Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tagline, I'm It

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The perfect tagline for a counterculture skate shop in France

Who are you?  If you had to make up a T-shirt that you wore every day to advertise your identity to everyone, what would it say besides your name?  In other words, when people think of you they would go, “Oh yeah, isn’t she the one who X?”

Richard M. Nixon was known by “Tricky Dicky.”  Taco Bell tells us to “Think Outside The Bun.”  Or there’s the guy who wears a nametag every day (even has it tattooed on his chest) -- “Hello, my name is Scott” -- and thinks we all should wear one, too.  What kind of label would you put on yourself?  What would your brand be?

Right now I’m trying to brand myself and I just can’t figure out how to sum me up in so few words.  For those who aren’t steeped in the parlance of the contemporary writer’s life, not only do we have to try to write words that might end up on some bestsellers list, we have to figure out how we’re going to market ourselves.  We have to create an “online presence” (Hello?  Friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, subscribe to the blog, and the like).

Writers need to come up with a pithy slogan that defines who we are and what we do.  I had thought I’d try something snappy like “Stephen King, mega-bestselling author,” or “Beyoncé, the most beautiful woman in the world,” but those seemed to be taken already. 

I need to come up with a “tagline” – a phrase that says something essential about who I am, what makes me special, and why the world should care.  It clues you in to my audience.  It should raise interest in me or make someone say, “Hey, that sounds like me, too!”  It’s the end of my 30-second elevator pitch.

But I’m stumped because I started writing before I started reading the billion blog sites telling me I needed a tagline.  Instead of targeting a specific topic or audience, my writing is a bit all over the place – travel, family, books, gardening, mid-life.  I’m not yet an expert selling one special set of skills to a market.  My interests range from rhetoric (yeah, I studied Greek and Aristotle for years), to country music, to American art pottery, and France, and, oh, and writing and taking pictures.  For the record, I wasn’t good at choosing a college major either.  At midlife I’m at the point of reinvention, so I’m still changing.  One suggestion offered to me was “Tomorrow it might be different.”  At the top of my blog, you’ll see the line “Traveling through the world, the second half of my life, and my own mind.”  Does that really cover all the bases?  Is it as catchy as the nametag guy?

Socrates was very forward thinking when he told us “The unexamined life was not worth living.”  He totally was predicting the internet and modern marketing when even the most lowly of us need a short bio we can spurt out at the drop of a hat and a flexible tagline that we can eventually stamp on coffee mugs and websites and spread like the “wave” at a baseball game.  So I’ve been sitting here trying to remember every detail of my life and all my credentials all the way back to grade school to figure out what to emphasize, what I’m selling (not in that crass “here’s my Etsy site” way).

Maybe I just need to become a writer of historical vampire romance novels.  I could have a killer tagline like “Julie Farrar – Are you ready to take a bite out of life?”  That certainly would give me a laser focus.

When I was a university professor it was so easy to say to people, “I’m an associate professor and director of freshman composition programs.  I do research in theories of argumentation and how we reason together about values in public discourse.”  However, life isn’t so clearly defined anymore.

Even if I didn’t have to do this in connection to my writing life, it’s a fabulous exercise.  Like the many life-improvement gurus who tell you to develop a personal mission statement, this bio and tagline exercise encourages me to make a choice where to channel my energy and attention.  There’s not enough time in a day to follow every random interest that catches my eye. I’m pulling my hair out in the process, but I like the idea of bringing more discipline to my practice and to my day instead of constantly going, “Ooo, squirrel!”

So as I move forward with this writing thing I’m asking myself:  Who am I?  What do I do?  What’s it to you, the reader?

My assignment:  I have to write a 200-word biography for my blog I can spit out in those awkward moments when someone asks, “What do you do/write?”  Then I have to tag myself.

I’m open for suggestions.  Feel free to tell me, based on your limited knowledge from reading my posts over time, what details or characteristics you think I should include in my bio.  How would you tag me (and remember that the Beyoncé one, unfortunately, is taken)?  Who do you think I am? With that done, I’ll be so ready to start promoting when the book I haven’t written yet appears on the bestseller lists and NPR and Charlie Rose call me for interviews.

And if you yourself solved your own tagline problem, please tell me how you worked it out.

If you have any ideas that I could throw into the mix I’d appreciate them all.  Even if you don’t, share in the comments box your short bio and what you think would be your own fantastic tagline that you could stamp on a coffee mug or website if the need arose.  I want to know who you are.

My favorite boulangerie in Dijon has a good tagline: The taste of tradition
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I’m so far behind on telling you about great stuff I read on the internet.  I’ll keep it short and sweet this time:

Nadine Galinsky Feldman always has posts to make you think.  This week she told us all to “woman up. “Can you feel it?” she says.  “It feels as though there is a new wave of feminism rising.”  Read about what it means to “woman up” here.

On Brevity's Non-Fiction Blog Dinty Moore continues to protect the border in the skirmish between Fiction-Land and NonFiction-Land.  “To knowingly invent, in my view,” he argues, “is to cross that line entirely, and suddenly you are standing in Fiction-Land, even if only a few feet in.”  His argument could hold for crossing other kinds of borders in life.  Go here to read and think about it.

Author Samuel Park tells writers to take care of their emotional health on Anne R. Allen’s blog.  His 8 tips are good even for non-writers.  I especially like the one “Use Up Your Brain Cells.”  When we haven’t done the work we should be doing (e.g., writing every day) that allows worry and frustration to slide in.  When you do what you should be doing, “the world feels terrific.”

Happy reading!  Happy writing! 

12 comments:

Mike Schulenberg said...

I'm really happy with how my tagline turned out, but unfortunately I don't have any surefire tips for creating one. I had one in mind when I was setting up my blog, but a different one--"Worlds of Perilous Wonder"--popped in my head when I was editing my banner photo, and I just knew that was it. But then I changed it to "Realms of Perilous Wonder," and I think it's one I can probably keep forever. It reflects what I'm going for with my fiction, what a lot of my blog topics are going to be about, and even captures the lens through which I view parts of the world :)

But if it's true that we, as people, are our brands, then maybe the trick to a good logline is something that reflects you as a person, more than it reflects what your fiction is going to be about.

Julie Farrar said...

I like the word "realms" better than "worlds," Mike. One of the problems I have is that I started blogging without knowing what I was doing. Now I'm trying to figure out how to bring some shape to this thing. I started blogging as a way to share travel with family. But then I never stopped and added all kinds of topics.

janiceheck said...

Your current tag line says a lot. I like it. It caught my attention, and intrigued me enough to follow you.
I am still thinking about my tagline. I am all over the place in writing, too. I think being focused matters more when you are trying to sell something. In the meantime, developing your style and voice is more important. (Or maybe that's just my excuse for not "getting it together.")

Nadine Feldman said...

Thanks for the mention, Julie!

I think we have the same challenge. I figure that my blog is eventually going to sort itself out, but a lot of things interest me, so it's hard to pin myself down -- and I'm not sure I want to! We women at midlife are complex creatures.

For that reason, I've decided not to worry about a tagline for now. I figure as the audience grows and I get more feedback from people, it will happen organically.

olgagodim said...

Julie. Like you I've always had trouble with taglines. I don't know how to summarize myself except 'Fantasy writer', but that is so broad and impersonal it doesn't really work.
For you, what I've gleaned from reading your blog: I'd say you're an explorer. You explored motherhood the hardest way, by adopting. You explore France every year. You abandoned your steady career to explore the writer in you.
I hope it helps.

Julie Farrar said...

Thanks for sharing, friends. Nadine, like you I'm trying to grow my blog organically, but it still seems helter-skelter for me. But maybe Olga has given me a direction, an overall philosophy, when she uses the word "explorer." Even starting the blog itself was a kind of exploration. I think I might play with that concept a bit because just about everything I'm doing now is a kind of exploration.

bridgetstraub.com said...

My tagline was the easy part, Author, Artist, Mom. The hard part is knowing how to market my books, Searching For My Wand and soon On A Hot August Afternoon. Both are contemporary stories about people trying to handle the complexities of life. I think with twitter I have been too focused on other writers and need more of the general public. As for you, clearly you are a traverler and a risk taker, and we all know you have great taste in music. Just from reading I would think you are living life to the fullest.

Cora said...

You can change your log line as you go and grow. Doesn't have to be a final, forever thing. Don't stress.

While reading your blog, and tweaking your words, I thought of:
'taking a bite our of life, one nibble at a time.'

Cora said...

With that you can also add recipes:)

Julie Farrar said...

Cora, I've considered recipes because I cook a lot, but I always take horrible pictures of what I produce. I don't know why that is. But all the good cooking blogs have such beautiful photos of their creations. My photos would probably make you stay clear of my food.

Tele said...

Your assignment is a great idea, Julie! Sounds like a lot of us began from the same "just writing" place, and are now challenged to identify who we are and who our audience is. I like Olga's suggestion of "explorer" - that rings true for my experience with your writing. I'm impressed by your skills in Going There on big issues (self-image, equality), maintaining your signature of humor and relate-ability. I suspect a lot of your readers leave your blog the way I do: feeling better than when I arrived, with a smile, something to think about, and the thought, "Man, I'd like to spend an afternoon having tea with Julie!"

When you're happy with your 200 words, I hope you share them with us!

Julie Farrar said...

Tele, thanks for your kind words. I wish I could have an annual meet-up with all my commenters to carry on the conversations longer. Based on all the comments here, I think I don't have to change as much as focus on and remain faithful to what I started (plus add some recipes).

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