I am playing around with cover art ideas and have some that are quite interesting. I have added a brief tag line, not quite a subtitle, to the cover to indicate the genre. Frankly, the artistic photo of the guns that I am thinking of using should clue people in to the fact this is not a kid’s book and they ought to expect violence.

I have found myself adding (in much smaller font) a tag line. This is an example of one tag line:

A Gentleman Assassin Never Tells

Would the addition of a tag line that would imply genre or character improve the chances of it being selected, even momentarily? If the reader doesn’t open the book, it won’t matter how compelling it is. Or do tag lines just add clutter?

What kind of tag line would best serve this purpose?

  • 3
    It sounds very "romance-y" to me.
    – wetcircuit
    Apr 6, 2019 at 17:27
  • 4
    I don't get romance the genre from it but it makes me think it's very old-fashioned and that may come with female characters who don't really matter and are there for the enjoyment of the MC. Whether it works in other ways instead depends on the rest of the cover and the actual title. But invoking "never tells" means readers will think of casual sex.
    – Cyn
    Apr 6, 2019 at 18:01
  • 1
    Also, you might want to edit the question so your tag is an example and not the focus of the question. If it's more like the title of your question, it's general enough that it is less likely to be closed.
    – Cyn
    Apr 6, 2019 at 18:02
  • @Cyn at the moment the rest of the cover is an artistic B&W photo of a gun, with the main title in red font. I remember reading somewhere that a bright colour is useful in drawing the eye to the cover.
    – Rasdashan
    Apr 6, 2019 at 19:09
  • 1
    A good tag line on the front is very useful. A bad one puts me off. Apr 7, 2019 at 15:00

3 Answers 3


A tag line can work, if it is so worded as to pique interest. But one must be careful. If the tag line suggests a different type of story than the actual work is, those attracted by it may well dislike the book, review it poorly, and fail to buy anything else by the author, while those who would have liked the book might be put off by the tag, and not buy the book.

In short any tag, like any blurb, should be carefully chosen to attract those likely to approve of the work, and give a reasonably honest idea of the kind of book it is. Even people who like both Jame Bond and Parker, say, may well resent getting one when they expected the other.


I don't think the tag conveys the fact that there is violence, as Cyn's comment says, it sounds "old fashioned".

From "Gentleman" and "Never Tells" my mind jumps to sexual trysts some woman must keep secret. It doesn't jump to informing on a client (if that is even what you meant). And because it is tag line, I assume the story is about these sexual trysts. Perhaps that is why wetcircuit gets "romance." Throw in "assassin" and you get the entire James Bond franchise, a macho super-spy that always winds up in bed with a supermodel. Maybe that is why Cyn gets "old-fashioned". If that's what you've written, there may be mileage left in that trope, I don't know how it sells for new authors. But male sexual fantasy wish fulfillment is probably evergreen. If that's the vibe you want, you nailed it.

If instead your intent was to warn of violence, put a small splash of blood with a few drops on the cover somewhere. You don't even have to portray a victim; make the last few letters of your title overlay it.

And if you want a tag line, tease the plot; "An Assassin's Epiphany", or "Assassin No More", or "Spy. Assassin. Stamp Collector." or whatever your story is about. Well, maybe not those, come up with something clever to intrigue people!

  • 2
    Yes, James Bond was exactly what came to my mind. And yeah if that's what the book is like, then you nailed it.
    – Cyn
    Apr 6, 2019 at 19:27
  • 1
    "But male sexual fantasy wish fulfillment is probably evergreen." +1 for this alone.
    – Summer
    Apr 6, 2019 at 20:42
  • The women in the book are his colleagues, friends and relatives. Two are potential romantic interests, but that is more their idea than his.
    – Rasdashan
    Apr 6, 2019 at 21:41

I'm not sure about this specific tag line, but tag lines in general definitely appeal to me as a reader. Even if the tag line catches my eye because I think it's ridiculous, it still catches my eye. And usually I end up reading the back of the book or inside description at a minimum. So I would say that tag lines definitely work, and are usually way more appealing than books that have a bunch of random reviews or things like that on the cover.

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