What if half of all the books ever written should never have been published in the first place? Is the world full of too many boring books? From my perspective, it seems that too many books are just a lackluster manuscript in search of a miracle. As a consultant to authors, publishers, and retailers, two recent consulting experiences lead me to this conclusion.
Not long ago, I spoke to a room full of writer’s who found it difficult to create a compelling hook for their books. Every description they developed was too bland – even when judged by the other authors in the group. Their books just sounded boring.
In addition, I talked with a publishing house who had the courage and honesty to admit that 40% of the books they publish lack a strong enough concept to sell themselves. Even the publisher knew that their books were missing an attractive grabber to draw readers. No wonder so many books fail to earn out the author’s advance. Readers reject dull books without a hook.
However, the truth is that most authors never set out to write a boring book. We desire to connect with people and improve their lives through entertainment, information, or inspiration. But, if there’s no hook, readers won’t give a book a second look. Word of mouth moves at a snail’s pace. And, sales never take off.
What’s the remedy to such a glut of boring books? Start marketing before you start writing. I recommend that authors create a hook for their book before they put pen to paper or fingers to the computer keyboard. Create a grabber that leads the manuscript from beginning to end. Demand of yourself – “I will not write this book until I can develop a powerful hook that can be described in 10 seconds or less.” Consider the multiple benefits to this strategy:
1. It’s easier to build and passion for a laborious writing project when you’ve got a strong marketing hook leading the process.
2. It’s easier to land a literary agent or book contract when publishers can see a great grabber.
3. It’s easier to build a successful marketing campaign around an attention-grabbing hook.
If the idea of creating a hook sounds foreign to you, consider these steps:
- Write out the most contrarian or counterintuitive statements you can think of.
- Write out the most shocking true story you can share.
- Take a common adage and turn it upside down.
Examples of great book hooks:
“Learn how to live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else!”
The Total Money Makeover – Dave Ramsey
“What if you could have dinner with Jesus himself? What questions would you ask and how do you think he would answer?”
Dinner with a Perfect Stranger – David Gregory
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There – Marshall Goldsmith
“The life of a ten-year-old girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless young men. The mostly white town of Clanton in Ford County, Mississippi, reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime. Until her black father acquires an assault rifle and takes justice into his own outraged hands. For ten days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread through the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as young defense attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client’s life–and then his own.”
A Time to Kill – John Grisham