The Tagline vs. The Hook – What’s the Difference?

I have been seeing some of my fellow authors asking about the differences between creating a tagline for the stories they are writing, and the hook.

While on the surface they seem like the same thing, in reality the way they work is much different, and I thought I would write this to help them out.

Both of these things are important to help readers get a glimpse in an easy way as to what your story or book is about. The way they come across, though, is different, and some publishers will want you to create your own.

So what is a tagline, and what is a hook?

A tagline is a simple one or two sentence phrase that boils down the essence of your work, giving the reader at a glance the idea behind the story.

A hook works similarly, but it more expanded and is the way you show how your work is different from others.

So let’s look at the hook first.

Let us say your story is about a woman who is out to save the world by finding a magical sword, with which she can slay the evil overlord.

Seems like a straightforward story, right? And your potential readers have probably come across the same type of story many times before. So many times, in fact, that they might just walk away from the book altogether if you were to describe it that way.

What’s different about your story that will engage their imagination? What is the piece of the puzzle that makes your book different from all the rest?

That’s the hook.

So let’s say your lady adventurer not only has to find the magical sword that will slay the evil overlord, she also has to come to terms with the fact the evil overlord is her ex-husband. Or her son.

See? Now the story takes on some new dimensions that make it stand apart from the rest.

The hook claws into the imagination of your reader and intrigues them to open the first page to read more.

A lot of the time, the hook will be a big part of the blurb on the back of the book, making it “in their face” and hard to miss.

Taglines, while being in a similar vein, are different because they have to get the story down to a small bit. A slap in the face in a sentence or two.

Let’s take an example from my story, Penitence.

On the cover of the book, I have the tagline, “When she said no, her terror began…”

I broke down the core of the story into a single sentence, giving the reader a breadcrumb to follow.

I can give another example of both a tagline and a hook with my current work in progress, Little Lost.


The hook for the book is this:

“Liz and her daughter, Cassie, have lived alone for a long time. Things were going fine until, one day, her little girl disappears into the woods. What is every mother’s nightmare becomes even worse when she discovers what really happened to the one thing holding her life together…”

The tagline for the book is, “What can a mother do when her child is gone?”

So, you see how I took the central theme of the story – a child disappears into the woods and the mother has to find her – and created a tagline out of that, which can draw a reader in?

When it comes to taglines and hooks, I recommend making use of the fabulous resource that is IMDB. Sounds strange, I know, but Hollywood is extremely good at creating taglines for their movies, and I think, if you were to look through the taglines of your favorite movies, you would see how it can work.

Looking through at a few of my own favorite movies, it’s interesting to see how they broke things down really well.

For instance, The Princess Bride has. “Heroes, giants, villains, wizards, true love.”

Boy, that sure boils it down.

The Lion King: “The greatest adventure of all is finding our place in the circle of life.”

Stargate: “It will take you a million light years from home.”

And for the TV show, Stargate: Atlantis : “A new gate will open. A lost city will rise again.”

Supernatural has : “One hell of a time for a family reunion…”

Many TV shows are great for this type of thing, since they usually come up with a different tagline for each season, but you get the idea.

Take a look through the database available and get a good feel for what makes a great tagline, and I am sure you will be able to do the same kind of thing with your own books and stories.

I hope this has been of some help to you.


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