A logline is a short pitch that sets up the story. It is intended to sell the story idea in just a sentence or two. A tagline is even shorter and is typically used to sell movies to an audience on a poster or billboard.
If the purpose of a logline is to attract interest in the story by creating the right expectation in agents, producers and the audiences, a tagline points to the specific emotions solicited by that story and may help the writer in the writing of the tale. Taglines are usually attached to film projects, but can also be applied to stories of any format, such as the paperback or kindle novel.
“A tagline exposes the emotional core of a story.”
Although usually written last as part of the marketing strategy, coming up with the tagline from the get-go can help the writer focus on the emotions through-line of the story.
From a technically perspective, taglines consist of three key elements: a repeatingor punchy sentence structure and an element of contrast that solicits a specific emotion. Here are some of my favourite taglines:
‘Imagine if you had three wishes, three hopes, three dreams…and they all came true.’ Aladdin
‘In space, no one can hear you scream.’ Alien
‘Honour made him a man. Courage made him a hero. History made him a legend.’ Rob Roy
‘Someone said “Get a life” – so they did.’ Thelma And Louise
‘This is Benjamin…He’s a little worried about his future.’ The Graduate
‘A story of Love, Laughter and the Pursuit of Matrimony.’ Muriel’s Wedding
‘Don’t breathe. Don’t look back. The Dark Side of Nature.’ Twister
‘Everything is Suspect. Everyone for Sale. Nothing is what it seems.’ L.A. Confidential
A tagline highlights a specific emotion. It is used for marketing purposes but is also helpful in writing the story.
This week I want to announce an exciting new venture—a brand new YouTube channel for aspiring writers — Get Writing.
Yes, after ten years of writing about writing on http://stavroshalvatzis.com I’m finally stepping into the youtube arena to provide additional help for emerging writers.
The channel will complement my usual blog spot, providing analysis and commentary on the myriad of writing techniques, but will add that all-important audio-visual dimension to the mix.
“Get Writing is a new YouTube channel that adds an audio-visual dimension to the material found on this website.”
Additionally, I will be inviting to the platform a selection of subscribers, some of whom are established authors, screenwriters and film makers to share their knowledge as well as to discuss their forthcoming projects with us. Film and book reviews are also on the radar, as is my sincere attempt to answer your individual questions through YouTube’s comments section.
And despite my initial performance on camera being ever-so-serious and wooden, I believe the channel is poised to become an invaluable resource for aspiring writers. So, click on this link, or search, “How to write fabulous scenes” within YouTube, subscribe, and let’s Get Writing!
A Television Series Bible is a marketing document containing an outline for a new television series. It has to inform, entertain and captivate the reader if it is to have a chance of going into actual production. Here are some pointers.
Do you have a strong concept, preferably a high concept, upon which your series is based? Remember that the series bible is a pitching document. It must capture the producers’ imagination and engage their emotions from the get-go. What if someone had pitched Jurassic Park as a tv series back in the day? I can’t think of a studio not snapping it up.
Have you included a crisp logline for the show, and a captivating one-page pitch—essentially a synopsis of the series—that establishes the story world, goal, theme and tone of the show? The set-up logline for Breaking Bad might be: When a docile, cash-strapped chemistry teacher is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he starts cooking meth to provide for his family with the intention of stopping when he has accrued enough cash. But pride and ambition result in a change of plans.
Does each season have a clear season question that is answered only at the end of that season? Does the entire series have a series question that is answered only at the end of the series? The season and series questions are compasses that guide each episode as it marches towards answering those very questions. For example, in Gotham, one season question might be: Who will win the hoodlum war amongst the rival gangs? The series question might be, will Bruce Wayne survive to become the Batman—and in what shape or form?
Have you included short character biographies and episode synopsis, as well as ‘snapshots’ of intriguing objects from each episode—a picture or sketch of a gothic, jewel-encrusted crucifix side-by-side a pair of long fangs, for example, may go a long way in capturing the glance of a producer. What about a blood-stained suicide note to a lover?
Is your bible design germane to the subject matter? Is it attractive to the eye? Textured backgrounds with lots of sketches are fitting for period or fantasy pieces. Neon colours and backgrounds are more appropriate for science fiction.
Have you made clear in the character biographies what’s at stake for the important characters, both internally and externally? In other words, do we know what the protagonist’s goal is? Do we know why the antagonist, or, antagonistic forces, oppose this goal? And importantly, do we know what shortfall the protagonist has to make up in terms of a secret, a wound, and/or a moral or physical flaw, in order to achieve the goal? The character’s developmental arc is tied up with the plot arc. Both have to be conceived as two sides of the same coin.
Have you included a short synopsis of a second and third season? You need to show producers that your series has legs. Hence the importance of the series question. In Breaking Bad, the series question is: Can Walter White survive his cancer, ruthlessness and greed? Showing how you intend to develop your series is an important aspect on whether your series will be picked up or not.
“Television series bibles vary in style and content. The thing that makes the best bibles stand out is precisely an element of uniqueness rooted in their design style and subject matter.”
Making sure that your television series bible addresses most of these pointers will go some way in giving your pitch a chance of being noticed by producers.
In today’s competitive market an indie writer needs to keep her eye on at least two targets – writing skills and marketing, and it all starts with the title.
The belief that all a good writer has to do is keep writing—that recognition will come knocking on his door in due course, is optimistic. For every writer that succeeds many others don’t. The truth is that wide-spread recognition, if it comes at all, has to be actively pursued, coaxed, grown.
Entering competitions, doing readings of your work, building a large online presence, giving guest lectures at book clubs and colleges, can help—but start by grabbing your potential reader’s attention through a great title followed by a captivating logline or blurb.
I have discussed loglines and blurbs elsewhere on my blog. Today I want to look at the importance of a story’s title.
“Not only does a title hint at what your story is about, it is an indispensable marketing tool, too.”
I asked a friend of mine, an avid reviewer of kindle books, how she picks which story to read first amongst the many others she receives each day. She told me she lets the title and book cover do that for her.
When I worked for Elmo de Witt Films, one of my tasks was to look out for promising screenplays. There were always dozens of them in a pile on my desk waiting to be read. The ones that caught my eye first were always screenplays with great titles.
The story title as a marketing tool
A great title ticks one or more of the following boxes:
It points to a genre. It hints at the story behind it. It has emotional content. It is not the name of a character. It sets up a question, hints at a puzzle, intrigues one in some way.
Titles such as, Apollo 13, Rich and Famous, Gladiator, The Madness of King George, and Alien leave us in no doubt as to what the story is about. Others, such as Blade Runner, sound so cool and compelling they make us want to know more.
But titles such as K-Pax, The Island,August Rush?
Not so good.
The title, Emma, may have worked for Jane Austen over two hundred yeas ago, but names of (unknown) people don’t generally make for good titles.
I typically come up with ten or more titles for a new book or screenplay and ask family, friends, and students to pick their favourite from the list, before making my final choice. I consider it time well spent.
Choosing a compelling, eye-catching title for your story is the first small step in getting your novel or screenplay noticed.
If you enjoyed this post, or have a suggestion for a future one, kindly leave a comment and let’s get chatting.
So, you’ve written your literary masterpiece and posted it up on Amazon with a logline, book cover and description, which, in your opinion, is darned perfect.
But if your book is so great and your description so spot-on, why isn’t anyone buying it? You’ve promoted it, so you know readers know its there, but where are the sales?
There is a good chance that your logline—that short description at the top of your Amazon product page meant to set up your story in an intriguing and succinct way, falls short.
It may even suck altogether.
Finessing the Logline
In a logline containing a couple dozen or so words, each word weighs a ton. There is a limit to how much tonnage you can load up on the scale. You’ve got to ensure that each word is there because it makes an invaluable contribution to the overall sentence. Superfluous and ill-chosen words make for superfluous and ill-chosen loglines. If a word doesn’t contribute to tone or meaning, strike it from the sentence.
If your logline fails to hook your readers immediately they will drift over to another page in search of something better to read.
Brevity and precision aside, ask yourself whether your logline paints a picture of what your story is about and poses an intriguing question the reader is dying to have answered.
But there is another crucial thing a logline must do. It must play fair with the reader. Your book cover and logline are the promise you make your readers: Buy my book and you’ll get the sort of story I describe. Fail to do so, or change the genre halfway through the book, and you may disappoint or even anger them, with devastating results when they come to reviewing your book.
Don’t get me wrong. Readers love surprises. They hate predictability. But if you promise your readers a drama, don’t give them a satire. They’ll punish you for it.
Upon first publishing my sci-fi/mystery/thriller, The Level, on Amazon, which currently is being developed into a feature film by the A-List Australian producer, G. Mac Brown, I offered the following description:
A man, suffering from amnesia wakes up in a pitch-black room, tied to what feels like a wooden chair. He discovers he is a prisoner in an abandoned, labyrinthine asylum hunted by shadowy figures out to kill him. An enchanting woman dressed in a black burka appears out of the darkness and offers to show him the way out, if only he can remember who he truly is. But the truth is more terrifying than anything anyone could have ever imagined.
The book did well, jumping to number 22 on the Amazon top 100 Bestseller list in its category. But a chat with a fellow writer drew my attention to the possibility that my description was missing a vital ingredient: the scifi/technothriller element. In fact, as it stood, the cover and logline screamed: Horror genre! And while there are strong thriller/horror elements in the story, I realised I wasn’t playing fair with my readers.
So, I reworked my logline and came up with the following:
A man with no memory hunted down the twisted corridors of a derelict asylum by murderous figures…
A computer programmer desperate to eliminate a flaw in her code before the software is released to an unsuspecting public…
Two lives bound together by a terrifying secret.
This logline has the elements of the previous one, but adds technology to the broth — a huge part of the story. It plays fair with the reader.
Using precise, economic language, posing an intriguing question, and playing fair with the reader in terms of genre are some of the most important elements in crafting an effective logline.
Winning habits are those habits that make the tasks we have to perform easier by automating them, to a certain degree. Certainly, they give us the momentum we need to embark on our tasks by virtue of repitition. The harder the task, the more the benefit acquired through habit.
Going to gym at a certain time of day is one such habit that I find helpful. Sitting down to write each day is another. Here are some suggestions that make for successful writing:
1. Read voraciously. Stephen King reminds us that if we don’t have time to read, we don’t have time to write. Watch plenty of good movies too. If novels and short stories teach us about the inner journey, as well as character complexity and depth, movies teach us about pace, the outer journey and economy.
2. Enjoy and celebrate your creative journey—the mistakes too. Goethe once said: “By seeking and blundering we learn.” Sound advice indeed.
3. Join a writer’s group for networking, information, feedback and moral support.
4. Know your industry. Read dedicated magazines, subscribe to relevant blogs and websites. Try to learn something new about your craft each day.
5. Dispel negativity from your writing life, despite the growing number of rejection slips. Dean Koontz garnered 75 such slips before his first sale. Each book or screenplay represents enormous effort, dedication and faith. Negativity eats away at your resolve, self-belief and energy. It has no place in your process.
One important winning habit to acquire is to write regularly—every day if you can. Not each session has to produce inspired or superlative work. The point is to establish a routine.
6. Don’t second-guess, or edit your work while writing. Let the material pour out of you. Correcting and polishing are for the editing stage.
7. Be persistent and committed. The great concert pianist Vladimir Horowitz once said: “Never give up, never give up, never give up.” You shouldn’t either.
9. Believe in yourself and in your abilities. If you don’t, why should anyone else?
10. Learn to take criticism. Feedback, fair or foul, is requisite and inevitable. Paz Octavio, the Mexican poet and writer said: “What distinguishes modern art from the art of other ages is criticism.”
Fostering winning habits that develop and sustain stamina ought to make your goals as a writer easier to achieve.
So, you have a new release—you’ve written a new novel, posted it it up on amazon, and are hoping to generate some buzz to make it stand out from the millions of other books vying for the readers’ attention.
So, what now?
Advertising your new release:
1. Make sure you have an intriguing, eye-catching cover.
A book cover is the first thing a reader sees. Without a first good impression the chances of your book being noticed decrease dramatically.
2. Make sure you have a catchy, to-the-point longline that allows the reader to grasp the gist of the story with minimal effort.
What has the world’s most powerful quantum computer, operating on board the space station Gravity, discovered about the birth of the universe that it is refusing to divulge? Chief programmer Sam Yeager is sent to find out, only to learn of a plot to sabotage the machine that could result in the death of the crew.
3. Feature a snippet of a great review on the cover itself.
Reviews have become increasingly difficult to procure, thanks to Amazon’s draconian limits placed on reviewers. Counteract this by sending your book off to readers you respect and quote a line or two from them on the cover itself. Here’s what author Donovan Roebert said about Before the Light:
“Calls to mind some of the best and most meaningful stories of H.G. Wells.”
I placed this memorable quote on my cover to entice the reader.
4. Use social media to announce the arrival of your book and follow it up with a series of interesting posts.
In another article I will look at where and how best to advertise you books for optimal results.
A great cover, good reviews, and social media support are essential in getting your new release noticed on platforms such as amazon.
I was not always as upbeat about the future of the novel as a form of entertainment as I am now.
The desktop computer was the hot topic of past decades, driving the burgeoning games industry and a torrent of spectacular special effects movies to greater and greater heights, while book sales steadily decreased. How could the written word stand up to such a challenge?
Yes, screen and game writers were assured of a bright future, but what was to become of the poor novelist? Could she expect smaller and smaller slices of the loaf until she starved to death?
As things turned out I need not have worried. The tablet revolution, sparked by kindle, and taken up by the likes of kobo, iPad, and android devices, would be the game changer.
Suddenly, people who had drifted away from books, especially the youth, found it cool to be reading on brand new technology. It satisfied their fascination with gadgets. Tablets started popping up from a range of manufacturers. Reading was the winner, which, of course, was good news for writers, although not without hiccups.
“Long-form stories such as those of the novel continue to have merit in themselves as well as feeding film and television’s insatiable desire for source material.”
Any major upheaval in the established order creates instability. As companies continue to experiment on how best to bring writers, readers and their products together they make mistakes. Writers are often on the receiving end.
Publishing houses, too, are having to adapt to ensure survival. The landscape is continually changing making it difficult to predict what’s next. Opinions fly around with detractors and supporters of traditional versus electronic publishing fighting it out in countless blogs and forums. My attitude is that as long as people keep reading, whatever the format, I’ll keep writing.
In the meantime, I am optimistic about the novel. After all, stories will remain an important part of life no matter what.
Stories told through novels are enriching and entertaining—and they are here to stay.
Why do we write? This important question has been asked countless of times.
The response is probably as varied as there are people asking it, ranging from the rather vague – I write because I have to, to the more pragmatic – it helps pay the bills.
But writing is such a difficult and lonely activity that I believe there has to be a deeper and more significant reason that explains why we keep returning to our keyboards.
Why is it important to know? Because when we lose our way – and sooner or later we all do, when the muse and market-place glance the other way, when the critics descend upon us like a plague of locusts – we need to grab hold of that reason and use it to help pull ourselves back up to higher ground.
“It pays the bills,” won’t do then. There are other easier ways to pay the bills. Neither will, “I write because I have to,” since during such times it doesn’t feel like you have to at all.
The answer is probably two-fold. The first part is true for most writers: realise that what you’re feeling now will inevitably change. Your strength and self-belief in your abilities will return, prompted by more positive reviews, fresh insights, wonderful new ideas, better sales.
The second part you have to work out for yourself. What is it about the craft of writing, specifically, that brought you to the deep well in the first place? Remember that feeling you had when you wrote that first paragraph, page, chapter, that got you hooked.
“I write because of the magic it affords me.”
For me it was a short story I wrote for a school assignment about the unbounded joy a homeless kid feels when he finds a shiny coin in the street. The idea sprang out of nowhere and practically wrote itself. I remember that last line well. It said: “And in his little black hand, the shiny 50 cent piece was set off even more.” Naive as it was, it had heart and a social conscience beyond my conscious ability to craft it.
The story made it to the school’s end-of-year magazine and proved to me that there was a voice inside me that had something to say if I could just find a way to activate it. It was the start of my journey.
I’m sure you have an equally meaningful memory about the moment when you first realised that you had something to say. Remind yourself of it when the going gets tough. It may just help you get back on track.
If you question why you write try to remember when you first realised you had something to say as a writer.