tagline, I first explored the zillions of emails I’ve received from readers. I could quickly see that a theme emerged: readers love the real-life nature of my characters, the uplifting, hopeful endings to my stories, the themes of forgiveness and redemption, and the compassionate telling of the tale. The first tagline I came up with was “Compelling novels of hope and redemption.” When I looked at those words in the mock-up of the new site, though, I became uncomfortable with the word ‘redemption.’ Although it certainly fits my stories, it had a sort of religious connotation when I saw it in that sentence. So back to the drawing board.
The word ‘compassionate’ came up again and again in my emails, so I changed the sentence to “Compelling novels of hope and compassion.” I was quite happy with that. . . until the other night when I was out with my new group of mystery writer friends. A couple of them had read one or two of my recent novels. They said the books were actually mysteries and I should think about reaching out to mystery readers in any promotion I do. Wow. I hadn’t thought of that. I emailed my brother, mystery writer Rob Lopresti, and asked him if he agreed with their assessment. He felt my books could be promoted as mysteries, but that ‘suspense’ might be more accurate. So then I was really confused. The one thing I realized was that my ‘compelling novels of hope and compassion’ completely missed the suspenseful elements in my books. Perusing my emails again, I saw that readers also loved the intrigue, surprises, suspense in my stories. I needed to put my thinking cap on again.
That’s when I realized how very hard it must be for the marketing team at Mira Books to market me! “Suspenseful novels of hope and compassion?” I don’t think so. “Compelling novels of hope and suspense?” Uh uh. The two ideas simply don’t mesh well, and yet I think they DO mesh well in my books. So here is the tagline that came to me this morning: “Compelling stories of secrets, lies and love.” What do you think?


  1. Lorene on September 6, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    No…. Sounds too ROMANCE
    You did ask 🙂

  2. Diane Chamberlain on September 6, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    %#*&$$*!! i was afraid of that. thank you, Lorene. Back to the drawing board once again!

  3. Chris on September 6, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    What about this:
    “Compelling dramas about the secrets, lies, and mysteries of love.”

  4. Diane Chamberlain on September 6, 2006 at 5:53 pm

    Thanks for trying, Chris. I think that sounds too romancey also. The ‘love’ I write about tends to be more “family love,” thought certainly there’s often some romance in my stories. I appreciate the brainstorming effort though! Anyone who comes up with the winning tagline before I do gets a (yet to be determined) prize.

  5. Margo on September 6, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    With a wonderful sense of place, fascinating and secretive relationships leading characters through a journey of self-discovery…

  6. brenda on September 6, 2006 at 9:23 pm

    Contemporary fiction…or Chick Lit (not really)
    Contemporary fiction is the genre in which you write…

  7. Cheryl on September 6, 2006 at 9:34 pm

    Compelling novels of family mystery and hope
    Compelling novels about the unpredicability and mystery of family
    Diane, things that work for me when I’m trying to think of a slogan or saying is to play around with the words in Word using the thesaurus and see what else comes up. Put in redemption and see if something you like that is similar comes up. Also, look at some of your old books and the sayings that are in the beginning of them that came from reviewers. There may be good words or phrases that will give you ideas. in the front of Her Mothers Shadow there are a couple good phrases I think – “…suspenseful family drama…” “…suspense and intriguing insight…” etc. You can take words or phrases from suggestions and start moving them around and changing them a little bit. I like “journey of self-discovery” from Margo and I like Chris’s option, just change “love” to “family.”

  8. Cheryl on September 6, 2006 at 9:36 pm

    Contemporary fiction exploring the unpredicability and mysteries of family

  9. Diane Chamberlain on September 6, 2006 at 9:37 pm

    You guys are great! Definitely giving me some ideas.

  10. Lorene on September 7, 2006 at 9:51 am

    I found this while searching and like it. It must be an older site because it mentions nine novels. The link doesn’t work. This doesn’t sound like ROMANCE.
    The award-winning author of nine novels. Her storylines are often a combination of romance, family drama, intrigue and suspense.

  11. Diane Chamberlain on September 7, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    Interesting, Lorene. I couldn’t make that link work. Funny what’s still floating out there in cyberspace!

  12. brenda on September 7, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    I still think that you will limit yourself-and your buyers…if you use too many words in describing your work…
    Contemporary fiction…because you have a hint of mystery…romance…suspense…intense feelings (Annie)…helping others…etc.etc.
    If you use ROMANCE-many will scoff
    If you use mystery-you lose so many who read (I love mysteries)
    If you use chick lit–you lose those who think Chick Lit is fluff (I don’t
    However, CONTEMPORARY FICTION genre engulfs so many different authors from Stephen King (Not my favorite) to Danielle Steel to Nicholas Sparks to the author of My Sister’s Keeper…

  13. Diane Chamberlain on September 7, 2006 at 6:17 pm

    you’re right, brenda. as i mentioned in another post, there is a tendency in books to try to pigeonhole every story, and that’s very limiting in my opinion. i like your focus on “contemporary” because that is certainly true of my books (though some have been around so long i’m not sure if they can still be considered contemporary. LOL. just think: when my first book, PRIVATE RELATIONS, came out, there were no ipods, very few cell phones, very few PC’s, no one knew much about the internet, people still wrote letters, AND i wrote on a typewriter with carbon paper! yikes).

  14. Teresa Parks on September 8, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    I don’t think a tag line is necessary. You’re fans are familiar with your style and flair and will pick up a book simply because you are the author. Myself included. To attract new readers and draw them in – is done by the synopsis of the book on the inside cover. I assure you after they read just one of your books they are hooked. That’s how I found you – I read “Secert Lives” and now have read 8 out of the 17 books you have written. Thank-you . . . .

  15. Diane Chamberlain on September 9, 2006 at 12:29 am

    Well, thank you, Teresa! And welcome to my blog. I’m so glad you discovered me way back when. SECRET LIVES remains a personal favorite of mine.

  16. brenda on September 9, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    I am an avid reader and have thousands of books-pass on hundreds and use the library…
    I go to various sections of the library and bookstore looking for my favorite authors and genres…
    However, the first thing I do in a bookstore is go to NEW FICTION or NEW CONTEMPORARY FICTION…
    Once-when I started the online bookclub–I polled about 50-l00 ladies-who gave me the same answer…
    It is aggravating to me, Diane, that I have to ASK for your books in the bookstore…they are never where they should be-at least at Border’s or Books a Million.
    I always go to B&N when I visit my children but I prefer the BOrder’s to BM here where I live…
    Your storyline is intriguing.
    I am-believe it or not-making a matrix for periods of history today and just finished searching about 20 websites and writing about each of them…for one of my classes.
    Have to do several projects also.

  17. Diane Chamberlain on September 10, 2006 at 5:16 pm

    brenda, i think you’re a woman who would go nuts if you didn’t have at least five or six projects going on at once. i actually like making charts and planning and outlining. so much easier than actually writing. lol.
    if you think it’s aggravating to YOU to have to ask for my books, you can imagine how I feel about it. i hear every day from readers who have trouble finding my books. by the way, i’ll be selling some of the out of print books from my private stash when my new website is up. . . but i don’t have many. 🙁

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