Something to Shout About

Our guide to writing an impactful shout line (sometimes called a tag line) for the front cover of your book. A shout line sums up your concept in a single line, and draws the reader's attention.
It’s a well-known fact that millions of books are printed every year. In fact, 500 new books are printed every day in the UK alone. Competition is stiff for new authors, and attracting attention to a new publication amid shelf upon shelf of classics and exciting new titles alike is a challenge.

So what steps can authors take to stand out from the crowd? You may ask a professional design team to come up with an eye-catching cover. You’ll pen a punchy blurb and maybe even gather an endorsement or two from a high-profile reviewer. But how can you help readers decide in an instant whether your book is for them?

The answer could be as short and simple as this: a shout line.

What is a shout line?

A shout line is a short, attention-grabbing line of text that quickly sells the concept of your book. There’s no need to go into detail or try to explain the plot. It would be near impossible to do this in so few words without being misleading, and readers who want more detail can read the blurb. The aim is to convey the atmosphere of the story in one or two snappy sentences.

Self-publishing sensation Rachel Abbott, author of bestselling thrillers including Kill Me Again and Stranger Child, is well versed in the world of shout lines.

Rachel says, "We spend a long time thinking through these shout lines - it has to match the book and it also has to draw the reader in. In the past I have used shout lines such as 'One dark secret. One act of revenge’ or 'Women are rarely cold-blooded murderers’, each of which is designed to intrigue the reader."

Rachel’s latest novel, The Sixth Window (shout line:The Perfect Man...or a Perfect Stranger?) will be out on 27 April 2017 and available to purchase in paperback from most bookshops, and on Amazon in paperback or ebook.

Wendy Percival, author of the Esme Quentin mysteries, has come up with a brilliant one-line shout for her latest novella, Death of a Cuckoo. 'A letter. A photograph. A devastating truth.’ But why is this shout line so effective?

Wendy said, "A letter is always a mystery in itself, isn't it? What's written inside? Good news? Bad news? Photographs have their own charm and often feature in a mystery, and have become a bit of a recurring theme on my covers! Then I thought the phrase 'a devastating truth' had impact as a shock after the other two gentler images. The combination of two short phrases followed by a longer one also has a rhythm about it which felt good."

Death of a Cuckoo is published by sBooks and is available to purchase as an ebook here. You can find out more about Wendy on her author page here.

Feeling inspired?

When writing your shout line, keep in mind these key points:

  • Compel the reader to find out more.
  • Use simple, readable language, and be creative with it.
  • Don't be afraid to be sensational and use hyperbole to grab the reader’s attention.
  • A shout line is not the place to be subtle. The sharper and bolder your shout line, the better.

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